If you're familiar with composer Christopher Tin, it may be because he made history as the first composer to win a Grammy Award for music written for a video game.
"The song that I wrote a Grammy for is called Baba Yetu, and it's actually a choral setting of the Lord's Prayer in Swahili. And it was originally written for the video game Civilization IV which is a very legendary franchise in the gaming world. In 2009, I rerecorded the song and released it on my debut album, Calling All Dawns. So six years after the song was brought to the world - in this form of a video game theme - is when it was finally honored as as a Grammy winning song."
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was featured on that Grammy-winning song, and they're collaborating with Christopher once again on his latest solo recording, To Shiver the Sky. It's a grand production featuring three choir and two opera stars: soprano Danielle de Niese and tenor Pene Pati.
"I had an idea early on that I wanted to do an oratorio based on the history of mankind's quest to fly. The history of aviation, from Da Vinci's notebooks and the legend of Daedalus and Icarus all the way through John F. Kennedy declaring that we would be putting a man on the moon by the decade's end. And this started because, once again, I had written a theme song for a video game. In this case, it was Civilization VI. And that song became a bit of a hit.
And so I took that song, repackaged it, rerecorded it, wrote 10 other movements around it, and found a way to basically tell the story of aviation through the words of those who actually helped propel it forward.
The piece that was the origin for this oratorio was called Sogno di Volare and it was from the video game Civilization VI and it's the first track on the new oratorio. And it's also the main theme in that it's a recurring musical motif that comes back again and again across the course of the album. Anytime humanity suffers defeat or failure or setbacks, the dream of flight theme comes back and summons us back to that cockpit, back on our feet to to try to push forward to achieve our dream of flying."
One of the pieces that really caught my ear was Astronomy. It starts quietly, in polish with words by Capernicus. It's also kind of comforting, too.
"It was in this sort of spirit of comfort, of beholding the beauty of the cosmos and sort of reveling in it, that I thought, I want this particular piece to sound. I want it to sound peaceful and calm and tranquil, but give you the impression that you are gazing at the stars and the splendor of the universe.
If you were actually to look at the sheet music, I have actually drawn in - using notes played by the orchestra - the various constellations that relate to flight. So, Phoenix, Draco the dragon, Cygnus, the Swan... If you were to draw lines between the note heads on the conductor score, and we actually even created a little video that's on my YouTube channel to show just where these constellations just sort of magically appear in the music.
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During a concert of his works last year at the Miller Theater in New York, the composer and multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey, who has little patience with distinctions between genres and styles, described his artistic goal as working toward a model of "music that perpetuates itself." A new Sorey piece for violin and orchestra, "For Marcos Balter," receives its premiere during a 45-minute livestream from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, featuring the brilliant violinist Jennifer Koh and the conductor Xian Zhang. Florence Price's "Five Folksongs in Counterpoint," arrangements of spirituals for string quartet, opens the program.
Detroit Symphony Orchestra Nov. 6, 7:30 p.m.; dso.org; available through Nov. 22.
"Nature is always more subtle, more intricate, more elegant than what we are able to imagine." ― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
The human hand: its fingers, bones, muscles, and more give us the ability to add a pinch of salt, play any number of musical instruments, change a tire, flip a pancake, and so much else. That our hands have the capacity to perform these movements repeatedly and without thinking about them is due to muscle or motor memory.
But suppose a hand were transplanted from another body. Could it-would it-retain unthinking memories created with that original body? If you were to ask Hollywood, the answer is a very blood-curdling scream of "YES!" As Halloween approaches, let's look at a few horror films in which pianists, or at least the hands they are attached to, are the stars.
The relationship between science fact and science fiction has always been something of a bridge, with inspiration flowing in both directions. Whether it's Leonardo da Vinci's revolutionary plans for flying machines and concentrated solar power, Jules Verne's Extraordinary Voyages series, or Star Trek's hands-free, voice-activated communicators and phasers, it's our imagination that keeps us in fear or helps us conquer it. Just as the unimaginable becomes the near-at-hand, so too do we brush aside the veils of superstition and fear. "Through the hand, human culture waves away animal nature," reflects Raymond Tallis in The hand: a philosophical inquiry into human being. Well, mostly. The ancient and universal nightmares still persist today, even, and perhaps especially, when we should know better.
