ETHEL ~ On Documerica and Related Things

ETHEL are L-R: Ralph Farris, viola; Tema Watstein, violin; Kip Jones, violin; Dorothy Lawson, cello; Photo courtesy of Stephanie Berger 9101612096_c9f4147912_k

The great NY ensemble ETHEL had a few minutes to sit down and chat about the current tour and their stage project Documerica, which will be presented this coming October 2nd through the 5th at BAM (Click here for info).

CM:  I’ve interviewed some of the former members of ETHEL separately, and also Kip and Tema separately last year when you guys just joined. What has it been like these days for the group? You’ve been together 16 years?

Dorothy: We’re getting into our 16th season, I think, yes!

Ralph: But it feels like 17! [laughs] Continue reading

Rebekah Heller at Spectrum ~ A Review

Photo courtesy of Glenn Cornettrebekahhellerspectrum

International Contemporary Ensemble
Rebekah Heller, bassoon
Spectrum, NYC
Saturday, August 24th, 2013

The set ICE bassoonist Rebekah Heller put on for her CD-release party for the solo disc 100 Names at NYC’s Spectrum was a great collection of stark but robust compositions, all of which were from the disc. The live performances were quite identical in sound, but to see Ms. Heller at work giving the most experimental bassoon concert I certainly have ever seen in my lifetime was a treat to savor for many ages.

After an introduction by her ICE colleague, flutist Claire Chase (who produced the album), Heller started the program with Edgar Guzman’s “∞¿?”, a piece where the bassoon is interchanging and blending with a recorded buzz feedback in such a perfect pitch you almost can’t hear where one ends and the other begins.

Another favorite moment was Marcelo Toledo’s “Qualla II”, a piece that brilliantly displays what sounds like the ICE ethic at work. Like Claire Chase, Rebekah Heller uses every fiber of her being to extract the most primal noise from a traditional classical instrument and rebrands it for the new music world. Between the rapid keyboard fingering with and without notes, and the animalistic sounds Heller puts back into the instrument, the work bears the earmarks of an outstanding signature piece for the soloist.
Marcos Balter’s “…and also a fountain” continues the primal sounds with the addition of spoken word from Heller, while accompanying herself with ambient percussion.

The piece that wrapped up the evening’s program (“10pm, Ixtab”) was a chaotic duet with its composer, Du Yun on vocals. Heller ends it with a marvelous sequence of extended notes.

Rebekah Heller (Her artist’s page on

Donal Fox ~ On Jamming with Hilary Hahn at Skaneateles

Donal FOX(Lou Jones)

Pianist-composer-improviser Donal Fox is performing this year at the 34th annual Skaneateles Festival.
Known for some incredible work in both jazz and new music, Donal has also been very active as a collaborator and experimentalist in merging styles. Besides his solo appearance at the upcoming festival on Thursday, August 15th at 8 PM, he’ll be playing with none other than a longtime favorite of The Glass and a veteran of this festival, Hilary Hahn, on Saturday the 17th at 7:30 PM at a special evening devoted to a collaboration never before seen by the public, and something that promises to be a real treat for both fans of jazz and classical. Hilary will also be appearing on Friday the 16th playing a solo recital at 8 PM.

Donal had a few minutes to talk about the show. Continue reading

Sasha Siem at Joe’s Pub (A Review)


Sasha Siem
Joe’s Pub, NYC
Monday, July 22nd, 2013

At the site of what has become Amy Schumer’s TV home, Joe’s Pub, UK singer-composer Sasha Siem flew in and delivered what felt like an all-too-brief set of short art songs, most of it from her new CD Most of The Boys. The presence of Sasha in a dark dress reminiscent of Stevie Nicks, along with some well-orchestrated chamber backing from a string trio-plus-drummer really made for an eclectic evening.

Songs like “Tug of War”, “Proof”, “Most of The Boys”, “Kind Man’s Kiss”, and “So Polite” were delivered with an incredible speed and unfounded character that only Sasha would be able to interpret. The small chamber group (featuring violinist Jeff Young and cellist Isabel Castellvi) were definitely the kind of ensemble that contributes to blurring the line between indie and indie-classical.

