Archives

Loops and Variations

Concert
Loops and Variations
When
Thu, Jun 26, 2014
6:30pm - FREE - All Ages
Where
201 E Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60601
Other Info
Our season may be over, but we wouldn't leave you hanging all summer!

Come feel the grass between your toes at the Pritzker Pavilion on June 26th as we make our debut on the Loops and Variations series. We're opening for Oneohtrix Point Never...and since he's more famous than we are, we're packing Steve Reich's "Different Trains," Katherine Young's arrangement of Arthur Russell's "I'm Hiding Your Present from You," and a new commission from Ryan Ingebritsen written specifically for the dynamite Pritzker sound canopy.

« Back to the calendar

Sampler Pack at The Hideout: Photo Blog

Sampler Pack at The Hideout: Photo Blog

We were talking before the Hideout show on Saturday and agreeing that the Fall seems like ages ago. It’s been a massive season for us, recording four albums and landing our first European concerts. Ultimately, though, it’s about our home crowd in Chicago, and our final concert of the season felt like a big hang in a living room…one that contains a stage and serves beer, anyway.

We are grateful to our friend, photographer Elliot Mandel, for covering the evening and giving us permission to share his excellent shots. Be sure to check him out on his website!

And how about soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw, y’all? We approached her with a pile of wicked-hard scores and she jumped right in. The collaboration opened up a whole new corner of the sound spectrum for us, and I think it’s safe to say that all five of us kind of fell in love with the music of Harrison Birtwistle as a side-effect.

As many of you know, we decided to add Lee Hyla’s String Quartet No. 4 to our program as a tribute to a composer who was and is so widely loved, admired and missed. As Russ said during the show, Lee ‘s quartet was a massive learning experience for us early on as a group, and it doesn’t surprise any of us that we continue to learn from him and his unique voice even throughout this week as we rehearsed. Hopefully those of you that were at the show had a chance to overhear one of the many stories being shared by his students around the bar and out on the patio.

Spring Sampler Pack featuring Carrie Henneman Shaw

Concert
Spring Sampler Pack featuring Carrie Henneman Shaw
When
Sat, Jun 14, 2014
8:30pm - $12 - 21+ Buy Tickets
Where
1354 West Wabansia
Chicago, IL 60642
Other Info
How do we close out such a high-octane season? By teaming up with one of the world's preeminent new-music vocalists, of course. Hot on the heels of her critically-acclaimed run as the lead in David Lang's The Whisper Opera, soprano Tony Arnold joins us to wrap the year with her peerless feats of vocal acuity and luster.

Program TBA

« Back to the calendar

Dave Reminick: “Absurd and Insightful” Songs

Dave Reminick has already been at work deftly composing us the first two movements of what will eventually be a five-movement string quartet.  But this isn’t just any new-music string quartet, we’ve entered into a collaboration with Dave to explore the possibilities for singing and playing at the same time.  That is, becoming a singing quartet, sometimes in harmony and often as the lead singers of our little, acoustic band.

We’ll be giving the world premiere of the second movement this Saturday at The Hideout.  Hopefully, a minimum number of audience members will be comparing our vocal skills to Carrie Henneman-Shaw.  Oh yeah, and you can already mark your calendars for Oct. 25 when we unveil the full piece at Constellation in Chicago.

reminick

JAW: How did you find the poetry of Russell Edson and what about its absurd sense of humor made you think it would be a good lyrical source for this piece?

DR: Back when I lived in Michigan, my band-mate Pete was a huge Edson fan. I still remember how excited he was when he found out I had never heard of Edson. He ran to his bookshelf, pulled out his copy of The Tunnel, and launched into “The Hemorrhoid Epidemic;” I was in stitches. We sat together, reading page after page of the most bizarre and hilarious poems I’d ever heard – tales of a woman birthing a toad from her armpit, or a man performing an autopsy on a raincoat. Yes, they were ridiculous, but as we read, I got the sense that there was something beyond humor – something terrifying and tragic – in the poetry.
One time, I dreamt I was riding a bumper car through a darkened video arcade lined with massive restaurant booths, and draped in curtains the color of a men’s smoking jacket… I woke up in a cold sweat, scared out of my mind. Edson’s poetry is like that to me. It is at once humorous and frightening, absurd and insightful – too fantastical to take entirely seriously, too haunting to dismiss.

JAW: It’s clear to me that your experience playing in bands for so many years has effected what you understand to be possible for a performer to play and sing at the same time.  Playing these first two pieces for singing quartet has certainly changed my point of view, and introduced me to some new ways of thinking about what’s possible.  Can you describe how your mindset as the singer for a band has worked its way into your concert music?

