Between Two Pianos: An Interview with Maeve Feinberg

(photo: Charmaine Lee)

(photo: Charmaine Lee)

This Friday, January 27th, marks the Chicago debut of our fantastic new violinist, Maeve Feinberg, and we thought you all might like to get a glimpse behind the scenes at what she's like...and why her personality is a perfect fit for our brand of skylarking. 


Doyle: So...Beethoven Op. 74, Ravel Quartet, and Dai Fujikura’s first quartet. We’re not exactly easing you into your first Chicago concert, are we?

Maeve: I want a raise.

DA: So this show is all about pieces that feature pizzicato. If you were going to get a finger tattoo, what would it look like?

MF: Well, they say you should never get tattoos on your hands but I’m thinking “FUJIKURA” across my knuckles would be suitable for this concert.

DA: What is it about the Ravel that keeps it fresh no matter how many times you listen to it? That piece is, like, the freshmaker.

MF: I think for me it’s a timeless quality in the melodies. It’s like watching really good silent films - no matter how antiquated they may seem to our modern eyes, the characters and emotions will always remain relevant and universally relatable.

DA: We got a taste of the Ravel at your first public show with us, which was, weirdly, a Chamber Music America showcase. I bring it up because being in New York meant we all got to meet your parents and rehearse at your childhood home. I saw your artwork on the walls, and now am thinking that maybe we should have done a psych eval before you joined the quartet.

MF: No comment.

DA: The other thing I noticed is that with your folks both playing piano on opposite sides of the apartment, it’s kind of an Ives-ian experience being there. Do you think that had an effect on you growing up?

MF: Absolutely. Especially because of the music they both play/teach and the range of styles it exposed me to. I think a lot of people don’t encounter contemporary music until much later in life which then makes it feel “strange” or inaccessible to them at first listen. Hearing composers like Babbitt and Cage juxtaposed with Clementi and Haydn at such an early age definitely took away that some of that reflexive aversion to dissonance and trained me to approach diverse types of music (regardless of time period) in the same way when it comes to listening and forming first opinions. Also, it made it completely impossible to take naps in my apartment. Ever. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

DA: Back to business, we’re playing Beethoven’s “Harp” quartet on this show. Do certain movements drum up certain images for you? I kind of want to renew my vows so I can have you all play the second movement for the ceremony. It has all the feels.

MF: For me, the 1st movement is such a perfect encapsulation of the qualities that make Beethoven so unique. Crazy pesante moments coupled with incredible elegance, and inventive uses of articulation and pizzicato. The last movement totally makes me picture a courtly ball that keeps trying to break out into a barn dance–and eventually succeeds.

DA: What’s your take on the third movement being all BURN IT TO THE GROUND! and the fourth getting all genteel? Seems like an odd sequence, right?

MF:  Indeed. I think it’s just one more indication of the wild, mercurial nature of Beethoven’s personality, and also perhaps a reflection of the political turmoil of that time. Even in the sunny and elegant first movement there are these single-chord outbursts that disrupt the music and introduce some discordance. I feel like in the third movement, the pot finally boils over, and then eventually simmers into the agreeable theme of the last movement. That theme is then explored and embellished in a series of variations which finally result in a mad dash to the end.

DA: Have you named the blisters developed while rehearsing the pizzicato section of Dai Fujikura’s piece yet? Mine are “Priscilla” and “His Excellency the Duke of Phalanges.”

MF: Willoughby and Galactus.

DA: What will you miss most about NYC?

MF: Central Park, my dope cats, my dope parents.

DA: What will you miss the least?

MF: The MTA. (Screw you, MTA! / I love you.)

DA: Name a favorite off-the-general-radar band that you love that we should all check out.

MF: Floating Points.

DA: What’s your favorite thing about Times Square? Just kidding. Really though, it’s been exceptionally entertaining and inspiring to work up this ‘Finger on the Pulse’ program with you as your big debut.

MF: Likewise! I’m so excited to perform these pieces with you.

Serious Business Remixed (Part III): Bevin Kelley (aka Synopterus, aka Bevin Blectum) vs. Josef Haydn

The third in our lineup of Serious Business remixes is a real brain liquefier, and it comes by way of the one-and-only Bevin Kelley (aka Bevin Blectum)! 

