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DREAM
BRAIN

ed rosenberg iii

EDWARD ROSENBERG III is a composer, performer and educator residing in Brooklyn, N.Y.  He studied Saxophone at the Eastman School of Music and holds a PhD in Composition from Stony Brook University. His freelance career has led him in a wide variety of directions, including playing jazz-metal with Kilter, writing children’s music with The Green Orbs, and conducting Oklahoma! on Broadway. Edward also works as a composer and sound designer for podcasts.

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I, like countless other music teachers during COVID-19 quarantine, experienced the challenges, joys, and frustrations of teaching via online streaming platforms — the frustration that comes when everything freezes followed by the weird robotic excitement of the video/audio suddenly moving very fast to catch up; the difficulty in diagnosing issues without being in the same room; the surreal experience of playing a duet with a student that they hear as “correct” while I hear a bizarre offset version; and the automatic compression/gate effects that rapidly change the dynamics and timbre of a performance, just to name a few. In Dream Brain, I wanted to embrace this landscape of sonic effects and experiences, and use them as raw material.

 

Just like any translation between mediums, the internet distorts everything to some extent. The battle we fight with internet streaming is a struggle to exist in the moment with another human being. It is ultimately a losing battle — any victory being only approximate.  But how different is this struggle from our regular lives?  What does it mean to be in sync, or in the moment anyway?   

 

In this streaming era of COVID-19, we all struggle with our “voices” being affected by the internet. The organic counterpart to this is the masks we now wear. They mute our voices and they hide our faces. Yet, we are muting ourselves to protect ourselves and others — hiding a bit of ourselves to help the community.  It is as if we and the computers both recognize that there is a part of us that is dangerous, and must be held back. 

 

The text in this piece comes from two sources. The opening whispers are a montage of fragments that one might hear in a Zoom call: “can you hear..”, ”disconnect me…”, etc.  The more unified whispers toward the end are an excerpt from “The Human Abstract” by William Blake:

 

The Gods of the earth and sea,

Sought thro' Nature to find this Tree

But their search was all in vain: 

There grows one in the human…

 

- ED ROSENBERG III

 

SOUNDINGS IN FATHOMS

b. k. zervigón
in collaboration with
luca hoffmann

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B.K. ZERVIGÓN began composing at a young age in his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. Often dealing with the challenges facing the Gulf Coast due to climate change and industrialization, his work seeks to create a soundscape which reflects the interplay between heavy industry and ancient, sickly nature. This Southeast Louisiana landscape seeps into his work through often massive architectural processes against intensely emotional and intuitive feeling - like water moving through an inundated oil refinery or a child standing on a Mississippi floodwall built in the 1930s (such as Venice, Norco, & Destrehan, LA and the Bonnet Carré Spillway). His output includes works for piano, retuned piano, instrumental solos, chamber works and electronic music. He has studied with Michael Hersch at the Peabody Conservatory and with Yotam Haber at the University of New Orleans while at Benjamin Franklin High School. Recent collaborations include a setting of poet Nicole Cooley’s Breach to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Katrina, and multimedia projects with photographer Luca Hoffmann.

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Born in 2001 in New Orleans, Louisiana, LUCA HOFFMANN has been exploring the sights of the Gulf South for his whole life. Luca’s work largely deals with documenting those parts of the Gulf Coast which transform and vanish daily due to climate change. Being raised by a photographer, the camera has long been Luca’s most intimate means of expression. He has had the honor of studying under Thom Bennet, Rick Olivier, and Winfried Mateyka. After two years at the Maine College of Art, Luca has decided to move home and commit to documenting the Gulf South full time. He is most at home capturing our massive vistas - focusing on the sickly beauty of landscapes peppered with heavy industrial happenings.

Soundings in Fathoms takes its name from a navigational map of the Louisiana Gulf Coast. The work itself is an exploration of the rapidly vanishing sites and sounds of Southeast Louisiana, largely focusing on the areas directly north and south of New Orleans. Written for the New York New Music Ensemble with the express intent of being possible despite social isolation, Soundings in Fathoms utilizes recording as a means of orchestration. Larger solo lines in the piece are recorded in fragments from 5-30 seconds long. More coloristic or convoluted effects are often recorded note by note. After being recorded, all of the elements were combined and refined via Ableton live. There were over 397 individual instrumental recordings, plus many field recordings used in this ten minute work. Soundings in Fathoms was conceived to accompany photographic multimedia slideshows by photographer Luca Hoffmann documenting the locations portrayed.

