Jennifer Choi & Cornelius Dufallo ~ On Their Season-Opening Concert at Tribeca Music Festival

Jennifer Choi and Cornelius Dufallo perform

This portion courtesy of Tribeca Music Festival/The Cell

We are thrilled to have both Jennifer Choi and Cornelius Dufallo (both formerly of ETHEL), two of new music’s most compelling violinists, teaming up to perform an array of challenging and expressive solos and duos. Escape New York features some of their favorite recent contemporary scores that promise to transport you to new musical worlds.

In addition, Tribeca New Music is proud to present the winning work of its national 2014 Young Composer Competition, for young musicians 21 years old and younger, a stunning three-movement solo violin piece written by 20-year-old Andrew Hsu which will receive its NYC premiere by Jennifer Choi. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area and composition student at the Curtis Institute of Music, Andrew has already won the BMI and multiple ASCAP awards for composition and is a rising star on the new music scene.

Join us at 4pm for the concert at the cell, and then have dinner afterward at one of the many fine restaurants in the area.
(See local restaurant list below.)

The program will include works by:
Kinan Azmeh
Eve Beglarian
Kenji Bunch
Caleb Burhans
Anna Clyne
Rob Deemer
Cornelius Dufallo
Andrew Hsu (Winner of the 2014 Young Composer Competition; NYC premiere)
Preston Stahly

The Cell – A Twenty First Century Salon
338 West 23rd Street, NYC 10011

General Admission $25
Students/Seniors $20


Jennifer and Cornelius were interviewed by me about this concert.

CM: It is very exciting to see you guys playing together again! Are you guys just as excited about that?

Jennifer: Thanks Chris! This program has been really fun for us to put together as the duos are well written with just the right of amount of challenge and excitement. We’ve actually been playing together for a while now in various formations in and outside of the city, so it felt like the right time to put together a duo/solos show. Serendipitously, we found the perfect opportunity through the Tribeca New Music Festival to present our program for their season opener concert this coming November 16.

CM: Tell us about Caleb Burhans’ “Escape New York” and the contest winner Andrew Hsu’s piece.

Jennifer: We will begin Sunday’s program with Caleb Burhan’s violin duo titled “Escape New York”. It’s a driving piece that makes use of the spiccato technique with intertwining harmonies. He wrote it in 2011 for Pauline Kim and Conrad Harris who have a working duo called STRING NOISE. We actually named our program Escape New York too, as most of the other works inflect a musical journey outside of the city. For instance, Kenji Bunch’s “Three American Folk Hymn Settings” for two violins and Cornelius’s duo called “Abraxos” are both pieces that can viscerally take you to another place. The other works on the program will be solos by composers we each individually chose to play. My three solo pieces are Eve Beglarian’s “Well-Spent”, Preston Stahley’s “Sapphire”- both for violin and pre-recorded sounds, and the featured 2014 TNMF competition winner, Andrew Hsu’s Solo Violin Sonata.

Andrew’s piece is in three movements and is quite virtuosic. To begin with, the sonata calls for techniques seen a lot in Bartok’s string music like atonal and chromatic double stops, jeté strokes, and left hand pizzicato. It’s a real work out for the violin and is filled with dramatic moments throughout. He’s a very talented young composer and I’m excited to be making the New York premiere of this work.

CM (to Cornelius): Just want to say it is awesome to see you are back! Missed you! :) Please discuss your half of the show as well!

Cornelius: I’d like to say how much fun it is to be playing with Jenny. Our history goes back a long way, and, although our playing is quite different, we share certain musical sensibilities. I think we also share a deep curiosity about new music and the creative process!

All three pieces came out of my Journaling project, in which I asked composers to write pieces for violin and electronics.

Kinan’s piece is about the conflict in Syria. In fact, he was in Damascus when he wrote it in 2012. It is for violin and pre recorded track.

Anna’s piece is one movement of a larger, 40 minute work called THE VIOLIN, which Anna wrote for me and my wife, Amy Kauffman. Most of the piece is for two violins and pre recorded violin tracks, but this movement is for solo violin.
Rob’s piece is for solo violin with live digital looping.

Click here to buy tickets

Jennifer Choi
Cornelius Dufallo

Miranda Cuckson ~ Preview of Melting The Darkness CD release parties (Nov 12th and 14th)


Courtesy of Spectrum/Glenn Cornett

Spectrum is pleased to celebrate the launch of violinist and violist Miranda Cuckson’s Melting the Darkness album, which is to be released digitally on November 11 by Urlicht Audiovisual.

