REVIEW – Makan’s Letting Time Circle Through Us by Either Or

Matthew Guerrieri reviews Keeril Makan’s world premier by Either/Or

NEWMUSIC BOX

4/15/14

In the ever-futile quest to match up language with the experience of music, “meditative” is a useful shorthand, able to hint at a calm surface, a reflective cast, and an eloquent stillness all at once. (I’ve used it that way, certainly.) It is also, in the strictly literal sense, wrong. Keeril Makan’s Letting Time Circle Through Us really is meditative, in that, intentionally or not, it is true to the experience of meditation. It is a process and a journey, not a fixed state. And the journey isn’t always smooth.

Makan’s piece was performed by the New York-based ensemble Either/Or at MIT’s Killian Hall on April 5. It was the premiere of the full score. (The group introduced a 12-minute excerpt of the piece in Pittsburgh last fall.) Commissioned for the group through Meet The Composer (one of the last such commissions before the Meet The Composer/American Music Center merger), the work utilizes an unusual and somewhat distinct ensemble: cimbalom (David Shively), guitar (Dan Lippel), crotales and glockenspiel (Russell Greenberg), violin (Jennifer Choi), cello (Wendy Law), and piano (Taka Kigawa). It’s a sound world both ringing and atomized.

Letting Time Circle Through Us stretches a 50-minute canvas, broken up in a rondo-like way. The ritornello—almost ceremonially repetitious, marked by a rising major-second motive, a repeated, irregular inhalation—is repeatedly, sometimes suddenly interrupted by ideas that amass weight and shadow. The contrasting sections provide as much obstruction as variety, like formal parallels to the hindrances the Buddha warned about:

[T]here are these five obstructions, hindrances, corruptions of the mind, weakeners of wisdom. What five? Sensual desire is an obstruction, a hindrance, a corruption of the mind, a weakener of wisdom. Ill will is an obstruction … Sloth and torpor are an obstruction … Restlessness and remorse are an obstruction … Doubt is an obstruction … a weakener of wisdom. These are the five obstructions, hindrances, corruptions of the mind, weakeners of wisdom.

The practice of meditation is all about overcoming those hindrances—not by ignoring them, but instead by acknowledging them, examining them, because, to this way of thinking, by combining something bad (a hindrance) with something good (mindfulness), the good wins out.

That’s not to say Letting Time Circle Through Us is a triumphant piece. Its examination of its interruptions is dark and moody. Even the quieter contrasts are continually off balance: a 3/4+7/8 cimbalom pattern (later taken over by the piano) seeds a guitar line that upends the usual major/minor implications of the overtone series; a seemingly limpid piano loop is at hemiola odds with a string melody; a gentle gymnopedie is gradually encrusted with dense harmonies. The ostinati, more often than not, are inexact, almost-but-not-quite interlocking. (Points of arrival are less about dissonance and consonance than about a set of patterns finally settling, even into a clashing texture.) But there is a thread of optimism—that opening major second is constantly recontextualized, from a brooding, minor-scale la-ti to a hopeful, major-scale re-mi at the work’s climax.

And Letting Time Circle Through Us does, perhaps, embody the modest goal of any given meditation, that you end up a little farther along the path than when you started. Throughout the piece, the unusual instrumentation is used to constantly reimagine and translate timbres. The cimbalom’s buzz becomes a combination of guitar and pizzicato cello; piano and crotales trade their fraternal twin attack-and-decay sounds. During that gymnopedie section, Choi kept repeating the same note, but fingered on different strings. At the outset and the close of the piece, Shively and Lippell briefly utilized E-bows, an almost incorporeally delicate sound on cimbalom or acoustic guitar: in the beginning, an inchoate element, but by the end, a brief glimpse of, maybe, the instruments’ deeper natures. The way Letting Time Circle Through Us prompts and sustains that awareness is a considerable musical achievement.

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Elena Ruehr 2014 Guggenheim Fellow

Congratulations to Elena Ruehr!!!  She just received a Guggenheim Fellowship to write an opera for Roomful of Teeth, an eight voice ensemble that she, MIT Music and Theater Arts, and CAST, Center for Art, Science and Technology will be hosting as Visiting Artists in residence at MIT in the fall. 