 

I. Alluvium - the first movement takes the listeners to the bank of the Mississippi near uptown New Orleans. Locally referred to as “the batture”, this area is a land of contradictions. From the massive refineries and shipyards seen across the river, to the small cypress forests with their encampments of homeless people, there is never a dull moment.

II. Norco Shell - in this second movement, we move up river to Destrehan and Norco, Louisiana, two locations with deep legacies of exploitation and tragedy. Destrehan, known for its massive historic sugar plantation, is a run-down industrial town. Bleak parking lots and closed stores give way to massive refineries and industrial happenings. Just north of Destrehan is Norco. Deriving its name from “New Orleans Refining Company”, Norco was one of the first major refining areas developed by Shell Oil in 1911. Most directly, the piano cadenza of this movement portrays the Norco Refinery explosion of 1988.  The closeness in time and space of the plantations and refineries is notable. From the enslaved people working the sugar cane fields, to the early refineries, it seems as though this land can only carry oppression and grief, scarring the present and irreparably damaging the future.

III. Pilottown - finally, we arrive at the southernmost point of Louisiana. South of Port Sulfur, the catastrophic state of our Gulf Coast is obvious. Roads lead into water. Sunken factories pepper the landscape. Ancient cypress forests have become petrified — inundated by brackish water. It is here that one has no choice but to confront the slow demise of our state. There is a serenity sinking out into the Gulf. There is a beautiful stillness, offset by the gripping violence of land in death throes.

 

- B.K. ZERVIGÓN

 

STILL LIFE

nathan shields

NATHAN SHIELDS’s music has been praised for its “elusive luminance” (Washington Post), and as “affecting…alternately kinetic and reflective” (Anthony Tommasini, New York Times). His works have been performed by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the JACK and Jupiter String Quartets, Mendelssohn Academy Orchestra, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, New Fromm Players, Charlottesville Symphony, Chamber Music Northwest, Metropolis Ensemble, Music from Copland House, harpist Bridget Kibbey, pianists Michael Brown and Andrew Hsu, Decoda, and the Horszowski Trio, among others. He has received the Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Tanglewood’s Merwin Geffen and Norman Solomon Commission, and commissions from the Fromm Foundation, American Composers Forum, the BMI/Carlos Surinach Fund, and Concert Artists’ Guild.  Other honors include the Aaron Copland Award, Presser Music Award, and BMI and ASCAP awards, as well as fellowships from Tanglewood, Yaddo, Copland House, Bowdoin, Ucross, Juilliard, Brush Creek, the Wellesley Composers Conference, and the Japan Society of Boston.

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There’s something about certain Dutch still lifes that I’ve always found incongruous. On one hand, there is the impression of a momentary stasis — the charged calm of a scene temporarily abandoned by human beings, to which they might return at any second.  On the other, the quiet insistence, symbolized by the figure of a stray fly or burning candle, on the fact of human mortality.  Silence, bracketed by commotion, surrounded in turn by a longer and more serious silence.  For a while in 2020 this no longer felt incongruous; it just felt like life. In Still Life I tried to capture this uncanny mood. In keeping with its title, the piece is less a story than a series of static tableaux.  It begins with a lonely cantilena in the bass flute, into which the cymbals and piano intrude occasionally, like distant bells. As they are joined by the cello and remaining percussion, the music gathers force and intensity, reaching a brief violent climax before receding gradually into near-silence. From this apparent exhaustion the piano and cello launch into a quiet, rapid filigree, painting a starry backdrop against which the bells and cantilena of the opening return, ghostlike, before slowly fading away.

 

- NATHAN SHIELDS

 

CANTOS I

tyson gholston davis

TYSON GHOLSTON DAVIS is an American composer currently studying at The Juilliard School where he is a  recipient of the Jerome L. Greene Fellowship. He began composing at the age of eight years old and entered the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) as a high school freshman, studying with Lawrence Dillon where he wrote for Eighth Blackbird, the Attacca String Quartet, UNCSA Cantata Singers, and the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra. In the summers, he attended Interlochen Summer Music Camp where he had works for chorus and percussion ensemble premiered and earned the Fine Arts Award, Curtis Summerfest, where he worked with David Ludwig, and this coming summer at the Lucerne Festival.  In the summer of 2019 Tyson worked with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (NYO-USA) and Antonio Pappano to premiere his work, Delicate Tension, a piece that was commissioned by the American Embassy in Berlin for the 30th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  The work was performed in Berlin, Edinburgh, and Hamburg.  Delicate Tension recently won the 68th BMI Student Composer Awards as well as the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards.