DR: As a self-taught singer, I’ve always had to be realistic about what I can pull off; my somewhat limited vocal ability determines to a large extent the kinds of vocal lines I can write and sing convincingly. Frankly, it’s is bit of a pain because a lot of the melodies I hear in my head – typically angular with lots of awkward intervals – are really hard to sing! In Paper Mice, I usually try to simplify my vocal parts as much as possible, and leave the really tricky melodies to the guitar, but I’ve also figured out a lot of ways to use the guitar to make the melodies easier to execute. In composing my recent concert music in which I’ve asked performers to sing, I’ve adopted a similar approach. Singing and playing guitar simultaneously is hard, but it is far more difficult to play a bowed string instrument while singing. I’m really grateful for all of the work you guys have put in, and for your willingness to put your dulcet and mellifluous crooning on display.

JAW: “Oh My God, I’ll Never Get Home” has some sly jokes and surprising mood shifts.  In the poem, a man’s body falls apart piece by piece as he’s walking home along the road, yet the mood remains bemused and somewhat jovially understated.  Is it possible to describe your search for a musical affect, or various materials, that express the moods and humor of the text?

DR: Years ago, I came across an interview in which Edson is asked about his use of literary devices. He responds, “The so-called literary devices, metaphor, symbol, irony… are the natural workings of the human brain. One doesn’t have to think of using them, they’re already there like one’s hands or eyes.” This really hit home for me, and I tried to approach these pieces with a similar mindset. Rather than attempting a direct musical portrayal of each poem’s mood (an impossibility with Edson’s poetry, if you ask me), I decided to experiment a bit, and see what types of material Edson’s images culled from my subconscious.
“Oh My God, I’ll Never Get Home” inhabits in a very unsettling gray area for me. The first time I read it, I thought it was hilarious, but with each subsequent reading, it has grown darker and more distressing to me. These days, it chills me to my core. That’s what I love about Edson; some of his most poignant moments are veiled – and somehow amplified – by a thick cloak of humor and absurdity, and it is beneath that cloak that he steals his way, slyly, into the most vulnerable corners of our minds.

Luke Gullickson Does the Two-Step

Luke Gullickson is a man of many talents, a fantastic composer that we worked with for our Mobile Miniatures project and a performer of a wide variety of songs as Golconda and a part of the amazing Grant Wallace Band.
We’re terribly excited to be presenting his new arrangement of Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty” on our concert this Saturday at The Hideout with Carrie Henneman Shaw.  This new adaptation of a country classic is not to be missed! Below, Luke offers some thoughts on his process as a musical translator.
Gullickson
JAW: Your relationship with various forms of folk and country music is core to your life as a musician in a different way than most people who self-identify as a composer. Does your work in what others see as a variety of genres feel like wearing multiple hats or does your “classical” work emanate from the same source as the folk music you record/perform?
LG: Great question! There’s that common narrative the last few decades of composers starting in rock music, getting weird, and subsequently finding their way to composition. My story is more tangled. I wrote fully notated piano music before I started playing guitar and singing tunes. I was learning Beethoven piano sonatas and singing Brahms motets at the same time I was starting a band and writing my first songs. It wasn’t until after I’d finished my master’s in composition that I had my big awakening as a songwriter, and I moved to Chicago and got involved with the new music scene at around the same time I took a summer gig in New Mexico leading wilderness expeditions and singing campfire songs every night. It’s always been a bit of a two-step, so while I can theoretically separate different styles and modes of music-making, it all feels the same. Composing or songwriting, at the moment of creation it’s always the same impulse.
JAW: How did you land upon this song by Townes Van Zandt as the tune for your arrangement for the quartet and Carrie?
LG: I wanted something durable and multivalent. The task was essentially one of translation–to a different instrumentation, to a different musical context, to a string quartet and a classically trained soprano–so I needed something that works well enough on the basic levels of melody and lyric to speak through the translation. Some of the country tunes I considered are beautiful performance pieces, but when you peel away, say, Patsy Cline’s inimitable vocal nuances or the special lilt of the rhythm section, you find the song doesn’t stand on its own. “Pancho and Lefty” does. I had heard Townes’ songs in various contexts for years, but the emotional content of “Pancho” didn’t click until I heard this great Emmylou Harris performance from 1977. (In fact, someone once told me the way into Townes’ songwriting is to hear other people play his songs. So we’ve got that going for us.) A lot of musicians have covered “Pancho.” The song translates so easily because it’s a story, and pointedly, it’s a fuzzy story with some intriguing gaps. What’s going on with that first verse, in the second person, before the story about the two bandits actually begins? Who is it addressing? Did Lefty really sell out his friend? Any connection to the historical Pancho Villa? And most importantly, are the federales correct in their dismissive opinion, or were these guys the real deal? These ambiguities make for great symbolic gravity. A lot of people read “Pancho” as a metaphor for the roving life of a musician. I like that very much. And what a haunting, lonely melody!
JAW: You’ve adapted not just the tune and harmonies, but also the time of the piece. There’s a new off-kilter gait to the song in your arrangement as well as some beautifully searching harmonies.  What process did you use or moods did you focus on to transform this song into the arrangement people will hear at the Hideout?
LG: I decided to use the same process as when I wrote a little album of Bob Dylan covers a couple years ago: keep the melody intact, maintain the form, but mess with the harmony, the time and the mood. I wanted to write some sounds and rhythms that would mean something to a string quartet, and I love that you call the harmonies “searching.” It’s such a searching tune. I think the textual metaphor is meaningful not just for country troubadours but for performers and composers of new music, too. Like Pancho and Lefty, we’re all out in the desert just horsing around, joyfully doing our thing, even if the authorities don’t think we’re worth their trouble.
 

