Friday, September 25, 2015

Thomas Juneau's VISIONS ETERNAL Out Now on Ravello Records

Thomas Juneau
 iTunes | Amazon | Spotify | ArkivMusic

Summit ChoraleJuneau Vocal Alliance; Scarlet Knight Brass and Percussion Ensemble; Eun Hee Park, organ; Tami Petty, soprano; Sharon Byrne, mezzo-soprano; Mark A. Boyle, tenor; Jonathan Mortensen, baritone; Elaine Christy, harp | Thomas Juneau, conductor

Weaving together vocal musical styles of the past and present, composer and conductor Thomas Juneau, with the Juneau Vocal Alliance and Summit Chorale, present their debut Ravello Records release, VISIONS ETERNAL. Replete with transcendent performances and sweeping moments of musical euphoria, Juneau creates a stunning choral vision of eternal serenity and triumph.

The album opens with Te Deum, a boldly exuberant major work featuring grand instrumental fanfares, glorious choral singing and sublime performances by impeccable soloists. The Five Latin Motets portray moments of ecstatic beauty in "Virga Jesse," harsh dissonances resolving into harmonic tranquility in "Ave Verum Corpus," and the most dramatic work on the album, "Tenebrae Factae Sunt." "Lux Aeterna" exhibits unique moments of tenderness and consolation while "Exsultate Justi" is a tour de force of choral virtuosity.

Beginning with the three movement Magnum Mysterium for treble chorus and harp, the musical journey culminates in settings of texts from the Christmas season. These three pieces - the mystical "O Magnum Mysterium," endearing "Ave Maria," and jubilant "Resonet in Laudibus" - depict the joyful characteristics of the season. The album concludes in a formidable outcry of vocal and instrumental exaltation in Gaudete. With text from the 16th century, the work begins with a flourish of celebratory brilliance, building intensity through an ecstatic dance until achieving a final colossal outpouring of sonic exclamation. Read More

Visit the VISIONS ETERNAL web application to access the digital booklet, bonus audio, liner notes, and more.

Conductor & Composer

Thomas Juneau  is active throughout the United States as both a conductor and composer.  He is Music  Director of Summit Chorale and the Juneau Vocal Alliance, as well as Director of Choral activities at Saint Joseph’s  University  in  Philadelphia  PA. His first  choral  pieces  were  published  when  he  was  17. Juneau has numerous works in publication with Carl Fischer Music, ECS Publishing, Walton Music, Hal Leonard Corporation, Alliance Music, and Southern Music Company. He has conducted in major Concert halls throughout the United States including Carnegie Hall.

Facebook: Juneau Vocal Alliance | Facebook: Summit Chorale | Twitter: Summit Chorale

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Composer Interview with Edgar Barroso

We checked in with trans-disciplinary composer Edgar Barroso earlier this month leading up to his triple-disc debut on Ravello Records, and we're pleased to share below his thoughts on the composing process, his influences, The National System of Art Creators of Mexico, open-source creation, and the trajectory of 21st-century music:

Your debut release, IMMERSION, ABSORPTION, CONNECTION, will be coming out October 9, 2015. For those unfamiliar with your work, where would be a good place to start?

I think that a good start is just confronting yourself with the material of the album. I am a big fan of music that explains itself. This album is a compilation of around 10 years of my work as a composer, therefore each piece is very different, it is a real journey of sound and philosophical changes along my relationship with sound. When a new listener confronts my work, is actually stepping in moving grounds held together by a constant search of abstract links between music and different areas of knowledge. Each piece has a relationship with another conceptual frame, phenomena or collaboration outside of music. I think that is an interesting aspect of this Immersion, Absorption and Connection, where diversity constructs unity.

Many of your compositions are based on a process of trans-disciplinary collaboration; can you explain briefly what this means and how it is beneficial?

Music is my apparatus to create a personal understanding of the world. Since I was a kid I was interested in many aspects of life, in music I found the "glue" to hold all my interests together. Through music I get the chance to learn about science, technology, philosophy, psychology, etc. Therefore, each piece of music becomes a window to collaboration and curiosity. I am very interested in the integration of knowledge and emotions that can be expressed through sound, not in a direct manner, but in a sense of thought and concatenation of different experiences. This array of concepts and emotions creates a peculiar energy that I translate into music scores. Also, I'm a big fan of collaboration. I love meeting new interesting and engaged people, and learn from them. I am deeply grateful to the people that share time with me to create. They humble me and remind me that the world is much more than a concert in a theater and that music composition is not exclusively a lonely act.