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Cantos I is a piece for flute and marimba that was commissioned by the New York New Music Ensemble for their 2020 socially distant micro commissions. This work is the first in a set of works that I plan to continue for similar instrumentation and theme. Hence the name “Cantos” which is defined as “One of the sections into which certain long poems are divided’ and comes from Latin origins meaning “to sing” or “ sung”.  The form is often used in literature such as in the 116 Cantos of the modernist poet, Ezra Pound.  I wanted to create a lyrical, yet intense work that consisted of contrasting ideas, passages, and emotions. This was written for the performers Emi Ferguson (flute) and Daniel Druckman (percussion).

 

- TYSON GHOLSTON DAVIS

 

THE EAGER LIGHT

flannery cunningham

FLANNERY CUNNINGHAM is a composer and musicologist fascinated by vocal expression, text, and auditory perception. She aims to write music that surprises and delights. Called “silken” by the Washington Post, her work has been performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble, TAK, New York New Music Ensemble, and Music from Copland House and she has held residencies at Craters of the Moon National Monument, Atlantic Center for the Arts, and Copland House. Flannery is attracted to the very old and very new; she has presented at the International Medieval Congress and performed at the International Computer Music Conference. In addition to acoustic ensembles, she writes for players and singers (sometimes including herself) with interactive electronics, always striving to foreground the musicality of human performers. Flannery holds a BA from Princeton University, an MA from University College Cork, an MA from Stony Brook University, and is a PhD candidate in composition and musicology at the University of Pennsylvania.

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In the period of remote performance we all experienced in 2020-2021, I have been interested in finding ways that players can meaningfully influence each other without needing exact synchronicity, given the problems of latency in audio transmission. In The Eager Light, various audio parameters that represent players’ musical decisions (such as measurements of their timbre, rhythmic language, and loudness) are calculated and sent between remote performers. This data is then used to select different versions of future sections and affect the playback of electronics, so that the players of the New York New Music Ensemble shape the form and sound of the piece together in real-time. I hope in this way to facilitate a kind of “playing together apart” that, while no replacement for live co-located performance, offers some of the rewards of working together as an ensemble.

- FLANNERY CUNNINGHAM

 

PLEASE FIND ATTACHED

oren boneh

OREN BONEH is a composer based in Brussels who writes music characterized by its energy and dynamism. Its foundation is made up of vastly contrasting characters, ranging from abrasive and mechanical to humorous and supple.  The music plays with listener‘s expectations of the characters’ behaviors in order to create unpredictability and friction. Oren’s music has been performed by ensembles such as Vertixe Sonora, Alarm Will Sound, Quatuor Tana, Ensemble Meitar, Proton Bern, the Divertimento Ensemble, Ensemble Reconsil, and Architek Percussion. A Germany Fulbright Scholar, Oren won first prize in the 2017 Salvatore Martirano Competition and has been selected in numerous competitions such as the ASCAP Morton Gould Awards, the Impuls Composition Competition, the Franco Donatoni International Competition, the Loadbang Commission Competition, and Protonwerk No. 8. Oren’s music has also been performed at Festival ManiFeste, the Missouri International Composers Festival, Cultivate at the Copland House, Soundstreams, Tzlil Meudcan, CEME, Festival Mixtur, UC Davis Revision/s, and he has been in residence at the Millay Colony for the Arts, the Visby International Centre for Composers, and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. Oren completed the IRCAM Cursus in 2020 and recently completed his PhD in composition at the University of California, Berkeley where he worked with Franck Bedrossian and Edmund Campion.

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Please Find Attached portrays a fictitious email exchange between a composer and an ensemble in preparation for a new work. Working with the New York New Music Ensemble was a wonderful experience, unlike the one depicted in the piece. Based on our exchanges, the performers sent me recordings of various instrumental, vocal, and found-object sounds, ranging from a Bach chorale to a squeaking rubber chicken. These became the basis of the musical materials that accompany the email exchange starring the ensemble members and myself.  All sounds heard in this piece were recorded in our respective homes in the US and Belgium during the pandemic.  Indeed, if it had not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, this piece would never have been born. The context of working remotely with NYNME led to fruitful, creativity-inducing limitations. It was also, of course, a period of reflection on long-distance communication, which amplifies the difficulties already inherent in speaking face to face. We’ve all been there: writing an email to someone we don’t know well, attempting to find the right wording and to convey the right tone, wishing it were professionally acceptable to use an emoji. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we are still misinterpreted. Sometimes, maybe, the situation spirals out of control, both sides get defensive, and all goodwill is lost.

 

- OREN BONEH