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Apr. 01 2019

First Impression: New Music is Not a Joke

By John Scherch | Posted in First Impression, Host Blogs, New Music | Comments Off on First Impression: New Music is Not a Joke

I’m more going for the trite, groan-inducing April Fools’ Day joke than accusing anyone of calling new music a joke, but just in case anyone had any doubt! Merle Hazard poked good fun at atonal music, and who knows, maybe people were introduced to it by that song. I will say, though (and straighten my music nerd hat), that the line “modern was his style” casts (perpetuates?) a rather large wet blanket over the idea of new music; while many composers today continue to be inventive with their tonality, quite a lot of new music these days falls well within the boundaries of traditional tonality, perhaps even as an acknowledgement of the inaccessibility that many 20th century composers were known for. Inventive ways of presenting this music has also brought in good audiences; I was at a performance of a chamber work featuring electric guitar that was a packed house (venue size and style matters when planning these things and this show got it spot on). Take a look below, tell your friends about these events, and pack more of these houses that present new music!


Upstate New York-based pianist/keyboardist Sophia Subbayya Vastek and saxophonist/electronic musician Sam Torres are excited to return to their old home of Baltimore to perform with local musicians The Bergamot Quartet and special guest flutist Claire Chase. The group will perform works for strings, keyboards, flute, and saxophone by Ledah Finck, Sam Torres, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Anthony Cheung, and others that celebrate the incredible acoustical space of Music on the Square. The performance is Friday, April 5th at 8 PM, at Church on the Square, 1025 South Potomac Street in Canton.


One more chance to see Sophia Subbayya Vastek perform; she will be featured in the Thrive Music Live series on Saturday, April 6th. To find the exact location of this show, message the administrator of the event on Facebook.


Pianist Piotr Anderszewski had to cancel his recital on Sunday, April 7 due to illness, and Conrad Tao (who recently appeared with the BSO) will be stepping in to perform a program including Jason Eckardt’s “Echoes’ White Veil” and the pianist/composer’s own “All I had forgotten or tried to,” in a program featuring two Beethoven sonatas as well as two more short works by Chopin. The recital is on April 7th at the originally scheduled time of 5:30 PM.


The Peabody Opera Workshop presents 5 premieres of new operas by Peabody composers, written in collaboration with Peabody vocalists, instrumentalists, directors, and technicians. Works featured are Tim Witbeck‘s In the Penal Colony, Seo Yoon Kim‘s Dear Father, Jun An Chew‘s A Madman’s Diary, Adam D. O’Dell‘s Il Babbo sa Meglio (with text by Michael Yichao), and Daniel Despins‘s The Chains that Bind Us. The performance of all five short works is on Monday, April 8th in Friedberg Hall at Peabody.


Local chamber orchestra Mind on Fire presents a set of spatial counterpoints on Thursday, April 11, 8 PM at Space 2640 (2640 St. Paul Street). Composer Chris Dietz’s ‘Contretemps’ features the orchestra divided against itself. Sky Macklay’s ‘Microvariations’ is a codex of rainbow-colored landings in two tuning systems. And ‘Sawud Rayay,’ a premiere by Jamal Moore, will bring us all together.


As part of a recital given by composer Nathaniel Parks, flute/guitar duo 2nd Ceremony (also the winners of the title “Best Classical Bar Musicians”) will perform a new work by Parks; the recital is April 11 at Peabody in Griswold Hall.


Occasional Symphony celebrates spring at an iconic Baltimore venue – Cloisters Castle! Surrounded and inspired by Baltimore County’s tree line, experience our program of orchestral music by Mabel Daniels (Deep Forest, Op. 34 no. 1), Toru Takemitsu (Tree Line), and Ellicott City-based Wu Yiming (world premiere) with chamber music by Joan Tower (Rising). The performance is on April 28th at 3 PM, and is partnered with Mixolo, for those attending the performance solo but who might want a shared experience.


The Handel Choir of Baltimore presents a spring concert at Church of the Redeemer on Charles Street, just south of Lake Avenue. New works on the program will be Tawnie Olson’s Incantation (the composer will give the pre-concert lecture) and Sir John Tavener’s Requiem Fragments, which was premiered in 2014, the year after his death. The concert is on Sunday, April 28 at 4, and while I feel a little silly using this blog to talk about my own musical doings, I’m a member of this choir, and if you ever wanted to hear me sing, we’re doing Bach’s Christ lag in Todes Banden and I’ll be singing the bass aria. (I’ll show myself out.)

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The newest announcer and WBJC's evening and Listener's Choice host, a former heavy metal program director and erstwhile enthusiast, and Peabody graduate in voice and pedagogy, both of which he still practices. Full bio here.

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