Fredrick Gifford: Translating Ciconia

Working with Carrie Henneman-Shaw on our June 14 show at The Hideout affords us the opportunity to collaborate with a true expert in early music styles. With that in mind, we’ll be premiering new arrangements by Chicago’s esteemed and ever-creative Fredrick Gifford. I talked with Fred this week to get a few of his thoughts on these two wonderful songs by Johannes Ciconia, check out our conversation below after you hear this amazing music!

JAW: How did you come to choose these two works by Ciconia for these arrangements?

FG: One of the things that amazes me about composers around 1400 is that they are equally devoted to (and adept at composing) what we might call erudite and poplar music. These two Ciconia works are great examples. Ut te per omnes is a isorhtyhmic motet with multiple texts – the most learned style imaginable, but Poy che morir is a ballata about the remorse of an impossible love – a pop song par excellence!

JAW: I think of your music as being charmingly experimental and certainly anything but old hat.  Can you describe the relationship of old music and the new as it exists in your artistic imagination?

FG: The trick is that I think of everything as new music – from the time it was made. No joke: Ciconia’s father (we don’t know too much about either one of them) even wrote a treatise called Nova Musica, so these works are from the cutting edge of their time. The question is, in what ways did this music sound new to a late-fourteenth century ear? For example, the melody that twists through “Poy che” (which, for me, remains absolutely haunting over 600 years later!) seems the boldest about-face imaginable from plainchant or the oscillating upper melodies in organum. So, for me, the relation of old and new is not focussed on techniques, but the bold ideas that demand someone to invent them, whenever they happen.

JAW: How do modern conceptions of timbre play into your interpretations of these songs?  That is, timbre notated in detail and executed to the composer’s relatively precise description as compared to notation in the time of Ciconia.

FG: I thought about this a lot before I settled on my approach in these arrangements.  It’s somewhat like translating poetry – old poetry from a foreign language that is no longer spoken – into something intelligible for contemporary audiences. I decided that I would not bring the full range of contemporary timbres, textures and gestures onto the old materials (and there are amazing examples of this, like Sciarrino’s “transcriptions” or the entire Witten In Nomine project), but that I would arrange these pieces in the sense that timbre would always be employed to amplify what we do know of the original pieces (and although we will never be able to hear the pieces as Ciconia did, we can safely say that toneless bowing was not in his vocabulary). This resulted in a restrained and careful use of timbre – I tried to find the sounds in my vocabulary that would best translate Ciconia’s structure and expression.

Album Release Tour with Julien Labro

Concert
Album Release Tour with Julien Labro
When
Sat, May 17, 2014
7:30pm - All Ages Buy Tickets
Where
1700 South Main Street
Goshen, IN 46526
Other Info
The music of Astor Piazzolla is well known to North American audiences, but what came after the Tango Nuevo revolution?

Julien Labro (bandoneon, accordion, accordina) and the Spektral Quartet have set out to uncover exactly that with their upcoming album on Azica Records. With blistering new tunes by Diego Schissi, Fernando Otero and Miguel Zenón (guest soloist on the record) and knockout arrangements of Hermeto Pascoal, Heitor Villa-Lobos and Piazzolla, Labro and the Spektral Quartet seek to introduce American audiences to a largely-unheard corner of new South American repertoire, and to continue to ask, What comes next?

« Back to the calendar

Album Release Tour with Julien Labro

Concert
Album Release Tour with Julien Labro
When
Fri, May 16, 2014
7:30pm - All Ages Buy Tickets
Where
308 W. Johnson St
Hart, MI 49420
Other Info
The music of Astor Piazzolla is well known to North American audiences, but what came after the Tango Nuevo revolution?