Which of the pieces on your album are results of trans-disciplinary collaboration?

All of them. In one way or another, each piece is the result of a collaborative process. This process could be displayed as a conceptualization of the piece, the material, the structure, the intention, the creative process, etc. As I mentioned before, my collaborators connect me with the world outside of music,and allow me to translate their inputs and contributions into scores that end up in some sort of sound expression. But for me it is not only about sound, is about the world and some fascinating aspects of it.

Would you please share a bit more about the process behind one or two of these pieces in particular?

For example, "Metamorphoseon" became alive thanks to a dear friend, Edyta Lehmann, who got me interested in Ovid's Metamorphoseon. She explained to me the sequenzes, the poems, the potential of the theatrical aspects of each scene.  In "Sketches of Briefness", the idea behind the piece was a collaboration with a painter who insisted that a sketch is the purest artistic expression, because is the "first impulse" without technique and refinement interfering with creativity.   

You were recently appointed to the 2015-2018 National System of Art Creators of Mexico, supported by the Secretariat of Public Education and the National Council for Culture and Arts; what sorts of work will you be doing as part of this appointment?

My project involved seven pieces that are based on scientific phenomena. The pieces range from instrumental, acousmatic multichannel pieces, live electronics and sound installations. This is a really great program where the Mexican Government basically commissions a series of pieces in a period of three years.

Many of the works on your album are inspired by Mexico; what is something you would like others to know about the country who may only know it through outside impressions?

Mexico is a country full of contrasts. It can be absolutely stunning and at the same time terrifying. Dualities such as violence-love and solidarity-indifference can be seen in a two block radio on a daily basis. I don't think of myself as a nationalist, but rather as a composer who takes into account a very particular social context that has a great influence on my vision of the world. Mexico is a very energetic and chaotic country, we Mexicans or residents of Mexico learn how to find beauty on these circumstances and I think you can hear that in my music. I feel very comfortable dealing with high energy, violent, chaotic sounds.  My music is not about texture, is not about timbre, is not about being logic or steadily developing a sound material. It is more about portraying struggle, a sort of "muchness" that inhabits a limited space where different elements coincide and collide. If you go to Mexico City you will immediately understand this feeling. And of course, my roots will always be an important part of my identity, I'm just lucky that my origins are in Mexico, a country with such a rich culture and a deep sonic tradition.

Can you share a bit more info about the Open Source Creation Group and LET?

The Open Source Creation Group started as a bunch of friends that met every Tuesday at 7pm to share ideas at Harvard during my PhD studies. They were very open meetings where we invited people from many fields of knowledge to share their research and interests on a weekly basis. I've learned so much from this meetings. We simply thought of creativity as something to be share and construct in a similar fashion as the Open Source software philosophy. So we "shared our brains" for others to use them. These meetings really had an impact on my music and my life. Since then, I decided that music was not only about sound or concerts, music -as Luigi Nono pointed out- is also about thought. These meetings inspired me to go beyond the traditional academic music setting into a broader understanding of music creation. I decided to apply music thought to other fields of knowledge, being those entrepreneurship, social innovation and education. The open source creation group gave me the courage to live a transdisciplinary life, an open script where life and music fusion into a discovery journey shared by wonderful people.

My training in music makes me think most things in music. I apply counterpoint principles in discovering how to create a community of social entrepreneurs; I structure education programs in terms of "form", and I apply contemporary music process to create self regulated systems that can deal with complexity and multifactorial-polyphonic events. To give you an example, I am right now at my office at the School of Government of Tecnol√≥gico de Monterrey, where I am in charge of LET (Laboratory for Entrepreneurship and Transformation), so I’m a composer working in a Government Schools applying music theories to public entrepreneurship. How crazy is that. I also use music as a way to create social activism promoting citizen participation and transdisciplinary collaboration to create new ways of fighting poverty, infant violence and social segregation.  

