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Louis Andriessen: Modernist Maverick at 75

By Jayson Greene, Managing Editor

The revered Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, whose 75th birthday was celebrated this week with a weeklong festival in Washington, D.C., grew up in a bubble. His father and brother were composers, his mother was a pianist, and they played music more than they listened to it. "Our family didn't even have a good record player in the house," he remembers. "We all played in the house. We only listened to the radio when a piece… more »

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Interview: Glenn Kotche

By Jayson Greene, Managing Editor

"I didn't get into this to be a composer!" says Glenn Kotche, laughing somewhat helplessly. When I reach the drummer for Wilco, he is in his studio, busily rehearsing a set of his compositions for an upcoming set Knoxville's Big Ears Festival, and his protest has a weak sound to it. Most of the works he will be performing can be found on Adventureland, his second solo album, on Bang On A Can's label Cantaloupe.… more »

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Langham Research Centre’s Old-School Experimentalism

By Justin Davidson, Contributor

Perhaps you remember tape. No? How about reels? Nothing? Hiss, transistors, needles, vinyl, grooves? If these words fail to conjure a universe of dirty, three-dimensional sound, rich in blemishes and personality, then you may be too young to recall the B.G.B. era — Before GarageBand. Those were days when making electronic music might involve heading outdoors with a bulky tape recorder to capture a train whistle or a dog's bark, then head back to the… more »

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Los Angeles Philharmonic, John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

2014 | Label: DG

Fans of John Adams’s 2000 Nativity oratorio El Nino might be automatically inter-ested in the minimalist’s latest biblically inspired work, while others may look at the summary — another update of the Jesus narrative that folds in contemporary settings and themes — and think it’s a pass.

That would be a mistake. Packed with some of the most ear-catching and dramatic music of Adams’s career, this two-hour stage piece easily surpasses the recent Adams opera Doctor Atomic, and belongs with Nixon and China and The Death of Klinghoffer as one of… more »

Vijay Iyer, Mutations

2014 | Label: ECM

Over the last decade, when he wasn’t busy becoming one of the world’s most talked-about jazz pianists, Vijay Iyer was also writing chamber music. Little of it has been widely heard, though that will change, now that Iyer has a home at ECM, a label that specializes in both fields. The big item on the Iyer’s imprint debut — framed by some piano miniatures — is the composer’s 10-movement string quartet-plus-piano suite, Mutations.

The piece covers a lot of ground. The opening movement, “Air,” opens with spectral string harmonies and gentle… more »

Various Artists, Wendy Mae Chambers: 12 Squared

1998 | Label: New World Records / The Orchard

Numbers are important to composer Wendy Mae Chambers. Early recordings of her work simply used the name Wendy Chambers, but that name has 13 letters, so she added in her middle name. (Don’t scoff — Arnold Schoenberg did the same thing with his opera Moses Und Aron, deleting an “A” from Aaron’s name to avoid a 13-letter title.) Twelve is a good number; 12 squared is even better. This suite of wildly colorful percussion works is for an ensemble of 12 percussionists. (And a conductor who — ack! — make… more »

Simone Dinnerstein, Bach: Inventions & Sinfonias BWV 772-801

2014 | Label: Sony Classical

Bach wrote these works to help keyboardists make the instrument “sing.” In Simone Dinnerstein’s hands, that goal is never in doubt. Her affinity for Bach was firmly established with her debut recording, a personal take on the Goldberg Variations that topped the classical sales charts in 2007 and catapulted the previously obscure Brooklyn pianist onto the national stage. Her subsequent recordings of Bach’s Partitas and Chorale Preludes affirmed her understanding of and technical proficiency in his grander keyboard works. But it is worth noting that Dinnerstein has long championed contemporary… more »

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Classical Music For A Modern World

By Seth Colter Walls, Contributor

Sure, we play Bach, Beethoven and Mozart -- though we also dig the early music of Tallis, chance works by Cage, arias from Verdi and John Adams, as well as the composers on New Amsterdam records. Everything here was released after 2008, too, which is another way of declaring that notes written down on paper are still some of the most exciting ones to hear in all of contemporary music. more »

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