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The joyful duo Shunia (Lisa Love and Suzanne Jackson) is back to infuse a bit of sanity and peace to our turbulent times with their new single "Sa Re Sa Sa"– a song based on the popular mantra
"Sa Re Sa Sa, Sa Re Sa Sa, Sa Re Sa Sa, Sa Rung
Har Re Har Har, Har Re Har Har, Har Re Har Har, Har Rung"
and if you watched the video, it will simply rub off on you–the chemistry, the colors, the vibrancy that they all have brought together make you forget the dark and uncertain period of the past few months.
I remember their last single "Akal," and whenever I hear it, I get goosebumps. It feels like the duo is on a crusade to drive out the negativity, the gloom, and the directionlessness that the world is engulfed with, and what could be more powerful than to do it with the power of sound–a sound replete with the power of mantras, variety of instrumentation, vocals, and vistas of hope and joy! It is a complete package!
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DECADES AGO at a Carmel Bach Festival solo violin recital the young man sitting next to me struck up a conversation. When he told me he had come from Fresno I asked him if it was to escape the summer heat there. "No," he said, "I wanted to hear how a fugue can be played on a solo violin." Good answer, I thought.
The fugue in question is the second movement from JS Bach's Sonata in A minor, the very work that opens this new Delos recital by the extraordinary Greek guitarist Smaro Gregoriadou. She uses Bach's own transcription for harpsichord of the sonata, to D minor, and plays it on a "high-tuned pedal guitar in scalloped frets of the Kertsopoulos Aesthetics.*"
For the rest of her program, titled "A Healing Fire," she uses a classical pedal guitar of the same aesthetics, a technical platform that expands the timbral colorations available to the performer. In her opening remarks, Gregoriadou writes, "The compositions in this collection offer encouragement and hope against today's dystopia and chaos; they explore spirituality, self-knowledge and transcendence, illuminating dark and ambiguous regions of the human psyche with a different kind of light, a different sort of fire. They are conduits for catharsis, an escape from conflicts, antinomy and traumas this world torments us with.
From Bach's ecstatic Credo to Gubaidulina's submersion into the most transparent awareness prayer can bring; and from Hétu's suspended scream to Britten's self-absorbing surrender to Sleep and Nothingness, these towering masterpieces are, above all, essays on the mystical, reflections of the sacred!" Britten wrote his circumspect Nocturnal after John Dowland for the late Julian Bream; its eight variations, ending in a large passacaglia are based on "Come, heavy Sleep, the image of true Death, and close up these my weary weeping eyes" from Dowland's First Book of Songs (1597), cast as a journey through the night, often meditative and tranquil, sometimes restless or agitated. Sofia Gubaidulina, a Shostakovich protégée who turned 89 on Saturday, is a woefully underrepresented yet hugely prolific Tatarstani composer of deep spiritual affect and a cheeky sense of humor, witness her The Unasked Answer for three orchestras, an obvious play on Ives' The Unanswered Question. Her Serenade for guitar, at just three minutes, doesn't really rectify her status in the West. Jacques Hétu's five-movement Suite for guitar of 1986 makes plain his French aesthetic. Why Gregoriadou calls it a ‘suspended scream' I cannot explain; Hétu (1938-2010) is a self-described melodist with a keen grasp of musical form, harmonic relationships and the guitar itself. Sure there are rigorous challenges for both the guitarist and the listener but ultimately a satisfying adventure. SM
Based on the events from the past two weeks, the word "midterm" likely provokes flashbacks of absent guidance from professors and feelings of dread while opening LockDown Browser. Hopefully, most of us have survived by now. The end of October is arguably one of the best times of the year; a time when orange, black, purple, and green seem to be the only appropriate colors and ghosts and jack o'lanterns thrive on front porches. Although there's nothing scarier than taking exams during an online semester, spookiness has only just arrived. For this week's column, I thought it'd be best to share some Hollywood-inspired sinister tunes, leaving midterms as a repressed memory and embracing the spirit of Halloween, which happens to be right around the corner.