Whenever someone asks my wife about what do I do for a living, she smiles, looks for me and says: can you explain Edgar, because I still don't understand.

We enjoyed having clarinetist Matthias Mueller performing live on the SABRe Sensor Augmented Bass Clarinet at the 2014 PARMA Music Festival, so it was great to hear that you would be involved in composing for SABRe as well. What can you tell us about your role in this project?

Matthias Mueller is amazing. He is not only an exceptional clarinetist, but an exceptional human being. The piece that I am writing for Matthias is called "Zamak" and is part of the project that I mentioned before about pieces related to science and music. The challenge to write for SABRe, is not to simply write a piece for bass clarinet and electronics, but to really treat the instrument for what it is, a new dynamic and extended instrument from the beginning. Therefore the notation in the score  already includes most of SABRe's sensors and possibilities. For me it was so important to portrait the "polyphonic possibilities" of SABRe, the piece will have a visual and a sonic aspect as well as preserving the sound of Matthias. This range of possibilities are making the piece very demanding in terms of the complexity of "simultaneous voices", fortunately I think Matthias is the ideal artist to deal with this sort of challenges, you know how energetic and dynamic he is. For me, the challenge is to write a piece that is only playable with SABRe and is conceived -from the beginning- for this wonderful new instrument. But also, not only to focus on the technical aspects of it, but rather in the artistic and aesthetic possibilities it provides within an ocean of vast possibilities.

It’s amazing to see how advances in technology have affected music in recent decades, both in its creation and in the way people listen; what do you think the world of music might be like 100 years from now?

I think music creation will become more and more collaborative. One possibility that we can see already is that we will start to see more and more collaborative music.  The future will hold the first massive collaborations between thousands of composers, professional and otherwise, to build endless pieces of music. People will consume music in a much more multisensorial manner using all senses and stimulating specific areas of the brain. Music will also be more important in educational systems because my hope is that we understand how important is for human creativity and well being. Obviously I have no idea how music will be in 100 years, but I am optimistic.  I see a more sonic future, with more and better music that we have now, and a future human beings that understands how music is so essential to people: I believe that music will be more present in medicine, theaters, schools, universities, governments, cities, etc. The future will be full of sound.

What impressions would you like listeners to take away after having heard your music?

I don't have any "expected" reaction or impression from my listeners. I am thankful and humbled that they choose to listen my music; there is so much great music out there, that is a real honor and privilege to have someone listening what I do. I hope they find my struggle, my limitations, my search and my joy in the act of music making. I love writing music, this is, again, the only way I make sense of our world.

We're all looking forward to IMMERSION, ABSORPTION, CONNECTION - in the meantime, you can read all about Edgar Barroso's upcoming release and hear audio samples at

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

New PARMA Artist: Hayes Biggs

NY-based composer Hayes Biggs has signed on to record his 10-minute septet “When You are Reminded by the Instruments” for Oboe/English Horn, Clarinet/Bass Clarinet, Horn, Violin, Viola, Violoncello, and Contrabass. This recording will be part of a future full release of his music.
Hayes is also a professional choral singer and has performed with the New York Virtuoso Singers among other groups. He’s a member of C4 (Choral Composer/Conductor Collective) and has been on the faculty of MSM since 1992.
Hayes’s music can be found on a previous PARMA release, Amy Briggs’s TANGOS FOR PIANO. We're really looking forward to working with Biggs in the studio; in the meantime, you can check out this live recording of "When You are Reminded by the Instruments" and hear more about the composer in his own words through his recent interview at Composers Now:

Friday, September 11, 2015

New Releases Out Now on Navona and Ravello Records

Arthur Gottschalk | St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra, St. Petersburg Chamber Choir; Vladimir Lande, conductor

From Verdi and Mozart to Stravinsky and Britten, the requiem has been a musical tradition used by many composers to remind us of life's indeterminacy. American composer Arthur Gottschalk's momentous masterwork, REQUIEM: FOR THE LIVING, an 8-movement, 45 minute work for full orchestra, chorus, and four soloists, including tenor Alberto Mizrahi and GRAMMY-nominated soprano Lauren Snouffer, resigns the fear of uncertainty by celebrating the rich narrative of Western art and culture.