It turns out that "The Joke" is far from a new one for Bevin, and she had this to say about creating the remix:

I remember playing this quartet, one semester when I was a violinist at Oberlin many years ago, and I still love the second movement especially! This remix was made in and out / back and forth between Ableton Live and ProTools softwares. It uses only the source material — the Spektral recording of the second movement. The source was fragmented, layered, effected and processed in various ways, fragmented again, and finally restructured and layered again, and played/recorded live in Live. It flows in a similar trajectory to the untouched Haydn, but renegotiates the experience of time, timbre and layer. It sometimes magnifies the microscopic, or extends a stay in the whirlpool of a sound, or smashes moments together while shifting character. It is computer/electronic music responding to the digital imprint of the acoustic moment. 


Chicago Tribune: Howard Reich's best jazz performances of 2016

(photo: Brian Jackson for Chicago Tribune)

(photo: Brian Jackson for Chicago Tribune)

Miguel Zenon and the Spektral Quartet at Logan Center, Sept. 24: 
The 10th Hyde Park Jazz Festival featured several memorable events, but one stood out: the world premiere of Zenon's "Yo Soy La Tradicion" ("I Am Tradition"), a tour de force of composition, performance and improvisation. Zenon's score was packed with remarkably complex string writing for Chicago's Spektral Quartet, the musicians finessing it all, while Zenon offered freewheeling phrasemaking one moment, carefully scored lines the next.

Read the full article here

- Howard Reich


Introducing the Newest Spektral: Maeve Espy Feinberg!

(photo: Charmaine Lee)

(photo: Charmaine Lee)

Allow us introduce our brilliant new violinist, Maeve Espy Feinberg! With a spirited fervor for new music and a nuanced vision for the traditional repertoire, Maeve locked into the Spektral vibe as though she'd been playing with us for years. That she shares our absurd sense of humor means that you can expect our concerts to retain and even embolden their weird wonderfulness.

Maeve hails from New York City, and studied at the New England Conservatory (with Lucy Chapman) and the Universität Mozarteum (with Paul Roczek). Her chamber music credits include the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Program, the Sandor Vegh Institut für Kammermusik, Kneisel Hall Music Festival, the Sarasota Music Festival, and most recently, she was a Composers Conference Contemporary Performance Institute Fellow.

Maeve's love of contemporary music can be traced back in part to the New York apartment in which she grew up. Her father, concert soloist Alan Feinberg, has over 200 premieres to his credit, including the world premieres of Charles Ives's "Emerson" Piano Concerto and John Cage's Piano Concerto. We can make an educated guess that there was 1000% more Feldman being played in her childhood home than in any of ours...



The newest Spektral has a few words about all of this for you:


I am thrilled to be moving to Chicago as the newest member of the Spektral Quartet! As someone who grew up in a household where it was considered fairly normal to be humming 12-tone rows to oneself, it is a dream come true to meet and play with musicians whose artistic interests and goals align so closely with my own, and who share a deep love for and commitment to music both old and new. Clara, Doyle and Russ are incredible musicians with serious chops and not-so-serious senses of humor; I can’t wait to create some beautiful (and weird) sounds with them, and to experience the strange and bewildering phenomenon of "deep-dish pizza."


Maeve will be on stage with us for the entirety of the rest of our season, including our Morton Feldman Quartet No. 2 performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Toledo Art Museum, our Chamber Music America showcase, and our tour to Rome this summer. Make sure to come up and say hello (or offer her a post-concert bourbon) the next time you come to a show!


Happy Cyber Monday everybody!

We thought we'd bypass the discounts all together and just give you a set of our ringtones for free. Use the code "CASEOFTHEMONDAYS" over on our merch page (for iPhone click here, for Android/other click here) to get a set of ten ringtones/text alerts/wake-up alarms by David Lang, Augusta Read Thomas, George Lewis, Tomeka Reid, Dominic Johnson, Jen Wang, Greg Saunier, Katherine Young, Mischa Zupko, and Andrew Tham...for $0.00.

Your telephonic device just leveled up.

Serious Business Remixed (Part II): Dominic Johnson vs. David Reminick

Next up in our series of Serious Business remixes features the one-and-only Dominic Johnson. Dom is a fantastically versatile artist, and listeners may remember that our first-ever remix of anything ever was his re-tooling of Marcos Balter's "Chambers" from our debut album.

Now available for (free) download to all of you is his re-tooling of David Reminick's "Killing the Ape" movement from The Ancestral Mousetrap. It's a sexy little lounger that masterfully transforms our bow clicks...and we hope it makes your evening a swinger.

Dominic Johnson (electric violin) and Searchl1te at Harris Theater

Dominic Johnson (electric violin) and Searchl1te at Harris Theater


Serious Business Remixed (Part I): Max Tamahori vs. David Reminick

To celebrate Serious Business being on the GRAMMY ballot, we've commissioned some of our favorite electronic artists to remix tracks from the album and let you download them for FREE!