In contrast to my love for "Psycho," I think one of my biggest regrets in life is seeing "Hereditary." The fact that sleep, an activity I was quite fond of prior to watching the film, had become impossible during the full week it took me to recover only serves as a testament to Ari Aster's talent at scaring audiences out of their wits. There are many aspects of the movie that contribute to its spine-chilling abilities, but it'd be fair to give its score some credit. "Reborn" is probably the most well-known piece from the score, partly due to its loud use at the end and its popularity as a sound on TikTok. The best (or worst) part about it is its unnatural celebratory undertone, which makes sense in the context of the scene. On the other hand, objectively hearing it makes me want to rip off my toes. Despite my love-hate relationship with the film, I can't help but admit the music is a premier feature. While watching "Hereditary" on Halloween night is quite the opposite of what I endorse, I can condone listening to "Reborn."
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This Friday - October 30 at 9 pm ET, SiriusXM's Symphony Hall Channel will feature; 'Scary Soundtracks with Michael Shapiro, a 1hr special highlighting the Overture to the the 1931 film 'Frankenstein.' With an incredible legacy, and selected by the U.S. Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant, the movie was first released, unfortunately, with no original soundtrack. That all changed in 2001, when composer Michael Shapiro was commissioned to write one. Join SiriusXM: Symphony Hall for a special Halloween "Classics On Film" when Michael joins host Vincent Caruso to speak about his own creation! You'll hear some of Michael's "Frankenstein" soundtrack as well as to hear some of Michael's picks for scariest film music!
WaterTower Music is pleased to announce today's release of the 62-track Lovecraft Country (Soundtrack from the HBO® Original Series), featuring music from the first season of Lovecraft Country, which airs on HBO/ HBO Max, and is Based on Matt Ruff 's novel of the same name.
Inspired by the ground-breaking mission of NASA's Juno space probe and its ongoing exploration of Jupiter, Juno to Jupiter is a multi-dimensional musical journey through electronic, progressive, ambient, techno, orchestral, and vocal music.
Milan Records today announces the release of Luca Guadagnino's WE ARE WHO WE ARE (ORIGINAL SERIES SCORE) featuring music by producer, multi-instrumentalist, composer, songwriter and vocalist DEVONTÉ HYNES.
Jane Ira Bloom: Valuing Choices Made in the Moment
While thinking beyond musical genres is a hallmark of a great many of today's musical creators, Jane Ira Bloom clearly maneuvers within a genre while at the same time subverting any attempt at making generalizations about her work. The primary mode of music-making she engages in is performing her own instrumental compositions on the soprano saxophone in the company of a small group of like-minded collaborative improvisers, and those compositions are clearly indebted to the jazz tradition. But there are important exceptions to just about every detail of that description that are key to defining who she is as a musician.
She primarily performs her own musical creations, but just about every album she has ever recorded, as well as most of her live performances, also include at least one example of her own extremely personal interpretations of an American standard or a classic jazz composition. But while the American songbook has been an unending fount of inspiration for her improvisations and has even informed the ways she has constructed melodies in her own compositions, she has never featured a singer in any of her projects thus far. And, with the exception of her most recent recording, Wild Lines, which includes recitations of poetry by Emily Dickinson, all her performances are un-texted instrumentals. She performs almost exclusively on the soprano saxophone (there's been a stray track here and there over the years of her on alto), but she began her musical studies on the piano, and the grand piano she keeps in her living room is the main instrument on which she composes. She has primarily performed with and composes for a small cadre of fellow travelers with whom she has worked for decades (e.g. Fred Hersch, Mark Dresser, Bobby Previte), but she has also written music for orchestra, wind band, dance and film, and has participated in improvisatory world music collaborations with Chinese pipa virtuoso Min Xiao-Fen and South Indian vocalist and vina player Geetha Ramanathan Bennett (who died just a day after we recorded our talk with Jane Ira Bloom). Bloom acknowledges and embraces the jazz tradition, but for more than 30 years her saxophone improvisations have incorporated an electronic music component which she triggers in real time through the use of foot pedals, and sometimes the other musicians in her combos operate electronic devices as well.