So Polite (live with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra)

As a performer, Sasha Siem is a delightful composer/performer of art songs that, for fans of a very tasty and simultaneously light flavor of music, provides a great rival to artists like Bjork and Sufjan Stevens, and leaves an audience wanting even more. She did do a very short encore (it was 20 seconds), but I believe she is on to something.


Sasha Siem ~ On Most of The Boys and the Joe’s Pub show


UK composer-vocalist Sasha Siem is releasing her first full-length CD this month, Most of The Boys, and she will be appearing at New York’s Joe’s Pub on July 22nd at 7 PM. Click here for info/tickets or on the link on the bottom.

Sasha had a few minutes to talk to us about the show, which will be a paired-down version of the concert done earlier this year the UK (shown in the video below).

“At the Royal Opera House concert, we had a string quartet, and it was so much fun and exciting for all of them as well because we had Zack Winokur, who was choreographing. He’d also worked with ICE, and he did various experiments with the relationship between movement and sound, and he was getting them to move around the stage. What I think worked was that it wasn’t arbitrary. It began to move in such a way that it was really kind of an urge out of the music somehow, and we were in counterpoint with the sonic world.”

Most of the Boys – Behind the Scenes

“The stage in Joe’s Pub is tiny, so, this will be an acoustic live version without movement. We just recorded the full cycle in Iceland with Valgeir Sigurðsson–That was such a great experience! He’s just a wonderful person to work with! We’re putting together a plan for releasing that at the end of the year, so this is like a little taster of that cycle in its entirety, which we haven’t yet done in New York, so, we’re really looking forward to that!”

Kind Man’s Kiss – Sasha Siem feat. Mivos Quartet

Click here for info/tickets for Sasha Siem at Joe’s Pub


in performance: Rhymes With Opera presents “Criminal Element”

Chris McGovern:

Megan Ihnen reviewed the Baltimore performance of the newly-staged version of David Smooke’s Criminal Element

Originally posted on The Sybaritic Singer:

Settling into David Smooke‘s nonopera, “Criminal Element“, is akin to letting a book of Rorschach paintings fall open in front of you. As each of the five scenes unfolds, the pages of that book flip in the breeze. That is to say, a nonopera in an invented language can take on myriad meanings and plays out the perceptions of those watching and listening. Gazing around the sultry Area 405 in Baltimore on Saturday night, there could have been as many interpretations of Smooke’s work as there were people crowded into the performance space. Rhymes With Opera singers Elisabeth Halliday, Robert Maril, and Bonnie Lander with the SONAR new music ensemble quartet under George Lam‘s conducting excelled in the performance of this work creating numerous audience entry points to a work that could be intimidating to some. Rhymes With Opera also used the evening as…

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Bang On a Can at Rite of Summer (A Review)

Bang On a Can All-Stars at Rite of Summer Festival on Governors Island–Photo courtesy of Reilly Grahamrrite4fixed by Reilly Graham

Rite of Summer Festival
Bang On a Can All-Stars
Governors Island, NYC
Saturday, July 13, 2013

I have never been to Governors Island (at least I don’t think I have in many years–something about it seemed familiar to me), and I basically was walking towards the side of the island where I believed the site of the Rite of Summer concert was going on. I felt worried when I saw a tent area that sort of looked like a stage-area with no people, thinking I’d traveled all the way to the island to find a canceled show, but after hearing the strains of a distorted cello in the distance…I KNEW that was our show! I kept walking and found the Bang On a Can All-Stars set underway.