RUEHRElena Ruehr is a Lecturer in Music at MIT, where she won the Baker Undergraduate Teaching Award and has taught for 21 years, Dr. Elena Ruehr was the Walter Jackson Bate Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute (2007-2008) and composer in residence with the Boston Modern Orchestra (2000-2005).

 

She has four commercially released solo CDs. Her complete choral and orchestral works, Averno, (Trinity Church, Avie Records, 2012) called “sumptuously scored and full of soaring melodies and piquant harmonies” by The New York TimesHow She Danced: String Quartets of Elena Ruehr, described by Gramophone Magazine as “unspeakably gorgeous”; the opera Toussaint Before the Spirits (Opera Boston, Arsis, 2005) given a glowing review in Opera News that labeled Ruehr as “a composer to watch”; and her chamber music CD, Jane Wang considers the dragonfly (Albany, 2009) which has received national radio play.  Ruehr’s complete orchestral works recorded this season with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP Sound) will be released in 2014. It features the cello concerto, Cloud Atlas, with Jennifer Kloetzel as soloist.  Ruehr also has single tracks on a number of CDs, including a string orchestra piece, Shimmer, with the Metamorphosen Chamber Ensemble (Albany, 1999).  In addition to Ruehr’s commercially released CDs, two of her film scores are available on DVD: the Manhattan Trade School for Girls (named one of the 6 best DVDs of the year by TIME Magazine, 2008) and Deschutes Dritwood (2011), both released by the National Film Preservation Foundation.

 

Ruehr has had numerous and steady commissions since 1995, including TenFourteen and the San Francisco Chamber Music Players (it’s about time, expected 2014), the Cypress String Quartet (String Quartets #4 in 2005, #5 in 2009, and #6 in 2012) the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (Ladder to the Moon in 2003, Toussaint Before the Spirits in 2003, and Summer Days in 2013).  Her cello concerto, Cloud Atlas, was commissioned by the San Jose Chamber Orchestra and premiered in 2012.  Other commissioning groups include:  the Metamorphosen Chamber Ensemble, Lorelai and the Radcliffe Chorus, The Rockport Chamber Music Society, The Providence Singers, the Klein International String Competition, the Washington Chorus, Plymouth Music Minneapolis, MIT, the North Carolina Chamber Music Festival, and Dinsoaur Annex.

 

Ruehr’s work has been performed at the Kennedy Center, Jordan Hall, Symphony Hall, Minneapolis and by the Trinity Church and the Washington Chorus, among many others.  The Biava, Borremeo, Cypress, Lark, Shanghai, and ROCO string quartets have regularly performed her music internationally, as well as baritone Stephen Salters and violinist Irina Muresanu.   

 

Known for her collaborations with living writers, including Elizabeth Alexander, Margaret Atwood, Brendan Galvin, Louise Gluck, and Adrienne Rich, she has written a number of songs and choral works, three of which are featured on her CD Averno (Avie). A collaboration with novelist Madison Smart Bell and poet Elizabeth Spires, in conjunction with choreographer Nicola Hawkins, led to her opera, Toussaint Before the Spirits, featuring Stephen Salters in the title role in the production by Opera Boston in 2004.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Brody’s Operation Epsilon wins Four IRNE Awards

OPERATION EPSILON wins FOUR IRNE Awards!
Nora_4_web

The cast of Operation Epsilon. Photo: A.R. Sinclair Photography.
Last night the Independent Reviewers of New England awarded The Nora Theatre Company’s production of Alan Brody’s play Operation Epsilon four IRNE Awards.

Best New Play, Midsize Theatre
Janie E. Howland, Best Set Design, Midsize Theatre
Best Ensemble, Midsize Theatre
Andy Sandberg, Best Director, Midsize Theatre

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Interview with Jay Scheib

BOMB – Artists in Conversation

JAY SCHEIB by ALIX PEARLSTEIN

The first thing thatimage-2 struck me when I first saw a piece of Jay Scheib’s was the audio level. The actors’ voices seemed unusually low and yet each word was perfectly audible, the tone conversational. I was interested in the content of the dialogue because it wasn’t being projected at me, but rather was simply happening over there as conversations do, the ones that you want to listen to and participate in. It seemed like the auditory equivalent of a close-up. The distance between my seat and the stage collapsed.

