Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Trio Casals, featuring cellist Ovidiu Marinescu, Perform at Weill Recital Hall

On May 12, PARMA Recordings presents internationally-acclaimed Romanian cellist Ovidiu Marinescu as he returns to Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall for an eclectic evening of solo cello and piano trio world premieres by composers Nicholas Anthony Ascioti, John Carollo, Diane Jones, Brian Noyes, Osias Wilenski, and Robert Fleisher (New York City premiere). Marinescu, whose performances are described as "bold and expressive" (Gramophone Magazine) with "rich dark tones" and "brilliant virtuoso passages" (Planet Hugill), will be joined by his colleagues in Trio Casals, violinist Sylvia Ahramjian and pianist Anna Kislitsyna, with whom he recorded these works for the upcoming summer 2015 Navona Records release MOTO CONTINUO.

The event is a follow-up to the fall 2013 Weill Recital Hall concert of ten contemporary pieces intimately performed by Ovidiu Marinescu, supported by flute, violin, viola, double bass, and piano. This previous concert featured works by composers Nicholas Anthony Ascioti, Greg Bartholomew, Alan Beeler, Arthur Gottschalk, Andrew March, and Bill Sherrill. The collection of moving works for cello was released on Navona Records’ album MOTO PERPETUO (2013).

Tickets are $25 for general admission and $12 for students, and can be purchased at the Carnegie Hall box office at 154 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019, by calling CarnegieCharge at (212) 247-7800, or online at www.carnegiehall.org/Calendar/2015/5/12/0800/PM/Trio-Casals-Ovidiu-Marinescu-Cello.

New PARMA Artist: Frances White

Frances White has signed on to release “She Lost Her Voice That’s How We Knew,” a chamber opera for solo soprano and electronic sound. This piece was created in close collaboration with soprano Kristin Norderval and writer/director Valeria Vasilevski.

Frances is particularly known for her works combining live instruments and computer-generated electronic sound spaces. She has received awards, honors, grants and commissions from organizations such as Prix Ars Electronica (Linz, Austria), the Institut International de Musique Electroacoustique de Bourges (France), the International Computer Music Association, Hungarian Radio, ASCAP, the Bang on a Can Festival, the Other Minds Festival, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, The Dale Warland Singers, the American Music Center, The Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, and The Guggenheim Foundation.

In Frances' words: "She Lost Her Voice That's How We Knew explores the necessity to put into words what is unspeakable, moving through situations of trauma or awe that are beyond words. The "voice" struggles to reveal her secret, but questions the listener's willingness to even listen. Relentlessly, the voice searches for the heart that receives even the most despicable, or most desirable, truth."

Frances White:  rosewhitemusic.com
Kristin Norderval:  kristinnorderval.org
Valeria Vasilevski:  home.earthlink.net/~reduta

Stay tuned for updates!

2014 PARMA Anthology of Music

PARMA is pleased to announce the 2014 PARMA Anthology of Music, a resource for students, instructors, performers, and ensembles to discover works for brass quintet by young and emerging composers.

Started as a direct response to the large number of well-crafted and inspired scores we received for the inaugural PARMA Student Composer Competition in 2012, the PARMA Anthology of Music was established in order to recognize and bring attention to these composers, these creators of phenomenal and innovative works, new amalgamations of styles and genres, new conceptions of form and structure, and new methods of expression and execution.

The criteria for this year’s Anthology were basic and clear:  all applicants had to be 30 years old or younger and must actively be studying composition, while the submitted pieces must be scored for brass quintet and have a duration of no more than 10 minutes. The reason for this was that we wanted ensembles and performers to have easy access to new compositions such as these, pieces that are modest in size and scope (if not in musical language or compositional ambition), programmable, performable, and optimized for public presentation.

Additionally, we would like to extend a warm congratulations to the Grand Prize Winner of the contest which yielded this collection, Michael Mikulka. Michael’s piece “To Throw” is an inspired and finely honed work which builds to a point of precise repetition, and represents not only the quality of works submitted to the Competition but also the fearlessness with which so many modern composers approach their work and art.