The works on the album are:
Iannis Xenakis: Mikka S
GF Haas: de terrae fine
Oscar Bianchi: Semplice
Chris Burns: come ricordi, come sogni, come ecchi
Ileana Perez-Velasquez: un ser con unas alas enormes
Robert Rowe: Melting the Darkness

This event at Spectrum is part 1 of a two-evening album launch, part 2 being two nights later on Nov 14 at the Brown Institute Concert Series – and featuring the four microtonal pieces on the album.

Nov 12 at Spectrum will feature the CD’s three works for violin and electronics by Perez-Velasquez, Rowe and Sigman- the former two in live performance and the Sigman in the recorded surround-sound version. These will be heard in the context of solo electronics pieces by each of these composers. Sound engineer Richard Warp, who worked on this CD as well as Miranda’s previous Nono project on Urlicht, will play his recent composition with video.

Miranda, Robert Rowe, Ileana Perez-Velasquez and Richard Warp will be in attendance. Physical CDs will be for sale at the event.

Full liner notes for the album are here:

Excerpted notes:

This album ventures into regions of the art of violin-playing the significance of which is now becoming clear. Devoted entirely to microtonal compositions for violin and pieces for violin with electronics, this CD explores works of seven composers who have been challenged by these areas of discovery to create intriguingly fresh and surprising sound worlds….Since turning much attention in recent years to the music being written in my own time, I have found it fascinating to explore certain areas of experimentation that have taken my instrument beyond the familiar glories of its heritage. One of these is the use of microtonality- a system of intervals involving distances smaller than the half-step (the keys on a piano). I have been intrigued by both the physical aspects of working with such intervals, and the idiosyncratic ways in which composers use such intervals for their own expressive aims. Another interest has been noise- that is, non-pitched sounds, often percussive or abrasive, produced by unusual techniques on the instrument. A third area I’ve been eager to explore has been music involving electronics. Since electronic music’s beginnings, using spliced reel-to-reel tapes decades ago, the possibilities of the technology have exploded so that there are numerous ways in which to create or generate sounds and to interact, as a live performer, with them. This has led to a palette of sound possibilities and a degree of agility of response often not offered by traditional instruments.

Alex Sigman’s VURTRUVURT for violin and live electronics was commissioned for this recording. In this piece, the violin is a live denizen of an urban sound world, adding its startling noises to a world of machines. The electronics part is triggered and adjusted by an additional live performer. The piece was recorded in studio, after which the composer added some further sound processing and also created the spatialized imagining found on the 5.1 surround disk. Sigman writes:

V is for Vehicle and Volume, not Violin. U is for Union. R is for Resonance, Recording, Reflection…and T is for Trigger. VURT refers to the 1993 cyberpunk science fiction novel by Jeff Noon. Set in a dystopian Manchester, the novel chronicles the (mis)adventures of a gang of Stash Riders, who travel between Manchester and a parallel universe called Vurt. The boundary between the universes remains permeable, as Vurt creatures and events materialize on Earth. The sound sources employed in VURTRUVURT include elements evocative of the decaying urban and industrial environments described by Noon, as well as songs by Manchester bands of the 1980s-90s that were influential upon the his writing. These sources were also central to generating the violin material. In performance, the electronics are projected through a pair of small sound exciters: one attached to the violin, the other to a resonating glass surface. The violin thus becomes an electrified tension field, a physical point of actual/virtual intersection and cross-influence.

Ileana Perez-Velasquez’s work “un ser con unas alas enormes” is for violin and fixed media: the electronics were previously recorded onto a CD as one single track, with which the violinist performs in real time. The piece evokes a lush natural world with dangerous-sounding animal calls and insect noises in the electronics. Cuban motifs and a full-throated, heated lyricism characterize the violin part. Perez-Velasquez’s note:

“un ser con unas alas enormes”, which translates as “a being with enormous wings”, was inspired by the 17th Freeman Etude for violin by John Cage. Within the hectic gestures that are a major part of this etude are passages reminiscent of Cuban rhythms. An important idea for Cage is that human beings can be better themselves by overcoming their limitations. This piece translates that spirit; humans improve through the use of their imagination. The title is also related to the literary work by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “un hombre muy viejo con unas alas muy grandes”. The tape part, as my departure of style, is fragmentary, and contains processed excerpts from the Freeman Etude. The piece also includes concepts of silence that are present in non-Western music. The use of silence as a conscious part of the piece yet again reflects back to Cage.

