Friday, August 30, 2013

In Reena Esmail's Swinging Hammock

The first time I heard Reena Esmail's Jhula Jhule (pronounced: jewel-a Julie) I didn't know what to say. I was completely mesmerized by this nighttime fantasy world that I was being spirited away to by the piano's introduction. Before last week I didn't know who Reena was. Luckily, I follow Composer's Circle on Facebook. Normally, I only occasionally check in there to find new music, but Reena came up on my news feed. (This was quite possibly a subtle push to get me to return to their fan page. And I did! At least after I could have the chance to find out more about her).

Reena is an American pianist-composer who writes music often infused with Hindustani themes, as is written in her Composer's Circle profile. While she has other works on Soundcloud that are notably more popular, this piece in particular deserves a little more love. It stands out among the rest with its gracefully soaring violin and a piano part that sounds as watery and dreamy as Satie's Gymnopedie No. 1 (click the link if you've never heard it!) I would categorize this as "dream music" because if this is a swinging hammock, it does so across a clear night sky, over a lonely oasis, and through a sleepy village far away. I'm definitely keeping this girl's calendar on my short list. 

Speaking of, on February 8, 2014 she will be premiering a new arrangement of Jhula Jhule for piano and oboe at the Tenri Institute. I wholly intend to see it (partly because I hear the acoustics there are amazing). 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Crush On: Mazzoli's Uproar

One of my favorite bands of all time is Muse. Though a fan for a while, Matt Bellamy and crew absolutely stole my heart with The Resistance. It was so amazing that I thought, Muse has got to make this into an opera so I can see it. (I mean, Green Day did a Broadway rendition of American Idiot). And when I hear Matthew's voice, it's all too easy to imagine a mezzo-soprano belting out those lyrics before pyrotechnics, strobe lights, and a comically archetypal villain. But I had since pushed that thought to the back of my mind...that is until I found this girl! 

Missy Mazzoli
Missy Mazzoli *stares dramatically off camera*
Missy Mazzoli is the brains behind the opera Song from the Uproar. Its story pieced together by recovered entries of an old strewn journal, Uproar chronicles the life of Isabelle Eberhardt who journeys to Northern Africa alone. There she joins a Sufi sect and falls in love with an Algerian man, but dies soon after in a flash flood. The music is just as mystical as the Sufi spirit that moved within Isabelle. The video below starts with a clip from the song You Are the Dust. The cello plays a haunting discordant melody while the electric bass pulsates ominously. It's unsettling and yet entrancing. Gah, with all this soul-wrenching goodness, I can't help but wonder if Missy's a fan of Muse, too. You can listen to the rest of her opera and buy it at Mazzoli's site. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

McKay's Soundscapes

After yesterday, I dived right in to the soundworld of Tristan McKay. He has an amazing way of making you want to go on dangerous expeditions with the music he writes. Take a minute to visit his page and read his bio. Meanwhile, I'll be getting lost in Tristan's remote icy soundscape inspired by the 1914 shipwreck of an Englishman named Ernest Shackleton. (**Spoiler Alert** After being shipwrecked and spending weeks looking for help in the Antarctic, ever single man on the voyage is rescued). 

Tristan McKay
Tristan McKay
Tristan is a composer after my heart with his multimedia composition Haiku. While the very clear *Varese-esque feel is rockin,  I just love  the composition. I mean, have you even seen the score? Following along with a recording hasn't been this fun since...I can't remember. I'm strongly tempted to print it out and draw pictures of penguins engaging the travelers in a bloody battle or a walrus slapping someone in the face. But on a serious note, the symbols are indicative of musical gestures, pitch-agnostic. It's fun to correlate the drawings with certain effects. Especially the middle where there's a glimpse of traditional notation and it explodes back into semi-random lines and figures.

Also worth adding, Tristan graciously gives a futuristic steam-punk redux of the whole affair with his short but awesome album Shackleton Gray, whose cover character looks kinda like a cross between Joel and Booker DeWitt (shout out, gamers!) Because what Shacketon's crew lacked was a soundtrack for when they battle mechanized enemies while smuggling a girl around.

*Don't know who Varese is? Explore and be amazed. You're welcome.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Righteous Girls

Although I love my violin, I will admit the piano is an enticing instrument. After hearing Henry Cowell's The Banshee, I've been in love with the more off-putting side of the piano. (Seriously, it's the perfect theme music for Damien from the Omen or that scene in The Shining where Jack Nicholson's character is chasing his son through the hedge maze). If it weren't for my too-small hands or an older sibling already learning it, I might have dared to try it out. In recently discovering Erika Dohi and Gina Izzo, aka Righteous Girls, I rediscovered my love of creepy as all else piano music! 

missed the opportunity to see Erika play at the Norfolk Music Festival this past June, but be sure I will stalk these two lovelies' concert schedule and see them live. In the meanwhile, their recording of Safari will have to do...and they might have a few other cool tracks, too.