Gottschalk commemorates Western music, quoting many genres from its history, from Renaissance madrigals and Classical sonatas to jazz, pop, and blues. Alongside some of the traditional Requiem Mass texts, the composer sets words by influential philosophers, spiritual leaders, and authors, from Buddha and Mohammad to George Eliot and Duke Ellington. By honoring Western and Eastern thought, innovation, and art, Gottschalk creates a holistic and humanistic work that attempts to embrace people and beliefs from almost all parts of the world. Read More

Peter Vukmirovic Stevens | Mara Gearman

Capturing the viola’s rich and haunting quality, composer Peter Vukmirovic Stevens’ second release on Navona Records, FERAL ICONS, is a suite of six works for solo viola performed by the extraordinary violist Mara Gearman of Seattle Symphony. The album embodies the raw and expressive energy of Stevens’ impassioned compositional style, inviting the listener on an emotional narrative.

Through primal driving tempos and captivating melodic phrases, the title track sets the scene for a musical journey, expertly emphasizing the viola’s lower register. Gearman continues through rich and meditative harmonies found in Sovereign, I, and lingers in a place of refuge created by the loving single melodic line in Sanctuary. Ex Nihilo derives its title from the Latin phrase meaning “to create out of nothing.” Stevens expresses this theme by juxtaposing phrases of aggressive double-stops and rich, expressive harmonies, until arriving at a fervent conclusion. Read More

Craig Madden Morris

From the passion of a new romance to the devotion and deep affection of parents for their children, love can take many forms. On his Ravello Records release CIRCLE OF LOVE AND OTHER CHORAL OFFERINGS, composer Craig Madden Morris presents a song cycle for chorus and piano set to traditional texts from The Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, The Book of Ruth, Malachi, and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, as well as original verse by the composer. This CIRCLE OF LOVE portrays the blossoming and growth of love, from the initial passion to the poignancy of later years.

Works such as Arise My Love, The Rubaiyat, and How Sweet My Love are a testament to the intimacy and ardor of falling in love, often comparing the beloved to the beauty of nature. Wherever You Go and The Touch of Memory depict the devotion of beloved companions, their lives and family connected by an unbreakable bond. Two Are Better Than One speaks of the later years of love, when the tenderness and experience of a shared life soften the passage of time and the tribulations of aging. Read More

Samuel Pellman

On a starry night, we may find ourselves gazing up and contemplating our own place among the stars and galaxies that reside an unfathomable distance away. On his debut Ravello Records release, SELECTED GALAXIES, composer Samuel Pellman immerses listeners on a dreamy journey deep into the encompassing and mysterious universe in which we live. Throughout the album, the composer depicts the ominous and impressive beauty of space through the use of electronic sound generated by the Kyma System, a symbolic sound design program. 

The first three works, Peculiar Galaxies, Spiral Galaxies, and Elliptical Galaxies capture a free floating experience within the intergalactic unknown through ethereal passages and moments of atmospheric drones. The changing and flowing patterns of the music are filled with chimes and delays, suggesting a sci-fi exploration of the cosmic void. The final piece, Selected Cosmos, replicates the structure of DNA through a layer of filtered two-tone music, overlapping in a way to propose that each direction may extend to infinity. Read More

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

New PARMA Artist: Leslie Odom

Florida-based oboist Leslie Odom has signed with PARMA to release an album focused on unrecorded works of women composers for oboe and piano.

Leslie is Associate Professor of Oboe and Music Theory at the University of Florida and Principal Oboe of The Gainesville Orchestra. Having performed across the US and abroad, she received the Performer's Certificate from the Eastman School of Music during her doctoral work there and was Principal Oboe on the CBS Masterworks recording (1988) with the Eastman Wind Ensemble. She has also participated in the Aspen and Tanglewood Music Festivals.

The upcoming album will feature works by Hedwige Chretien, Gloria Wilson Swisher, Madeleine Dring, Marina Dranishnikova, and Mary Chandler. Stay tuned for details!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Listeners vs. Composers

PARMA is currently working on composer Robert J. Martin's string quartet cycle, "Embrace the Wind!" The album will be his second release on Ravello Records.