For Robert Rowe’s piece, Melting the Darkness, the violin part was written and recorded first; the composer then created the electronics as an accompaniment to the violin part, using processed snippets of the violin-playing, samples of percussion instruments such as the tabla, and other synthesized sounds. The violin propels the narrative of the piece, with a warm, largely conventional style of violin-playing. Rowe writes:

Melting the Darkness was written for Miranda Cuckson and commissioned by the New Spectrum Foundation. The piece is built around contrasting styles of music and performance, ranging from gritty, rhythmic phrases to more lyrical and slowly shifting sonorities. These contrasts are amplified and elaborated by an electronic commentary consisting of fragmented and processed material from the violin performance as well as a number of secondary sources. The title comes from The Tempest (as it should when a piece is composed for Miranda): “…as the morning steals upon the night, Melting the darkness…”

I will be featuring an all-new interview with Miranda Cuckson on The Glass Sho very soon! Stay tuned!


The Glass Sho ~ Ecouter Ensemble/David Donnelly on His Documentary ‘Maestro’)


The latest installment of The Glass Sho features an interview with the flute/cello (and sometimes piano as well) trio Ecouter (Natalie Spehar, cello; Nikola Ragusa, flute; Amelie Brodeur, flute and piano). They discuss their all-new music and visual arts project titled Project “Three”, which will be released as a recording and toured in several locations, launching at Spectrum in NYC on 11/21, and features pieces commissioned from composers such as Rebecca Brandt, Cristina Spinei, Luci Holland, Clio Montrey, and several others.

A few minutes of the forthcoming recording (Luci Holland’s “Ash”) are previewed in this episode.
More details on the premiere and the tour here:
Introducing Project “Three” for 2014-2015

Also interviewed is film director David Donnelly, who discusses his documentary Maestro. The film stars conductor Paavo Jarvi and follows his day-to-day activities with the Cincinnati Symphony. Also featured in the film are appearances by Hilary Hahn, Lang Lang and Joshua Bell among others.

The film’s post-production has yet to be completed. David has a Kickstarter campaign set up to fund the costs of both the film’s stereophonic soundtrack as well as squaring royalties for some of the music selections.
Please contribute here:
Kickstarter for Maestro by David Donnelly

The Glass Sho: Episode 22 (Ecouter Ensemble/David Donnelly on His Documentary ‘Maestro’)

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The Glass Sho ~ Vicky Chow/Danielle Eva Schwob and Ashley Jackson


My podcast The Glass Sho has a new home: PRX.ORG
Until I can figure out a way to move everything over to the new address, please feel free to enjoy the episodes on and iTunes.
In any event, I hope you all continue to enjoy the podcast.

The latest episode features interviews with Bang On a Can All-Stars’ pianist Vicky Chow and composer Danielle Eva Schwob and harpist Ashley Jennifer Jackson.

Ashley Jennifer Jackson has a debut concert for Lincoln Center tomorrow night (which will feature the debut of Danielle Schwob’s piece “Lights In The Dark” written for harp and string quartet), Sept. 20th at 8 PM at New York City Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, Bruno Auditorium
The American Modern Ensemble Quartet will perform with Ashley in the second half of the program.
111 Amsterdam Avenue at W. 65th St, New York, NY 10023.
Admission is FREE, but tickets are still required; Please reserve here:

Vicky Chow and I discussed her new releases:
Tristan Perich’s work Surface Image on New Amsterdam, which will be released Oct. 28th, and her recording of Steve Reich’s Piano Counterpoint, included on the Reich compilation Radio Rewrite, also including performances by Alarm Will Sound and Jonny Greenwood, and that will be released on Sept. 30 on Nonesuch.
Hear exclusive excerpts from these recordings on the podcast link below.

