Pheromone: "wide-ranging in style and timbre, extraordinarily inventive, often wildly entertaining, and not for a minute dull"

Another great review for Meerenai Shim's Pheromone!

This article originally appeared in Issue 40:2 (Nov/Dec 2016) of Fanfare Magazine.

PHEROMONE • Meerenai Shim (fl); 1Jacob Abela (pn) • AEROCADE 001 (44:01)

FIELDSTEEL Fractus III: Aerophoneme. G. C. BROWN Huge Blank Canvas Neck Tattoo. O’HALLORAN 1Pencilled Wings. LAUSTSEN 60.8%. SCHANKLER 1Pheromone. M. J. PAYNE Étude for Contrabass Flute and TI83+ Calculator

As is often true of new music in the classical sphere this program is eclectic and owes as much to jazz, folk, and popular music, as it does to any tradition handed down through the concert and recital hall. All pieces are commissions, except the Eli Fieldsteel work, made by San Jose-based flutist Meerenai Shim for this first release on her new indie classical label, Aerocade Music. The music is all electroacoustic, with instruments ranging from the standard C flute to the behemoth contrabass two octaves lower. The electronic accompaniment is provided by a number of sources: fixed media, real-time audio synthesis using SuperCollider, Ableton Live, and Max/MSP, and the output from a Texas Instruments graphing calculator running sequencing software. (Who knew?) To those who do not follow electronic music, this may all sound like gobbledygook. Bottom line is that the electronics provide an orchestral palette of sounds, almost infinitely malleable, and capable of either responding within preset parameters to what the performer is doing, or creating a rich setting to which the performer can respond.

Received concepts of electronic music don’t apply. Expression of human emotions is very much the purpose, and it is in this that Shim, pianist Jacob Abela, and the various composers have excelled. Fieldsteel’s Fractus III: Aerophoneme, whatever the method used to achieve it, is a dramatic unfolding of cooperation, conflict, hope, and eventual dissolution with the electronics as the often menacing rival. Gregory C. Brown’s Huge Blank Canvas Neck Tattoo for alto flute and digital delay reflects on personal setbacks and triumphs in the composer’s life. In it, statements made by the soloist become the background—often enhanced—for future discourse. Emma O’Halloran uses a “tape” track and piano duo to accompany—and sometimes overwhelm—the flute’s fantasy flights in her Pencilled Wings. Douglas Laustsen’s 60.8% for bass flute and electronics ponders the devastating impact of unemployment on the youth of Greece since the imposition of austerity, using, as an inspiration, rebetiko, a once disreputable style of 20th-century Greek urban folk protest music. Schankler’s Pheromone deals, logically enough, with attraction and bonding, and Matthew Joseph Payne’s quirky Etude for contrabass flute and TI83+ calculator is, with its combination of low-res early video-game-like sounds and the mellow contrabass flute, two minutes of unadulterated nerdy delight.

Shim is an amazingly dexterous flutist, and works brilliantly with her electronics and her live keyboard collaborator. The sound is close, in the manner of popular music recordings, but it is appropriate to the music. Notes are minimal and hard to read in the type chosen, but are expanded to usefulness online at meerenai.com/pheromone. One small complaint: If Shim was offering “original cover” LP reissues at a few dollars a disc, I would say nothing about a timing of 44 minutes. But a new mid-price disc that is little more than half-full feels like short measure. Otherwise, that which is offered is wide-ranging in style and timbre, extraordinarily inventive, often wildly entertaining, and not for a minute dull. Pheromone is therefore warmly recommended to anyone who wants to explore some of the more accessible frontiers of new music and the alt.classical fringes of the flute repertoire. Ronald E. Grames

Scordatura: an "excellently sequenced and performed disc"

Another excellent review for Hannah Addario-Berry's Scordatura!

This article originally appeared in Issue 40:2 (Nov/Dec 2016) of Fanfare Magazine.