We had a short interview with Robert about the influence behind the album's composition and influence, which was posted on July 21st. You can find the interview about "Embrace the Wind!" here: Robert J. Martin: Embrace the Wind!

We were recently able to talk to Robert about music again - this time the topic of conversation was "listeners."

MP: So how can we get more people to listen to new music?

RM: A great question, since it relates so closely to both creators and listeners—though of course listening is itself a creative endeavor. I want to let people know that the listener is absolutely essential to music. The music happens inside the listener—it’s not an external thing that has to be understood. The music is created by the listener as she (or he) hears the sounds. I hear about people not listening because they don’t understand music that is unfamiliar—but I don’t buy it. I think that no one has said to them something like, “Well, listening to new music is like going to a new place—a lot of things are mixed in together—excitement, anxiety, discomfort, pleasure, uncertainty, joy—and that’s OK because that’s part of the adventure of doing something new. Sometimes people can feel uncomfortable if they feel they don’t understand what they’re listening to—and this is where I want to reach out to people and them know that you don’t need any special skills or education or terminology—just willingness to pay attention and listen to what happens—and it’s OK to be feel lost, just as when you travel to any new place.

MP: Sometimes we want to listen to something that is familiar and comfortable? 

RM: We can all appreciate every kind of music—we have only to understand that sometimes we like to do things that feel comforting and familiar; other times we like to do things that can be adventures, things that are new and unfamiliar. Both are legitimate choices, though at least some of the time we might choose to take the road of adventure. One of my favorite quotes is from G.K. Chesterton:  "An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”  He is suggesting that doing new things always involves allowing ourselves to be challenged. 

To listen to new music is to travel to an unfamiliar place—and part of the pleasure of travel is coming back to the familiar. I always feel I need a vacation after traveling—even if the travel was my vacation. And part of the pleasure of travel is that we find familiar things in new places—and the new places themselves become familiar and comfortable after visiting them a number of times. 

MP: That sounds easy to say, hard to do.

RM: Action is always more risky than talk. But, with music, the only risk is feeling on unfamiliar ground. This is true of any creative process—if we want to be creative, we have to take a risk. 

MP: But we’re talking about listeners here, not composers.

RM: Exactly—and listening is always a creative process. Even when we have a conversation, it’s the listener who determines the meaning of what is being said, not the speaker. This sounds backwards, but it isn’t—the students decide for themselves, as best they can, what the teacher said—not the teacher. The employee follows the orders she think she heard. We’re all creating meaning all the time; we just don’t realize it. So it is with music; as listeners we are the ones making sense of what we hear.  All a composer can do is ask us to engage with the music and listen carefully. 

MP: So listeners are in a position of power, as it were.

RM: Yes. Always. And I think that once we feel that power, we will be much more comfortable engaging with new experiences, including listening experiences. 

MP: What do people need to know to appreciate new music?

RM: I only know my own experience. I remember my father playing his little phonograph in our darkened living room.  I was maybe in fourth grade. We would listen to Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov or Brahms Double Concerto for Violin and Cello or the Paganini Caprices for solo violin. Not the usual listening fare for a fourth or fifth grader, but I was enchanted. We didn’t have music in our school, so I had no background—listening with my father was my background. When I was in high school—maybe a junior—I bought an AM-FM radio. This was back in the day when FM radios were rare. I had my own room, so I did homework and listened to WFMT, a Chicago radio station that played every kind of classical and new music, from Mozart to Schoenberg to jazz, among other genres. I remember hearing what must have been Schoenberg’s little piano pieces, probably Opus 9, and feeling they expressed my own sense of beauty and, maybe, alienation. It was my secret.

MP: Maybe as listeners we need to hear that we’re the ones creating the music within ourselves? 

RM:When I started teaching I had an office mate who was considerably older than I was but who was teaching sections of the same course I was teaching. One of the assignments he would give his students was to go out and do three things they had never done before. They didn’t have to like what they did, they just had to try it—and, I might add, he stipulated that whatever they did had to be legal, ethical, and moral. It was a great stretcher—and one I’ve tried to remind myself to do as often as possible. Part of having a rich, interesting, and creative life is trying new things. The other part—and this is something I tried to stress when I taught college students a class in creativity—not musical creativity, but creativity in general—is that it’s much easier to deal with new and unfamiliar things in your life if you can get comfortable with not having to understand everything, not having to be comfortable with everything right off the bat. That goes for travel, for starting a new job, meeting new people, and, of course, listening to new music. We act more intelligently (and have more fun) when we’re relaxed in the presence of things we find unfamiliar and maybe even a little confusing. A good way to go is to relax and take it all in. As you become more familiar with what’s unfamiliar, you start figuring out what’s going on. 