When I’m sitting in the audience at live theater, I can’t help but find myself locked into an assessment of the constraints of the setup: the physical boundaries, the fixed POV from my particular seat, and the distance to the stage. These conditions of the static seem to most often undercut the mythology of live theater’s potential for connection, for intimacy.

Scheib’s work has struck me as a full, frontal attack on this set of conditions, from sound to image and everything in between. As you toggle between the wide shot of the stage and the extreme close-ups of continuous live-feed video, there is a lot to look at and to engage with, to feel and to reflect on—from a critical distance and very, very closely.

A table by the on-demand fireplace at Moran’s, down the block from The Kitchen—where his latest production, Platonov, or The Disinherited, was playing—seemed the natural place to meet. I was not surprised to find Jay soft-spoken.

MORE

 

 

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Concerts this weekend at MIT

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Jupiter Quartet Beethoven Cycle – Friday
Keeril Makan Premiere by Either/Or – Saturday
Zemler/Ziporyn Duo – Sunday

April 4  | Fri | MIT Guest Artist Series presents: the Jupiter Quartet in the third concert as part of the complete Beethoven String Quartet Cycle performances at MIT (2013-2015). Beethoven: Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1; Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130. 8pm, Kresge Auditorium. General admission $5; Free in advance only via Eventbrite to MIT community with MIT email address. Tickets: http://mitmta.eventbrite.com/ and at the door.  Funded in part by the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST) and Music and Theater Arts at MIT.

April 5 | Sat | MIT Faculty Series. Either/Or presents works of MIT composer Keeril Makan. Keeril Makan – Letting Time Circle Through Us (World Premiere). Jennifer Choi, violin; Russell Greenberg, percussion; Taka Kigawa. piano; Wendy Law, cello; Dan Lippel, guitar; David Shively, cimbalom. 8pm, Killian Hall.  Free.

April 6 | Sun | Polish percussionist Hubert Zemler and Evan Ziporyn, clarinet, perform percussion solos and duos with clarinet.  7pm, Killian Hall.  Free.

A member of several independent bands that originated in Warsaw, Zemler has experimented with different music genres: improvisational music (Horny Trees, SzaZaZe, Kapacitron, Piętnastka), contemporary music (Arturas Bumsteinas, Zdzisław Piernik, Tadeusz Wielecki), world music (Ritmodelia, Calle Sol) and ambitious pop (The Saint Box, Incarnations, Frozen Bird, Babadag, Neurasja, Natu). Determined to pursue his own way, he created his own, original sound backed by unique sensitivity, ingenuity and exceptional technique. Lado ABC released an album (Moped) of one of his concerts. 

 

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Events, Events and More Events

April 3-6

3 | Th | MTA Composer Forum presents: Keeril Makan: Letting Time Circle Through Us and other recent music, a preview for the concert of Keeril Makan’s music by Either/Or on 4/5 in Killian Hall. 5pm, Lewis Music Library, 14E-109.  Free. A reception will follow.

4 | Fri | Advanced Music Performance Student Recital. Eleanor Bors (G), cello. Chausson, Op. 39; Britten, Suite for Solo Cello, No. 1, Op. 72; Schumann, Fantasy Pieces for cello and piano, Op. 73. 5pm, Killian Hall.  Free.

4  | Fri | MIT Guest Artist Series presents: the Jupiter Quartet in the third concert as part of the complete Beethoven String Quartet Cycle performances at MIT (2013-2015). Beethoven: Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1; Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130. 8pm, Kresge Auditorium. General admission $5; Free in advance only via Eventbrite to MIT community with MIT email address. Tickets: http://mitmta.eventbrite.com/ and at the door.  Funded in part by the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST) and Music and Theater Arts at MIT.

5 | Sat | MIT Faculty Series. Either/Or presents works of MIT composer Keeril Makan. Keeril Makan – Letting Time Circle Through Us (World Premiere). Jennifer Choi, violin; Russell Greenberg, percussion; Taka Kigawa. piano; Wendy Law, cello; Dan Lippel, guitar; David Shively, cimbalom. 8pm, Killian Hall.  Free.

6 | Sun | Polish percussionist Hubert Zemler and Professor of Music Evan Ziporyn, clarinet, perform percussion solos and duos with clarinet.  7pm, Killian Hall.  Free.