SCORDATURA • Hannah Addario-Berry (vc) • AEROCADE 004 (77:09)

KODÁLY Sonata for Solo Cello, op. 8. B. MILLER Miniatures, Book 3: Koans. A. ROSE Lands End. E. CLARK Ekpyrotic: Layerings IV. JUSTEN Sonaquifer. COONS Myth’s Daughter. LIU Calor

The fourth release on the recently founded Aerocade label takes a page from ECM’s book in that it presents a historical dialogue between Zoltan Kodaly and a group of contemporary composers reacting to his sonata for solo cello, whose centenary was in 2015. If not directly influenced by Kodály, the same scordatura (altering the tuning of a stringed instrument) is used by the other composers. Cellist Hannah Addario-Berry performs the Kodaly sonata first and then the other sets of pieces, creating a well-formed and evocative program. While her rendering of the sonata faces stiff competition, Addario-Berry makes an especially fine contribution with the middle movement; she clearly identifies with its wildly diverse mystery and multilayered pathos, beautifully shaping each phrase and perfectly timing each silence. I was especially impressed with the passages that combine arco and pizzicato, as she manages a real sense of interaction.

“The great way is gateless, approached in a thousand ways,” intones the cellist, commencing Brent Miller’s excellent and equally diverse third book of miniatures, and this pithy aphorism perfectly encapsulates both the preceding sonata and the rest of the disc.  As with Varèse’ America transforming into “Ameriques,” the notions of area, landscape, temporal experience and chronology are deconstructed, or maybe it’s better to say reconstructed. On the geographical plain, we have Alisa Rose’s “Land’s End,” which uses reminiscences of American tunes and physical proportions to transmit the experience of walking the Land’s End trail in San Francisco. In more metaphysical territory is Gloria Justen’s “Sonaquifer – Flowing, Turning Dance,” a study in what might be called collective memory, combining elements of baroque figuration with the brief syncopations of Kodály over a rapidly changing often post-romantic harmonic background.

These are not the direct and hyperconscious interpolations, say, of Holger Czukay; they are subtle, often ephemeral and difficult to remember on first listen. Even when we know the source immediately, as in Lisa Renée Coons’ “Myth’s Daughter,” context is both paramount and elusive. Addario-Berry negotiates the various and often thorny terrain with ease, both as vocalist and cellist. In the end, the Kodály is exposed as the trans-geographical, dialectical and micro-historical document it is, thanks to an excellently sequenced and performed disc. Marc Medwin

I Care if You Listen reviews Beneath a canopy of angels…a river of stars

We always appreciate it when our releases get such thoughtful and through reviews. Thank you Don Clark and I Care if You Listen!

"Mesmerizing, ear bending, lyrical, and engaging, Beneath a canopy of angels… a River of Stars is a stellar recording debut for Post-Haste Reed Duo and essential listening for those interested in contemporary chamber music." - Don Clark, I Care if You Listen

Read the rest at I Care if You Listen!

"Would that all new music and its performances were this tight and this serious!"

A well-deserved review for Post-Haste Reed Duo and their composers!

This article originally appeared in Issue 40:2 (Nov/Dec 2016) of Fanfare Magazine.

BENEATH A CANOPY OF ANGELS…A RIVER OF STARS •  Post-Haste Reed Duo  •  AEROCADE AM002 (50:12)

HUTCHINSON BioMechanics. ANDRIESSEN Lacrimosa. WICKMAN Confluences. SAMMONS Some Thoughts About Time. STEINMETZ Songs and Dances

The second release from the recently founded Aerocade label is, if it’s possible, even more diverse than the first. This is partly due to the wonderful sounds set down by the Post-Haste Reed Duo—hereafter PHRD—and partly to the disc’s broader chronological scope.

There is something beautifully anachronistic about the oldest piece on offer, “Lacrimosa,” one of Louis Andriessen’s sumptuous 1991 pieces that I absolutely refuse to label as “minimal!” This version was commissioned by PHRD for alto saxophone and bassoon, and while I have only heard the work in various transcriptions, this reading provides a layer of timbral intrigue, moving the performance beyond the admittedly absorbing but coloristically limiting microtones. A whole other world of sound and image is evoked with each gesture. It is a perfect precursor to Ethan Wickman’s 2014 score “Confluences,” for the same instrumentation. The first and third movements bear some slight resemblance to, or at least spring from the same soil as, Stravinsky’s “Symphonies of Wind Instruments,” with its jump-cut transitions and asymmetrical and unexpected motivic returns. As nearly a century has passed, those techniques are seamlessly incorporated into a piece that also employs spatial, canonical and contrapuntal devices but always with just a bit of cheek, the sardonic wit of the “modern” composer just below the surface of what might otherwise be construed as just another take on the fast-slow-fast form the Italians laid down around three hundred years ago.

The two works I’ve discussed make no use of electronics, but rest assured, that most ubiquitous of “modern” concerns is present, and nowhere more so than in the brief movement that opens this reading of Lanier Sammons’ “Some Thoughts about Time,” where a single pitch is slowly rent, electronically, into shifting components until an octave is formed. This is not necessarily the first movement, as the piece is reconfigurable, but it makes a powerful opening to an interdisciplinary work dealing with the temporal. There’s also the rapid-fire tritons, often with whimsically antique electrobeats in the back, of Simon Hutchinson’s 2011 “BioMechanics,” a wonderfully provocative disc opener. Hutchinson may very well be a King Crimson fan, as some of the rhythms and interlocking devil’s intervals are reminiscent of the 1970s and 1980s Crimson iterations.

At the heart of everything is the superb playing of Sean Fredenburg and Javier Rodriguez.  These pieces wouldn’t have worked nearly as well as they do with lesser-equipped instrumentalists. Would that all new music and its performances were this tight and this serious!

Marc Medwin

Pheromone review in Fanfare

This article originally appeared in Issue 40:2 (Nov/Dec 2016) of Fanfare Magazine.

PHEROMONE • Meerenai Shim (fl); 1Jacob Abela (pn) • AEROCADE 001 (44:01)

FIELDSTEEL Fractus III: Aerophoneme. G. C. BROWN Huge Blank Canvas Neck Tattoo. O’HALLORAN 1Pencilled Wings. LAUSTSEN 60.8%. SCHANKLER 1Pheromone. M. J. PAYNE Étude for Contrabass Flute and TI83+ Calculator

Playing any new music is a challenge, and while the goal seems obvious, playing it well is a rarer accomplishment than might be imagined. Just listen to Webern conducting Berg’s Violin Concerto to hear the way art and intellect combine to the best effect. Flutist Meerenai Shim has the chops and the heart to do these recently composed pieces full justice, and this inaugural release on her own Aerocade label is the proverbial proof of the pudding.

The only piece not composed in 2014 is Eli Fieldsteel’s helter-skelter Fractus III: Aerophoneme, obviously the third installment of a series from which I have only heard the first, for trumpet and supercollider. The present work, for flute and live electronic sound, is a whiplash-inducing journey through various musical topoi, and, as with Jimi Hendrix’s solo on Machine Gun, forces the flutist to use many of the techniques in her fully developed vocabulary. As with the best pieces of this type, the live electronics component plunges the flute into some sort of gradually emerging hyper-reality, first creating environments for it that morph in size and perspective, using delay so that Shim’s playing interacts contrapuntally with itself before breathily trilled fragments of it become fodder for more advanced processing. Though quite intense, there is plenty of subtlety, such as the beats that emerge and disappear at key moments, perhaps a slyly nuanced nod to what can broadly, and somewhat stupidly, be called Electronic Dance Music. It’s the longest piece on the disc and stands in direct contrast with Matthew Joseph Payne’s absolutely adorable Étude for Contrabass Flute and TI83+ Calculator, which sounds like what I’d imagine Throbbing Gristle’s jazz-funk greats would sound like if they had jazz solos over them. It’s a neat little trip back to 1980 or thereabouts, just a tinge of industriality informing that last-gasp analogue synthesizer innocence, Shim’s contrabass flute sometimes almost unrecognizable but always complementary.

The only other musician, in the strictly traditional sense, is pianist Jacob Abela, and his contributions to the title piece are stunning. Again making use of that catch-all word “electronics” to describe the instrumentation, composer Isaac Schankler has fashioned a piece verging on neo-Romanticism but brimming with the vital fragmentation and reordering of sonic components pioneered by Karlheinz Stockhausen and İlhan Mimaroğlu and used by so many these days. No mere rehashing, Pheromone is a beautiful, meditative and occasionally harrowing repetition-driven look at implication, from the moment-to-moment situation of individual pitch and timbre to the ways harmonies may or may not resolve.

The whole disc may also be seen that way, and while I have chosen a few pieces for discussion, the entire program is excellent and well-sequenced. This is certainly an auspicious label debut. Marc Medwin

Aerocade Music
Fanfare Magazine reviews Scordatura

This article originally appeared in Issue 40:2 (Nov/Dec 2016) of Fanfare Magazine.

SCORDATURA • Hannah Addario-Berry (vc) • AEROCADE 004 (77:09)

KODÁLY Sonata for Solo Cello, op. 8. B. MILLER Miniatures, Book 3: Koans. A. ROSE Lands End. E. CLARK Ekpyrotic: Layerings IV. JUSTEN Sonaquifer. COONS Myth’s Daughter. LIU Calor

Canadian cellist Hannah Addario-Berry, now working in the San Francisco area, has put together a stunning program for the solo cello, celebrating the centennial of Zoltán Kodály’s milestone Cello Sonata, op. 8. Scordatura, the title of the release, denotes the retuning of a stringed instrument to change its character and tonality. Kodály requires, in his sonata, the G- and C-strings to be tuned a half-step lower, so that the open strings sound a B-Minor seventh chord. This facilitates the shifting B Minor/B Major tonality of the work—including the use of open-string drones—increases the resonance in those keys, and emphasizes the darker timbres of the instrument. Inspired by these qualities, Addario-Berry commissioned 10 friends—“dynamic young composers”—to create new works for the identically tuned solo cello, to be performed with the Kodály. Working on a short timeline, six finished the works in time for inclusion here and in ongoing tours. Composing to complement one of the greatest works for any solo instrument was no doubt daunting. All wisely avoided producing works that invite direct comparison, opting instead for contrasting, occasionally very modern, works.

Listeners familiar with János Starker’s final recording of the Kodály Sonata (1970, Delos) and the first recording by Miklós Perényi (Hungaroton), another Kodály protégé, will find Addario-Berry’s approach quite different. It is more improvisatory in approach, more monumental—her term in promotional material—and considerably more measured, running, at 34:50, a full four minutes longer than either. The soloist doesn’t slight the Hungarian folk qualities, and maybe even enhances them, while making much of the expressive opportunities that a slower tempo affords, so that the sonata, especially the central Adagio, takes on the nature of a dark lamentation. It is not out of character, even if it perhaps goes beyond what the composer envisioned. The arpeggiated chord work in the Allegro molto vivace, which Starker objected to and cut in all but his last recording, is here made intensely effective, and other figures, which go by very quickly at the marked tempo, are allowed to more fully register at Addario-Berry’s freer tempos. Of course, Kodály declared a Starker performance of the sonata just short of “the Bible performance” because of an unscored ritard in the third movement. Heaven knows what he would think of this reading, but I must say—despite my usual respect for composers’ preferences—that it is immensely satisfying.

Such is my enthusiasm for the Kodály, I’m afraid I’ve left little room for comment on the other six works. It is an eclectic lot in style, but all are essentially tonal. Possibly because she is good at it, two involve reading by the soloist, between and sometimes during the music. In Miniatures, Book Three: Koans, Brent Miller incorporates Zen meditation statements, on which the music reflects in the styles that evoke several of the composer’s influences: Ligeti, Schnittke, Crumb, Tenney, Xenakis, and Pärt. In Myth’s Daughter, Lisa Renée Coons lifts phrases from familiar Grimm’s fairytales nostalgically recalled from her youth, which the soloist states, whispers, and sings as a sort of enhanced narrative in time to the music. Alisa Rose finds inspiration in the topography of a San Francisco trail for the contours of Lands End, and in Appalachian fiddle bowing to establish its essential bluegrass personality. Gloria Justen’s vivacious Sonaquifer is more Eastern European, with gestures from the Bach Suites providing contrasting ideas. Rock music seems to be the starting point for Calor by cellist/composer Jerry Liu, as he experiments with indeterminacy by eliminating note values and meter.

Eric Kenneth Malcolm Clark’s Ekpyrotic: Layerings IV, is, however, the only truly experimental composition. He uses overlapping multiple takes of the same music to create musical complexity out of inevitable variations, as the soloist plays a prepared cello—miniature clothespins on the strings to create a bell-like ringing—and vocalizes. (I have only a vague sense of what this all might have to do with ekpurosis, or the ekpyrotic universe model.) This is a short four-minute version of the work. A longer version, at over 11 minutes, can be downloaded after purchase of the release.

Recommendation, then? Absolutely: The outstanding Kodály Sonata performance alone would be reason enough to purchase this CD. The new works add plenty of creative and agreeable music to be explored, and Addario-Berry’s performances rivet attention. The recording emphasizes the rich lower range of the cello, and is attractively clear and rather close in a resonant space. Notes are succinct, but are expanded upon at scordaturacello.com and a linked Bandcamp download page. Ronald E. Grames

A/B Duo album release party in San Francisco

Join us, A/B Duo, and Post-Haste Reed Duo to celebrate the new album from A/B Duo at the Center for New Music in San Francisco.

Who: A/B Duo and Post-Haste Reed Duo
When: Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 8PM
Where: Center for New Music,
What: A/B Duo CD release party
Why: It's about time that we had a party!

All party guests will be entered into a drawing for an Aerocade music swag collection which includes an Aerocade Music t-shirt, A/B Duo shirt, and all 5 of the Aerocade Music CDs.

Pre-order the new A/B Duo Album, "Variety Show"
A/B Duo listening to mixes with engineer Alberto Hernandez at Fantasy Studios.

A/B Duo listening to mixes with engineer Alberto Hernandez at Fantasy Studios.

You can pre-order our next release, A/B Duo's "Variety Show," via Kickstarter right now. It will feature 7 compositions for flute and percussion by Drew BakerBrooks FredericksonBrendon Randall-MyersIan DickeZack BrowningAndrea Reinkemeyer, and Ned McGowan.

Scordatura review in Examiner.com

Stephen Smoliar at examiner.com reviewed Hannah Addario-Berry's new album, Scordatura:

"Addario-Berry has mastered the art of getting every note to speak to the attentive listener. Her name may not be familiar to listeners who think that they have already decided on a favorite cellist, but the freshness of her approach to the Opus 8 sonata not only deserves but also demands attention from anyone interested in this piece."

Read the rest at examiner.com.

I watch the fire as the days echo away reviewed in Examiner.com

Stephen Smoliar reviewed the new Joseph M. Colombo/The Living Earth Show recording. Here's an excerpt:

"Colombo takes an interesting approach to the pacing of this narrative. “I watch the fire…” sustains its destructive energy for a little over seven minutes. However, the concluding movement takes less than three minutes, suggesting that one need only let go of the urgency of the present to acknowledge the inevitability of passing. The result is some highly persuasive rhetoric packed into an impressively short duration."

Read the rest at Examiner.com.

Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review: Beneath A Canopy of Angels...A River of Stars

"...Post-Haste Reed Duo show us an admirable musical poeticism and a supreme command of their instruments for a very lively and absorbing program of where chamber music can be in our times. Highly recommended."

- Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

Read the whole review here.

Beneath a canopy of angels...a river of stars review in textura

Post-Haste Reed Duo's debut album is an honorable mention in the March 2016 edition of textura. The review:

"theirs is no novelty act; the music on the release holds up as an excellent collection of contemporary classical works by Louis Andriessen, Simon Hutchinson, Lanier Sammons, John Steinmetz, and Ethan Wickman, no matter the instrumentation involved."

"...what beneath a canopy of angels...a river of stars demonstrates above else is that whatever reservations one might have harboured regarding the limitations of a saxophone-and-bassoon pairing can be put aside, as Fredenburg and Rodriguez clearly show that music of limitless stylistic range and emotional scope is possible when such instrumentation is involved."

Read the rest at textura.org.

Pheromone review in Avant Music News

Daniel Barbiero reviewed Meerenai Shim's Pheromone in the Avant Music News:

"Pheromone, the third solo recording by San Francisco-area new music flutist Meerenai Shim, is a fine collection of new electroacoustic works, all but one of which were commissioned for this recording. The six compositions encompass their composers’ individual approaches to integrating the flute with electronics of various types, and reflect Shim’s own genre-challenging, eclectic engagement with new music."

Keep reading on the Avant Music News website.

Pheromone review in I CARE IF YOU LISTEN

Flutist Amanda Cook reviewed Meerenai Shim's Pheromone in I CARE IF YOU LISTEN.

"Virtuosic Versatility"

Here's an excerpt:

"...Pheromone stands in a class of its own. This album’s dedication to all electro-acoustic compositions definitively breaks from traditional repertoire and instrumentation, unapologetically plays to Shim’s strengths, and highlights her incredible versatility as a contemporary artist."

Read the rest of the review at I CARE IF YOU LISTEN.