As the Grand Prize Winner, “To Throw” was premiered at the 2014 PARMA Music Festival by the Redline Brass Quintet on stage at The Music Hall in Portsmouth NH.

We invite you to share, program, and perform the works included in this year's Anthology, and to support the appreciation of new music:

And check out the previous years' anthologies as well:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Collegiate Chorale's U.S. Premiere of "The Road of Promise"

PARMA artists The Collegiate Chorale are less than two months away from the U.S. premiere of the concert adaptation of Franz Werfel and Kurt Weill's epic,"The Road of Promise."

To share some history about "The Road of Promise" and to document the preparation process, the Chorale is rolling out an online video series on their YouTube page called The Road to THE ROAD OF PROMISE. For a look behind the scenes, you can check out the first episode here.

The Collegiate Chorale will be performing "The Road of Promise" with the Orchestra of St. Luke's at Carnegie Hall on May 6-7, 2015. To learn more about "The Road of Promise" and to order your tickets, visit the Chorale's official website here.

"The Road of Promise" will be available on Navona Records in 2016. Stay tuned for more updates in the meantime!

March Orchestral Sessions

The PARMA team just returned from our second trip to the Czech Republic in 2015, producing a week of premiere recordings.  The week saw recordings of "Symphony for String Orchestra" from new PARMA composer Fred Broer, along with "The Luminous Mystery" by longtime PARMA artist Stephen Yip, "In Hand" for chamber orchestra by Paula Diehl,  and"Inhuman Henry" for orchestra by Alan Beeler.

Among the works recorded was Michael J. Evans anti-concerto for bassoon, "Misery."  Michael was in the Czech Republic for the recording of "Misery" and A&R Representative Alex Bourne had the chance to catch up with him and reflect on his trip.

Michael J. Evans
AB: You just went to the Czech Republic with our team to record your anti-concerto, “Misery.” Can you share some background on the piece and your approach to writing an anti-concerto?

ME: Well, the piece is based on the Anton Chekhov short story “Misery”. How this story ended up being the subject of the anti-concerto was pure serendipity. I had been kicking around the idea of writing a bassoon concerto for a while, love the sound of the instrument, and realized that there are not a lot of concertos for it.

One of the issues in writing for bassoon is the fact that it tends to get swallowed up by the orchestra unless it is amplified. Most people view that as a weakness, but I wanted to take a more zen approach and exploit that quality. It just so happened, while reading a review of an anthology of short stories, it mentioned “Misery”. I had never read the story, but once I did, I realized I had the subject for my piece. The main character is a sled driver who’s son died the week before. He tries to tell his fares about it, but everyone is too self-involved to listen. He, like the bassoon in the orchestra, tends to get swallowed up in the crowd, even though he is being incredibly strong.

A special technique I wanted to incorporate into the piece was that of circular breathing. Through this technique, I was able to give the soloist these long notes, (held for 4 or 5 minutes at a time), which represents the main character’s grief;  and, the fact that, in grief, sometimes the most difficult thing to do is hang on or keep breathing. These sustained notes help differentiate this as an anti-concerto.

Sustaining the pitches is incredibly difficult but can pass by unnoticed. It is quite effective too. When we would cut during the recording, I actually heard the other members of the orchestra audibly gasping. This is different from a typical romantic concerto, where the soloist is this heroic figure that is either triumphing over or leading the orchestra, and generally playing lots of fast passagework.

AB: What’s your favorite part of the recording process?

ME: I love working with the orchestra and hearing them breathe life into these things I put on paper. It’s one thing to hear something in your head or through a computer rendering, but quite another when you have actual humans, who are all fantastic musicians, playing your stuff and hearing their emotions coming through too.  It always makes me happy.

AB: Your last project, CIPHER, focused on language, translation, and how words can become obscured depending on how they’re interpreted.  I know you brushed up on your Czech before going overseas, but how did working and communicating with a foreign group affect the music?  Do you feel that through your writing, you were able to express your message to the orchestra, conductor, and soloist?