"I'm definitely a lateral thinker," Bloom acknowledged when we visited her to talk about her various musical experiences and how they have shaped her aesthetics as a composer and a performer. "There's no question in my mind that my strong background as a melodist, as someone who's loved and studied melody in many forms, takes me wherever I go. I'm a saxophonist who's very much interested in sound, and I've spent a long time working on a particular sound that I really invested a lot of thought in on the instrument I play-the soprano saxophone. And I'm interested in phrasing and breath. All those things travel with me wherever I go, and when I'm using the live electronics, that's where they're compelled from. It's me; it's not a black box. It's not an idea. I've learned an awful lot from the Afro-American music tradition and the American songbook, as well as exposing myself to world musics and all kinds of contemporary classical music. … I know what's authentic and real about who I am, and I take that with me wherever my imagination takes me."
In addition to the aforementioned 2017 Emily Dickinson-inspired album, Bloom's imagination has led her to create a series of responses to abstract expressionist paintings by Jackson Pollock ("the freedom he was in touch with … is something that, as jazz musicians, we can tap into so easily") as well as motion-inspired melodic improvisation ("I collaborated with choreographers who were much more cognizant of this quality … you could make sound change by moving"). Her use of real-time live electronic processing in her saxophone playing has been an ongoing component of her musical explorations. Her description of it makes it seem a lot simpler than it actually sounds:
Basically what I do with the electronics is I still play the saxophone, but I play through microphones that access electronic sounds that I blend and combine with my acoustic sound. And I trigger them using foot pedals, live and in the moment. Over the years, I've gotten skillful playing on one foot and tapping my toe on some pre-programmed settings that I've designed-on basically an old harmonizer and an old digital delay-and combining them in unusual ways. … I've spent some time trying to get the way I use them as an improviser as fluid as if it was a key on my saxophone. … It makes sense to me when the sounds appear and when they don't, when I choose to use them and when I choose not to use them. It's got to be fast. It's got to be intuitive, because I'm using them very much in the moment of improvising.
Perhaps the most unusual place Bloom's imagination has taken her was to work with the American space program, which happened, as she explained to us, as a result of an unsolicited letter to NASA that her friend, actor Brian Dennehy, suggested she should write.
"I thought he was nuts," she remembered. "But some time went by and I actually sat down and I wrote a letter in the dark-a letter in a bottle, right?-inquiring whether NASA had ever done any research on the future of the arts and space, in zero gravity environments. Something I was always fascinated with. Six months later, I get this envelope back, which has the NASA logo on the front of the envelope from a guy by the name of Robert Schulman, director of the NASA Art Program. … Bob and I corresponded for years. He was interested in jazz musicians-lucky me, you know. Eventually I posed the idea, how about NASA commissioning the first musician for the Art Program? And he loved the idea."
Dennehy's "nutty" suggestion ultimately culminated in a 1989 concert at the Kennedy Space Center featuring the Brevard Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Fire and Imagination, an original work by Bloom scored for soprano saxophone, electronics, orchestra and "a whole bunch of ringers, the jazz musicians that were in the piece." Although the work has yet to be performed in its original version since the premiere and has also never been commercially recorded (though some reworkings of that material surfaced on her landmark 1992 album Art and Aviation), Bloom's association with NASA has had some unusual ripple effects. In 1998, an asteroid discovered on September 25, 1984 by B. A. Skiff at the Anderson Mesa Station of Lowell Observatory was named after her-6083 Janeirabloom!
As for what her next project will be, she has no firm ideas and, as an adherent to valuing choices made in the moment, she seems to like it that way.