First up is the incredible Max Tamahori, who you may have seen spinning late-night around Chicago. Max chose to reimagine David Reminick's "Bringing a Dead Man Back Into Life" from The Ancestral Mousetrap as an even more sinister, club-ready banger. Listen and download your copy below!



Thank you for your considerably considerate consideration...

Chicago Tribune: Weekend Ear Taxi Festival events include several winning premieres

(photo: Patrick Gorski)

(photo: Patrick Gorski)

"The work whetted one's ears for one of Thomas' own pieces, "Selene (Moon Chariot Rituals)," a Tanglewood Festival-Third Coast co-commission receiving its Chicago premiere. The impetus of dance is never far from the surface of this exhilarating score, which melds the complementary natures of a percussion quartet and a string quartet to produce a study in inexorable rhythmic dynamism. One of Gusty Thomas' most inventive creations, it drew a supercharged performance from the combined forces of Third Coast and Spektral."

"The Friday evening concert held six world premieres shared by the Spektral Quartet and Ensemble Dal Niente.

A broken cello string early in the performance of George Lewis' String Quartet 1.5: "Experiments in Living" forced the string players to take it again from the top, giving listeners roughly one and a half hearings of the explosive lexicon of noises by the longtime member of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

Leaner of texture and much more introverted of expression was a movement from a string-quartet-in-progress by Chicago Symphony Orchestra resident composer Samuel Adams. Snare drums activated by tranducer speakers lent otherworldly rattles to extremely delicate string writing that suffered for lack of a larger musical context.

One had no problem connecting at once with "Prospective Dwellers" by cellist and composer Tomeka Reid, an active presence on the local jazz scene. Jazz-inflected musings and quasi-pop harmonies gave her piece its easy, good-natured appeal. It and its companion pieces elicited incisive readings from the amazing Spektral foursome."

Read the full article here

A League of Extraordinary Violinists (Part IV): James Lyon

A League of Extraordinary Violinists (Part IV): James Lyon

This violinist feature needs little-to-no introduction because it's Mr. Clara's Dad! We are very fortunate to be working with the exceptional James Lyon for our Ear Taxi shows, and given his role as violin prof. at Penn State, we expect to learn a thing or fifteen from the experience. Keep reading for string technique secrets, TMZ-level dirt on Clara, and some USDA Prime dad jokes. This run with Jim is going to be an absolute hoot!

Doyle Armbrust: Hi Jim! At one point in your career, you were a member of a quartet with a rather unusual framework. Can you tell us a bit about it?

James Lyon: Yes, for seven years I played in the Harrington String Quartet out in west Texas (insert obligatory yeehaw here).  HSQ had three missions: (1) to bring the glories of the string quartet repertoire to the good people of the Texas panhandle (B) to serve as string faculty at West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M) (3) to serve as principal players in the Amarillo Symphony (D) to go where no string quartet had gone before…whoops, NASA wanted us to keep that top secret! I guess I eventually got the proverbial seven year itch and we moved to beautiful central Pennsylvania where I have taught violin and chamber music for 25 years now! (insert nature sounds and the purr of a friendly mountain lion).  It was an honor to be associated with the fine musicians of the HSQ and we have remained friends as members have gone on to play in the St. Lawrence Quartet, the Montreal Symphony, San Francisco Opera, and the like.

A League of Extraordinary Violinists (Part III): Mathias Tacke

A League of Extraordinary Violinists (Part III): Mathias Tacke

For our first concert on the upcoming Ear Taxi Festival, we've been working feverishly on brand-new commissions from George Lewis, Tomeka Reid, and Samuel Adams with none other than Mathias Tacke. Mathias has been a coach of ours since the early days of Spektral, and his years as violinist with the (hometown heroes) Vermeer Quartet and Ensemble Modern have presented us with tremendous insights into repertoire new and old. He's also generally pretty quiet...until he comes out swinging with a zinger. It's been a true pleasure to work alongside a mentor, and we certainly threw a ton of music at him for our first foray together.


Doyle Armbrust: Hi Mathias! As one of our coaches in the early life of the quartet, you are a violinist we are particularly excited to be working with this fall. I'm wondering what it feels like to be sitting in with a string quartet after playing for so many years with the Vermeer?

Mathias Tacke: I am actually more aware of the many years - almost nine - without having a quartet, since the Vermeer retired in 2007.  It feels great to play with you guys - I do miss that life!