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The Glass Sho: Episode 21 (Vicky Chow/Danielle Eva Schwob & Ashley Jackson)

Fred Ho’s Last Year = Fred Ho’s Most Prominent Time Alive And In The Hereafter


[a film review]
Fred Ho’s Last Year
Featuring interviews with Fred Ho,
Marie Incontrera, Ben Barson,
Ruth Margraff, Anne T. Greene,
Youn Jung Kim,
Royal Hartigan, and many more
Directed by Steven De Castro
uncool films, inc
58 minutes
Rating: Not rated

It is simply not enough for me to tell you this is a great film or that it features great music. Sometimes I feel like I write quickie pieces about things that are far bigger than I can possibly interpret (I once had a teacher that wrote on my paper that I turned in that was meant to be a written review of a play “This was not supposed to be a quickie review for a weekend newspaper”–I really understand this in much clearer perspective now).

The film Fred Ho’s Last Year, an almost too-brief filmed account of what’s really the last several years of composer/saxophonist/bandleader Fred Ho’s life, is so telling of a man who has so much to say, the film almost can’t compete with his outspokenness, and somehow, one wonders if people are still left feeling like they have no chance in this world when they previously knew absolutely nothing of the things Fred Ho knew and shared with the world, and he still lost his battle with colorectal cancer on April 12, 2014.

But I would suggest that despite the grim reality of the outcome, you should take away from this film several things:
A) Fred Ho’s Resilience: Despite the fact that he was diagnosed 8 years before his death, and had undergone all kinds of possible treatments for his condition (some of which were medical and some much more in the progressive homeopathic vein) and the fact that this sometimes left him physically weak, and even after accepting that his fate was certain, he considered himself a newly reborn individual and christened himself so, and continued on with his music career and public life with both style and tenacity.

He basically educates you throughout this documentary, and among these things is the message that this cancer and anything related to it that left him to struggle, in turn simply made him a much stronger person. The Friedrich Nietzsche quote that has been in popular culture now for quite some time certainly comes to mind here: “That which does not kill me makes me stronger”. I also think of Obi Wan Kenobi becoming more powerful after being struck by Darth Vader.

He also denounces the doctors that treated him very improperly after a particular operation where Fred wasn’t sewn back up–they said it was scar tissue that somehow couldn’t be closed up, but he said this doctor had to make an special public appearance, therefore foregoing the closure. I can’t say I blame him for speaking out against such malpractice. And yet I’m sure this guy probably had a bunch of framed awards covering his office wall like so many in the profession that feel a need to prove their credibility.

B) Fred Ho’s Message: In a world where we are finding out very disturbing things about the stuff we eat or use on ourselves, it is quite astonishing to hear about things like “the Matrix” and what it really is. Fred believes that this Matrix is something that physically keeps everyone from acquiring a self-sufficient lifestyle, and instead forces everyone to continue to make concessions to the capitalist corporate world by buying and consuming food, food that in some cases is processed and unhealthy, and has us all living in an environment immersing everyone with it. Being the out-of-shape person that I am, I feel that this speaks directly to me, and I simply can’t ignore such a message. I would feel like this is an important film even if this was all he had to say.

Fred Ho’s Last Year – Documentary Feature Trailer: “Rain” from Steven De Castro on Vimeo.

C) Fred Ho, the artist: Even though the film doesn’t ever quite get to the subject of Fred’s music in full discussion, the music itself functions as an alternate narrative to the film. Fred does get quite vocal about the way the public is “colonized” to the point that they only understand music when it’s in the popularized 4/4 time signature as opposed to much more complex times heard in his music.

And seriously, if you are a fan of the saxophone, Fred Ho the saxophonist–Let’s just say he made the saxophone speak even louder than he ever did. A stunningly dynamic solo is featured within the first 10 minutes of the film that ends with the shrillest wail that recalls the opening whistles in West Side Story, and the solo in general rivals Lou Reed’s heaviest guitar solos.

The selection of Fred’s pieces for the film were all quite fitting, but I have to say, please look out for “Iron Man Meets The Black Dog Meets Dave Taylor”, a splendid work (by Fred Ho and Marie Incontrera; performed by Youn Jung Kim and the Green Monster Big Band) that combines Black Sabbath with Led Zeppelin and brings them into a satirical big band world.

It is certainly clear in this film that the people that worked closely with Fred Ho as a musician and composer are the ones that will carry his music through to further generations of keyed-in music aficionados. Particularly people like Marie Incontrera, whom I have known for quite some time, and besides being one of Fred’s biggest champions is a great composer and conductor in her own right (You even see her in action in this film besides hearing what she has to say), drummer Royal Hartigan, and Ben Barson, Fred’s saxophone protégé, who will actually be performing on Fred’s saxophone at one of the premieres of this film in New York coming up soon.