American original Jane Ira Bloom does it again. This time the 21st-century soprano saxophonist reimagines the poetry of 19th-century visionary Emily Dickinson in two different settings. This new 2 CD pack, has the quartet (Dawn Clement (piano), Mark Helias (bass)& Bobby Previte (drums) interpretating Dickinson's poetry both instrumentaly and in spoken word settings that feature readings by popular stage & film actor Deborah Rush. After the success of her 2016 trio album release Early Americans, Bloom shifts gears with Wild Lines / Improvising Emily Dickinson. Bloom composed Wild Lines when she was awarded a 2015 CMA/ Doris Duke New Jazz Works commission. She was inspired to musically reimagine Dickinson when she learned that the poet was a pianist and improviser herself.
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You never know what American original soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom is going to do next. After the success of her 2014 all-ballads release "Sixteen Sunsets" Bloom shifts into another gear showcasing the kinetic energy of her acclaimed trio playing with the musicians that she knows best on Early Americans (OTL142). It's her first trio album, sixteenth as leader and sixth recording on the Outline label. Her sound is like no other on the straight horn and she lets it fly on every track. She's joined by long-time bandmates Mark Helias on bass & drummer Bobby Previte and with over fifty years of shared musical history together the album is sure to be a winner. Bloom's collaboration with Helias dates back to the mid 70's in New Haven CT and her unique chemistry with Previte has been ongoing since 2000. She brought the group together in summer 2015 to Avatar Studio B in NYC to capture their breathtaking sound in both stereo and surround-sound with renowned audio engineer Jim Anderson. The album features twelve Bloom originals ranging from the rhythmic drive of "Song Patrol" and "Singing The Triangle" to the spare melancholy of "Mind Gray River." She closes the album with a signature solo rendition of the American songbook classic, Bernstein & Sondheim's "Somewhere." World-renowned portrait photographer Brigitte Lacombe contributes a stunning cover image of Bloom. "Playing in threes" has always held a special fascination for jazz artists - it offers the possibility that something can be slightly off balance and that's just what fires the imagination of players like Bloom, Helias, & Previte. With Early Americans Jane Ira Bloom stands in the vanguard of her generation carving out new territory in the heart of the jazz tradition. Don't miss this trio of "fearless jazz explorers who share a commitment to beauty & adventure."
"I grew up listening to these songs and knowing the lyrics. They were a part of my earliest listening experiences so playing them is like breathing to me. As time's gone by it's been easier to let the meaning of the songs come through the horn."- Jane Ira Bloom
Award winning soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom has always had a special feeling for ballad performances. So much so that she has now finally released: Sixteen Sunsets, a beautiful new recording featuring expressive interpretations from the American Songbook along with five compelling slow tempo original compositions. With this her 15th album as leader and her first all-ballads album, Sixteen Sunsets pairs JIB with long-time colleagues Cameron Brown on bass and Matt Wilson on drums, along with an exciting new pianist we will all be hearing a lot more from: Dominic Fallacaro.
After thirty years, Award winning soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom has returned to her original label, Outline Records, for a disc employing an electro-acoustic band which brings together fellow 70's New Havenite Mark Helias on bass, drummer Matt Wilson, and Seattle new comer Dawn Clement on keyboards for Mental Weather. After premiering the piece with the Doris Duke new jazz works program, Bloom then brought the band into Avatar Studio B in NYC with audio engineering legend Jim Anderson and laid down nine thrilling tracks.
4 New 'ON' this week: 198 'Total
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Whether adventuring into interior or outer space in her music, award winning soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom continues to navigate her unique musical path with creative abandon. Wingwalker, her 14th album as leader and fourth album on the Outline label reunites Bloom with long-time bandmates Dawn Clement on piano, bassist Mark Helias, and drummer Bobby Previte. After two years since Bloom's last release "Mental Weather," she brought the band together in June 2010 to record new compositions written during time made possible by a Guggenheim Fellowship. Wingwalker was recorded in Avatar Studio B in New York City with renowned audio engineer Jim Anderson. The album features eleven Bloom originals and a solo sax rendition of Lerner & Lowe's classic "I Could Have Danced All Night." From the groove inspired "Life on Cloud 8" to the spare simplicity of "Adjusting to Midnight," Jane has journeyed further into jazz dimensions without a safety net. The CD also features an extra mp3 downloadable version of the music condensed into a 5 minute 49 second event.
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