A member of several independent bands that originated in Warsaw, Zemler has experimented with different music genres: improvisational music (Horny Trees, SzaZaZe, Kapacitron, Piętnastka), contemporary music (Arturas Bumsteinas, Zdzisław Piernik, Tadeusz Wielecki), world music (Ritmodelia, Calle Sol) and ambitious pop (The Saint Box, Incarnations, Frozen Bird, Babadag, Neurasja, Natu). Determined to pursue his own way, he created his own, original sound backed by unique sensitivity, ingenuity and exceptional technique. Lado ABC released an album (Moped) of one of his concerts.

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MIT theater alumnae in Present Simple

Present Simple

We are in a room. A closed space “piled high and full of its sediment”. There are two persons stuck in this room. A woman stuck at the wall, the very periphery, and a man lodged between the two central items. But are they alone? Are they ever going to be able to find their way out and go outside? What do they have to do with each other? What should they be doing? Why the great separation?

This production is a semi-improvisational theater installation: order, obstruction, and chaos inside and out, and features MIT alumnae Mia Shandell and Susan Wilson, Ari Daniel Shapiro, Kat Potter, Kirk Montana, Gergely Odor, Paul Welle, and Istvan Cziegler. Concept and direction by Istvan Cziegler.

When:
Thursday, March 20th, 2014 at 8pm
Friday, March 21st, 2014 at 8pm
Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 at 8pm

Where: The Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House

Tickets – $10
Buy tickets online at http://presentsimple.brownpapertickets.com/
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House.

More info about Present Simple, the ensemble: http://presentsimpletheater.com/

Any questions, please contact Mia Shandell at mia.shandell@gmail.com

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David Deveau with Longwood Symphony, a review

The Boston Musical Intelligencer

March 16, 2014

Expectations: Longwood Dashes, Deveau Fulfills

by

…For Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, “Emperor,” enter pianist David Deveau to set a new, true tenor for the evening. His sureness of touch measured from the introductory keyboard-length arpeggios and high trilling to the out-and-out allure of the ornately textured passagework throughout the interior Adagio un poco mosso. That ninth note of the Rondo theme burst again and again firework-like under his fingers propelling the piano and orchestra dialogue to a fulfilling close.

Read full article here.

devo bySarah Yu

Photo by Sarah Yu

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MIT Senior relishes challenges in stem cells and symphonies

From the MIT Homepage:
MIT-Orchestra-5-9-13-182Under the microscope, they look like art: a red dapple with green crescents, deep blue and purple spots, angular green dabs. But these are actually cells, highlighted with fluorescent dyes and antibodies, that MIT senior Nathan Kipniss grows and studies.

Kipniss — a biological engineering major — does synthetic biology research in the laboratory of Ron Weiss, an associate professor of computer science and biological engineering. There, he and other researchers manipulate genetic code to “program” stem cells in order to create more complex structures, such as liver and pancreatic tissues.

Also a cellist in the MIT Symphony Orchestra (MITSO), and former house chair of Simmons Hall, Kipniss grew up in Schenectady, N.Y., with his mother and twin brother. His mother, a nurse, fostered Kipniss’ early interest in science. When he was 8, she gave him a microscope kit complete with glass slides of real human tissues, carefully prepared by a histologist in the hospital where she worked. Peering through the lens, Kipniss was in awe. “It was fascinating to see tissues from the body in such detail,” Kipniss recalls.

To read article click HERE.

 

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David Deveau and the Longwood Symphony preview

From The Boston Musical Intelligencer’s preview and interview with Longwood Symphony music director Ronald Feldman:

Tell us about your collaborative history with pianist David Deveau and how you chose to invite him to play the Emperor Concerto.

When I engage a soloist I ask for concerto preferences. David was partial to the Emperor. It’s a monumental concerto, one I was very happy to program! The first movement alone is a meal in itself, if you will excuse the culinary metaphor. It is what I call an anchor piece, in other words a work that is part of the core of the symphonic repertory.

All throughout my professional life I have collaborated with many artists, composers, pianists, string players, wind players, conductors, etc. I have had the very good fortune to work with David on many occasions. He’s been my soloist and chamber music collaborator many times over the years. In short, David is a maestro. He is a wonderful pianist, a complete musician. Tradition, historical context, musical knowledge and anecdotes are all a part of working with David. We always have great fun putting things together and then celebrating the aftermath.

We’re going to put on a nice show on Saturday!

READ FULL INTERVIEW HERE

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