ME: Yes, as it turned out, I really didn’t need the Czech that much, which was good, because I am really just learning. At the same time, I didn’t want to be the typical American that doesn’t put forth the effort to learn the language. The times I did speak Czech, people really appreciated it. It also helped to know my numbers so I could find my place in the score quickly while we were recording. I will say that the language had no real impact on the performance at all.

As musicians, we all speak the same language. And, fortunately we had Vít Mužík translating and working out the specifics. He is great to work with. The soloist, Jan Hudeček, was incredible. I was told he read the story and all the notes I provided. It definitely came through in the music. In fact, he played the piece so beautifully I ended up dedicating the piece to him.

AB: Building off of that, “Misery” is a piece that tells a story.  What narrative cues should we be listening for?

ME: The music follows the narrative, so it is really a soundtrack for the story. Throughout the score, when the various characters have dialog, the music imitates the speech. You can hear the instruments, (representing the individual characters), speak the dialog, kind of like a wordless opera. I wasn’t just focused on the dialog though.  I wanted to create a soundscape, incorporating the snow, the amount of time passing while the main character is waiting for a fare, etc.

AB: Recently, you’ve been producing multi-media projects that appeal to new audiences.  You’re working with an artist to give “Misery” a visual treatment.  Can you tell us more about your approach and goals for the animation?"

ME: From the beginning I wanted to have a visual component to the work, so I composed the music with that in mind. I’m lucky to have a great friend, Sam Cummins, who is also a phenomenal artist. We decided to go for a graphic novel style for the images. The storyboarding of the entire piece came next, and then Sam created the artwork from the storyboards as well as from the text itself.

There are several ways to utilize the visuals. For a recording, it will be a video, with the images following the music track.  In a live performance, the images are included with the score and parts, as well as the storyboard so that a separate performer can work at a laptop and cue the images during a live performance, freeing the conductor and soloist from having to be bound to a set tempo.

Artwork for "Misery" by Sam Cummins

As far as goals, since this story is classic literature and is on almost every High School and College reading list, I would like to have it used in the classroom as a way to engage the students more, and to show the value of, and bring together the literary, visual, and musical arts.

Another goal is to present a different paradigm for composers who want to do film scores or soundtracks. Typically, unless you are John Williams and Steven Spielberg, the composer really doesn’t have much input into a film. The director decides what it will sound like, and the composer is basically stuck realizing someone else’s vision. Also, if a composer reads a book or story and has an idea for a soundtrack, typically they have to wait and hope that someone makes it into a film and that the visions line up.

With this model, the composer is the director, and the visual elements follow the score. I think there is room for both models. It will be interesting to compare a body of work is created in this way, and to the work created when the images are created first.

AB: Your writing draws from a lot of different sources and inspirations.  Can you share more about your writing process and is there anything in particular that you’re influenced by at this moment? 

ME: Again, right now stories are really influencing me.  In fact, I’m working on a String Quartet right now based on another short story. For the stories, I just read them and listen, try to get a clear picture of the scene and what that would sound like, what the emotional context is and how that would sound, etc.

Typically for any piece I generally start at the piano and just noodle around on the keys till something catches my attention.  From there, it just develops like a seed. 

AB: Tell us about a meaningful and memorable experience that your music has given you.

ME: I would have to say my life. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest. I always saw myself leaving, and music and movies were my ticket to being able to do that, by showing me that there was so much more out there than what I was surrounded by. If I had stayed there I would probably be dead or in jail.

AB: What else should we know about you?

ME: Well, I’m a vegetarian, love animals, am totally into mythology and fantasy. I’m into astrology, shamanism, the tarot, and anything like that. I love to cook, and live on coffee. I’m in search of someone who is- oh, wait, this isn’t a dating profile  LOL.

We are currently working on editing and mixing the audio we captured while in the Czech Republic.  Keep an eye out for new projects from all of the artists we recorded with this month - we're excited to share these works with you all.