Long live Fred Ho.


Listen to my interview with Steven De Castro about Fred Ho and the film on The Glass Sho

NOTE: The 2 New York City premieres of Fred Ho’s Last Year will be held on July 31st and August 2nd.

First Screening:

215 Centre Street New York, NY 10013
July 31, 2014, 7 pm
On the Panel: Anne Greene and Ruth Margraff

Second Screening:

City Cinema Village East
189 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003
August 2, 2014, 5:30 pm
Music Tribute: Ben Barson playing Fred’s saxophone

And August 10th there will be a public birthday celebration for Fred:

Scientific Soul Sessions presents:
To Sing You Down
a celebration of Fred Ho on his first birthday in the sky
featuring Marie Incontrera conducting the Eco-Music Big Band

ShapeShifter Lab
18 Whitwell Place
Brooklyn, NY 11215
August 10, 2014, 7 pm
$20 admission

Discover Fred Ho (

THE GLASS SHŌ ~ Preview of Potential Energies from Nouveau Classical Project

On Thursday, May 29 (8 pm EST), the Nouveau Classical Project and TrioDance Collective present the world premiere of a new modern ballet titled Potential Energies at BAM Fisher’s Fishman Space. The 50-minute piece, choreographed by Barbie Diewald to music by rising composer Trevor Gureckis, will be seen in a single performance. NCP’s Artistic Director Sugar Vendil also directed the production.

Potential Energies Trailer from The Nouveau Classical Project on Vimeo.

Composer Trevor Gureckis did an interview for the latest episode of The Glass Shō and spoke about the piece. The interview appears in the first half of this episode.

The Glass Shō: Episode 9 (Remembering Fred Ho with Marie Incontrera/Nouveau Classical Project)

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Click here for tickets/info for Potential Energies

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The Glass Shō ~ Jenny Q. Chai on Her Forthcoming CD of Nils Vigeland Piano Music


Pianist Jenny Q. Chai (whom you might be familiar with from here because she has been on this blog several times interviewed and reviewed–if not, you must know her because she’s a respected figure in both classical and new music) had some time to sit and do another great interview with me, this time for The Glass Shō podcast, and I asked her to discuss her yet-to-be-released Naxos disc Life Sketches: Piano Music of Nils Vigeland, and some details about the composer and his music. Below is an excerpt from our chat, but you can hear the interview in its entirety on the Glass Sho link below and at the top right of this page.

nilsvigeland“I’ve known Dr. Vigeland since I was 21, I was studying my first year of masters at MSM, and I think I just took a theory class of his. Back then I was a normal pianist that came out of Curtis Institute of Music and wanted to do horse-race type piano competitions. So my focus wasn’t on anything other than traditional classical repertoire, and just practicing a lot. I liked new music, and I had started playing it already at Curtis, but I wasn’t so serious–I wasn’t so sure about doing it full-time or really becoming a contemporary performer, but I was asked as a favor by a friend, John Slover, who ended up writing “Mallet Dance”, the 2-prepared piano piece I premiered in China. He was living on the same floor as the dorm, and he asked me if I could play this student piece of his, and I was like ‘Sure!’, and it didn’t take that much from me to work. The concert was great, and then I was asked to play for Dr. Vigeland because John Slover had studied with him. So that’s how we met–Later I took his theory class, and I guess he remembered me as a player. He was very warm, and he’d run into me in the library and hand me scores of Ives and Cage. He would just talk to me about new music, and then he eventually gave me the score for his own piece ‘Life Studies’. and I realized this was the first serious piano cycle I’ve ever received from a living composer, and I took it very seriously! I was also nervous because I felt my knowledge of new music wasn’t substantial enough to play it. but I practiced and worked with him, and it was great! He even offered to rewrite some passages because my hands were too small to play one particular page of the music, and I thought ‘Wow! How is that possible??’ That was my first real experience working with a living composer–I was someone who was used to playing classical composers like Beethoven and Mozart, and he was offering to rewrite a page for me–It was overwhelming! So that was the start of my longtime collaboration with Dr. Vigeland.”

The Glass Shō: Episode 7 (Jenny Q. Chai/Kristin Lee)

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Jenny Q. Chai (