I’m very glad that I was familiar with Michael Gordon’s “Industry”, and Ashley Bathgate being given a rare solo moment in the band’s set was exciting to see. To hear such a furiously-played amplified piece for electro-acoustic cello in an outdoor concert definitely made me think of Hendrix at Woodstock. As the rest of the group took the stage, guitarist Mark Stewart, who was making the announcements between the pieces, wondered aloud “If Jimi played the cello…”

The rest of the prepared first set went equally as well with some more All-Stars classics–David Lang’s “Sunray” (written for his father’s 80th birthday), Julia Wolfe’s “Lick” (designed after a funky James Brown piece in the way Julia Wolfe does it) and Louis Andriessen’s “Worker’s Union” (perhaps its most intense performance ever). The group, even with 2 people subbing for Robert Black and Ken Thomson (Gregg August and Michael Lowernstern, respectively, and did so so effectively that I hadn’t even noticed those guys weren’t there) and the looming threat of a downpour as the sky was only giving us a partly sunny day–on top of this the band was working with generated electricity in the aftermath of the facility’s power source being jeopardized by Hurricane Sandy, and at one point the sound cut out, yet you could still hear them–There seemed to be nothing that would make these guys stop or slow down.

After the break, there would have been a second set where the group was going to feature a Mark Stewart solo, repeat “Sunray” and “Lick” and wrap up the show with Thurston Moore’s “Stroking Piece #1″ (Loved hearing that at 2012′s marathon), but during Mark Stewart’s solo performance of Steve Reich’s “Electric Counterpart”–replete with gorgeous looping effects on top of an already gorgeously-played guitar part, the rain creeped up on the event and finally managed to put a damper on it. Probably for the best since safety is the priority over the show (regardless of the “show must go on” credo), but the group definitely made the absolute best out of their circumstances and turned in some effectively executed repertoire for a summer concert.

Even though they only feature a few concerts each summer, Rite of Summer is a really good festival that brings new music performances to both the fans of the genre and the general public with some potential new fans.

There’s a couple more dates of Rite of Summer if you would like to check it out:

Saturday, August 10th 1pm & 3pm (raindate August 11th):
An Homage to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring: Ljova and Friends/Fireworks Ensemble

Sunday, September 1st 12pm-5pm (raindate September 2nd):
RITE-A-THON: Blair McMillen, Pam Goldberg, Tigue, Theo Bleckmann, Classical Jam and more

Bang On a

Rite of

A Night of Chamber Performances in New York With & Without Puppets (Double Review)

Rhymes With Opera (L to R: Robert Maril, Elisabeth Halliday and Bonnie Lander) performing David Smooke’s Criminal Element at JACK Space in Brooklyn, July 11th, 2013–Photo courtesy of Regina DeLuisecriminalelement2

Rhymes With Opera
Criminal Element
An opera by David Smooke
Also featuring 12 one-minute operas by various composers
JACK, Brooklyn, NY
Thursday, July 11th, 2013

criminalelementA small but full and dedicated sold-out audience filed into JACK Space in Brooklyn last night to witness the first performance of the fully-staged version of Criminal Element, a one-act chamber opera commissioned by Rhymes With Opera from Baltimore-based composer David Smooke originally in 2010, when it was being performed as a concert-only work in selected cities. Continue reading

Shows in NYC this weekend (7/11 ~ 7/14)

Ecouter will be in NYC on Thursday and Friday nights this weekend (Image courtesy of Ecouter)Ecouter3

Rhymes with Opera
Criminal Element by David Smooke (plus premiere of 12 one-minute operas by various composers)
JACK, Thursday, 7/11, 7:30 PM (SOLD OUT)
(Editor’s note: A possible 2nd show may be announced–Stay tuned)

CULTUREfix, Thursday, 7/11, 9:30 PM
Goodbye-Blue-Monday, Friday, 7/12, 10 PM
Natalie Spehar, Cello, Vocals
Nikola Ragusa, Flute, Alto Flute
Amelie Brodeur, Piano, Flute, Vocals


Rite of Summer Festival
Bang On a Can All-Stars
Govenor’s Island, Saturday, 7/13, 1 PM & 3 PM

So Percussion & The Joshua Light Show
Schimmel Center for The Arts at Pace University, Saturday, 7/13, 7:30 PM (FREE SHOW)


…and if you like some good acoustic indie music

Dan Coyle/Michela Baranov
Tammany Hall, Thursday, 7/11, 10 PM

Mark Mandeville & Raianne Richards/Steve Pavao
Caffe Vivaldi, Sunday, 7/14, 7 PM