MP: What if you listen and you don’t like what you hear?

RM: Of course then you don’t have to listen again. On the other hand, who’s to say you won’t like something the second time you hear it? My composition teacher used to advise: "Compose music you do not yet like.”  What’s the point of that, I thought. But of course he meant that if you only compose music you like, you’re not doing anything new, you’re sticking with your comfort zone. He wasn’t saying to write music that you and everyone else would hate; he was saying to explore music you have not yet grown to like. What a wonderful piece of advice for listeners as well as composers.

MP: What if you listen and listen and still don’t like what you hear?

RM: We all have preferences and it our right to exercise them, so that’s always an option. My college roommate liked to quote conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein. Asked what kind of music he liked, he replied: Every kind of music except the boring kind.  

MP: We all want to hear new music, we just don’t want it to be too new.

RM: We are all fond of certain genres, certain artists. We want to hear their albums—sometimes. After the Second World War, swing clarinetist and dance band leader Artie Shaw was making more money than any other band leader. He quit at the height of his fame, later explaining that he was tired of doing the same old same old but that was all people wanted to hear. Which is fine. People have a right to listen to what they want. Right now I’m listening live to a group called Sway—all friends of mine—doing pop standards from the last six decades. The point is that we are free to choose. I like hearing new pieces, unfamiliar pieces, thorny pieces, and so on. I invite others to do the same. The choice is theirs.

MP: How do you teach people how to appreciate music they find unfamiliar?

RM: I would rather ask, how do people learn to appreciate music? That’s related to another question that interests me: How do you learn to appreciate wine?  It’s not about liking everything, it’s about developing a sensitivity to different tastes, learning language to describe what you’re tasting, and having conversations about what you’re experiencing. It’s about the whole experience. You can say “I don’t know anything about wine, I just know what I like,” but that takes away the fun of trying new things and talking about them. You still like some things better than others, but the whole experience is what it’s all about. Just as in sports, the point is not just to like or dislike this or that team, player, play, etc., but to get into the finer points of the game by observing and talking—and arguing, if you choose.. 

Robert J. Martin composes image-based music; music where the titles and descriptions open a direction to understanding the music. His latest release, PLAYFUL EDGE OF THE WAVE, presents 100 different views of Mt. Fuji in 100 minutes and pays homage to Katsushika Hokusai's art.

Stay tuned for updates on Embrace the Wind!, and check out Robert's latest release, PLAYFUL EDGE OF THE WAVE available on Ravello Records.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

New Project: Guitar Duo Alex Lubet and Maja Radovanlija

PARMA Artist Alex Lubet and new PARMA Artist Maja Radovanlija will be releasing an album of guitar duos and solos in 2016. This release, titled THE ENCHANTED GUITAR FOREST, will mix compositions of both Maja and Alex based largely on a combination of traditional Balkan and synagogue melodies, featuring some blues and improvisation. The duo performed many of these pieces live at the 2nd annual PARMA Music Festival in 2014.

Alex Lubet is a Professor of Music and Adjunct Professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota. He is a composer, performer, and author whose specialties include music and text for theatre, dance, and improvisation ensembles, and works on Jewish subjects. Blending together musical styles from various cultures, including classical, jazz, blues, and Easter traditions, his Ravello release SPECTRAL BLUES came out in January 2013.

Maja Radovanlija also teaches at the University of Minnesota. She was born in Belgrade, Serbia and has been playing guitar since the age of nine. As graduate student at Indiana University, Maja won second prize at the Latin-American music competition in 2009. During her studies, she often performed new music for guitar, including a piece written by PARMA Artist Don Freund. She is currently also member of the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet.

Keep an eye out for details on the debut release from this guitar duo, and in the meantime, here's a great video of Alex and Maja performing together live: