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January 31, 2007

More on Ben Johnston

In 1990 New York Times critic John Rockwell called Ben Johnston "one of the best nonfamous composers this country has to offer…." For years Johnston’s music has proved fascinating to theorists and musicologists because of its use of advanced compositional techniques (serialism with just intonation, for example). Frank Oteri's superb interview with Ben Johnston on NewMusicBox.com offers new insight into this important composer's extraordinary mind. NMB also includes an excerpt from Johnston's recently-published book of essays "Maximum Clarity" and Other Writings on Music.

Released in January of 2006, New World Records’s Ben Johnston: String Quartet Nos. 2, 3, 4, & 9 (NW 80637-2), features the Kepler Quartet and is the first of a series of three recordings, prepared with the composer’s support and supervision. This CD includes the first recorded performance of his String Quartet No. 3, "Verging."

January 17, 2007

Zummo with an X
By David Lewis
Allmusic.com

Composer and trombonist Peter Zummo is one of the original residents of the New York "Downtown" loft scene and a contributor to many works mounted by his colleagues, which include Peter Gordon, The Downtown Ensemble, Rhys Chatham, David Behrman, Yasunao Tone, The Lounge Lizards, David First and a long list of others. Recordings under his own name are far more obscure and harder to come by; the main title on CD to date being Experimenting with Household Chemicals on the Experimental Intermedia imprint; a low profile outing indeed. In re-releasing Zummo with an X, New World Records returns a key Zummo effort to the catalogue that was only available before on an LP on Zummo's own Loris label. The New World re-release adds an attractive, previously unreleased alternate recording of "Song IV" from the dance score Lateral Pass, which features cellist Arthur Russell and arch avant-garde accordionist Guy Klucevsek. More

The Best of 2006: Accolades for New World Recordings

From The New Yorker:

In the January 15 issue of The New Yorker composer and contributor Russell Platt posts his Best of 2006 recording list. In the number three slot is New World 80634, Sebastian Currier, Quartetset/Quiet Time. "Currier is a subtle yet potent artist whose impeccable craft never overshadows his gifts for lyricism and surprise. The Cassatt Quartet plays these unexpectedly moving works with all the nimbleness and warmth that they demand."

From Time Out New York :

Time Out New York's Steve Smith includes Ben Johnston String Quartets Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 9 (New World 80637) on his list of the Best Recordings for 2006. "The Kepler Quartet presses this American maverick's cause with the initial volume of a commanding complete run."

Sequenza21 's Jerry Bowles featured three New World recordings in his 2006 roundup of Best Recordings of the Year. In addition to the Johnston and Currier discs, he also included Thomas/Druckman/Hartke.

Britain's The Wire magazine lists Christian Wolff: 10 Exercises and Julius Eastman: Unjust Malaise among its fifty Records of the Year.

Finally, the January 2007 issue of Gramophone Magazine highlighted Works for Violin by George Antheil, Johanna Beyer, Henry Cowell, Ruth P. Crawford, Charles Dodge, David Mahler, Larry Polansky, Stefan Wolpe in its North American review section.


January 16, 2007

From Barrelhouse to Broadway: The Music Odyssey of Joe Jordan
By David Lewis
Allmusic.com

Chances are, if you know anything at all about Ragtime, you have heard of Scott Joplin. Joplin was originally from Sedalia, Missouri and spent several years in St. Louis, the city where, at the turn of the century, Ragtime was king. Among a number of younger composers who, like Joplin, frequented St. Louis' Silver Dollar Saloon and admired it's resident "perfesser" Tom Turpin was pianist and composer Joe Jordan, who would go on to an international career that would take him from Chicago to Broadway, to England and, in his sixties, into the U.S. Military as a decorated officer. That we know the name of Joplin, and not that of Jordan, who lived right up until a couple of years before the Academy Award winning film The Sting was released, is just one of those vagaries of the way time sometimes affects the reputation of deserving people. Rick Benjamin and the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra have decided to redress this omission through an excellent career survey on Joe Jordan, From Barrelhouse to Broadway: The Music Odyssey of Joe Jordan on New World Records...The performances here are lively and spontaneous here when needed, yet restrained and demure when the music calls for it. The singing, mainly by tenor Trevor B. Smith and soprano Bernadette Boercke, happily avoids the kind of over-arch vocalizing one often hears in these kinds of re-creations. The dance numbers are delightfully toe-tapping as well, and the Paragon plays them with pep—one would be hard pressed to find a reason to discourage anyone, particularly those inclined towards the pre-jazz popular music of the early twentieth-century, from checking out New World's generally excellent From Barrelhouse to Broadway: The Music Odyssey of Joe Jordan. More

January 14, 2007

Earle Brown: Selected Works 1952-1965
By David Lewis
Allmusic.com

The re-release of Earle Brown: Selected Works 1952-1965 on New World Records will seem like the return of an old friend to many listeners. Compiled out of CRI's tapes of Earle Brown's music, which were recorded between 1952 and 1994, for release as part of CRI's American Masters series in 1996, this disc represents almost a third of Brown's tiny, highly concentrated output...These kinds of historic performances are so rare and seldom seen on domestic CD issues that we will take them in any way they come to us...It's heartening to know that New World was willing to take the time to do it right, and Earle Brown: Selected Works 1952-1965 is certainly worth the wait. More

January 12, 2007

Julius Eastman: Unjust Malaise
By David Lewis
Allmusic.com

Julius Eastman (1940-1990) was a composer in good company around 1970. The booklet to New World Records's survey of Eastman's never before issued compositions contains a number of group shots showing Eastman in the presence of such luminaries as Lukas Foss, Lejaren Hiller, Pauline Oliveros, Jan Williams, Eberhard Blum, David Del Tredici, Morton Feldman and other first tier proponents of contemporary music of that time. The fact that Eastman's face is the only black one in these photos seems not to have impacted the attitude of his colleagues, any more than Oliveros or Renée Levine, then director of the University at Buffalo's Center of the Creative and Performing Arts, presence as the only women in these images might suggest. Eastman's blackness, combined with his uncompromising, difficult career choices, politically incorrect subject material and vulnerability in the age of Jesse Helms are all reasons why New World Records's Julius Eastman: Unjust Malaise marks the very first inkling we've had on disc of what an unbelievable talent Eastman was, and the nature of his singular contribution to American classical music... Kyle Gann's impassioned notes are well worth reading also, and set the stage for more installments of Eastman's recordings. More