Julien Labro (bandoneon, accordion, accordina) and the Spektral Quartet have set out to uncover exactly that with their upcoming album on Azica Records. With blistering new tunes by Diego Schissi, Fernando Otero and Miguel Zenón (guest soloist on the record) and knockout arrangements of Hermeto Pascoal, Heitor Villa-Lobos and Piazzolla, Labro and the Spektral Quartet seek to introduce American audiences to a largely-unheard corner of new South American repertoire, and to continue to ask, What comes next?

« Back to the calendar

Album Release Tour with Julien Labro

Concert
Album Release Tour with Julien Labro
When
Thu, May 15, 2014
8:00pm - All Ages Buy Tickets
Where
415 N. 4th Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Other Info
The music of Astor Piazzolla is well known to North American audiences, but what came after the Tango Nuevo revolution?

Julien Labro (bandoneon, accordion, accordina) and the Spektral Quartet have set out to uncover exactly that with their upcoming album on Azica Records. With blistering new tunes by Diego Schissi, Fernando Otero and Miguel Zenón (guest soloist on the record) and knockout arrangements of Hermeto Pascoal, Heitor Villa-Lobos and Piazzolla, Labro and the Spektral Quartet seek to introduce American audiences to a largely-unheard corner of new South American repertoire, and to continue to ask, What comes next?


« Back to the calendar

CD Release Party with Julien Labro

Concert
CD Release Party with Julien Labro
When
Wed, May 14, 2014
7:30pm - Buy Tickets
Where
1200 W Randolph St

Cihcago, IL 60607
Other Info
The music of Astor Piazzolla is well known to North American audiences, but what came after the Tango Nuevo revolution?

Julien Labro (bandoneon, accordion, accordina) and the Spektral Quartet have set out to uncover exactly that with their upcoming album on Azica Records. With blistering new tunes by Diego Schissi, Fernando Otero and Miguel Zenón (guest soloist on the record) and knockout arrangements of Hermeto Pascoal, Heitor Villa-Lobos and Piazzolla, Labro and the Spektral Quartet seek to introduce American audiences to a largely-unheard corner of new South American repertoire, and to continue to ask, What comes next?

Where better to drink in this tantalizing music than City Winery, where the beer flows like wine.

« Back to the calendar

COUNTERPOINT

Concert
COUNTERPOINT
When
Sat, May 10, 2014
8:00pm - All Ages
Where
1010 E. 59th Street
Chicago, IL

Goodspeed Hall, 4th floor

Other Info
Finally! Due to an unfortunate temporary setback in January, we had to postpone our Counterpoint concert. We're really happy to be able to bring it to you in the enveloping acoustics of the University's Fulton Hall.

Read all about the program here.

« Back to the calendar

Haydn: Seven Last Words with Seraphic Fire

Concert
Haydn: Seven Last Words with Seraphic Fire
When
Fri, Apr 18, 2014
8:00pm - All Ages Buy Tickets
Where
510 East College Ave
Appleton, WI 54911
Other Info
Seraphic Fire is a name impossible to miss these days, since the Miami-based chamber choir was nominated for two Grammys last year. The two ensembles are joining forces for Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ this Easter season, with a tour of South Florida, a stop at Chicago’s magnificent Rockefeller Chapel and landing in beautiful downtown Appleton. Whatever one’s spiritual persuasion, Haydn’s masterpiece creates a poignant, meditative space in which to ponder loss, hope and redemption.

« Back to the calendar

Haydn: Seven Last Words with Seraphic Fire

Concert
Haydn: Seven Last Words with Seraphic Fire
When
Wed, Apr 16, 2014
7:30pm - All Ages Buy Tickets
Where
5850 South Woodlawn
Chicago, IL 60637
Other Info
After a week in Miami, FL, we're bringing our partnership with the Grammy-nominated chamber choir, Seraphic Fire to Hyde Park's magnificent Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Haydn's Seven Last Words of Christ has been an annual fixture for us, and paired this year with the exquisite voices of Seraphic Fire, promises to be a poignant and eloquent addition to the Easter season.

This concert is part of the University of Chicago Presents series, and is made possible by a generous gift by The Clinton Family Foundation.

« Back to the calendar

Haydn: Seven Last Words with Seraphic Fire

Concert
Haydn: Seven Last Words with Seraphic Fire
When
Sun, Apr 13, 2014
4:00pm - All Ages Buy Tickets
Where
4025 Pine Tree Dr
Miami Beach, FL 33140
Other Info
Seraphic Fire is a name impossible to miss these days, since the Miami-based chamber choir was nominated for two Grammys last year. The two ensembles are joining forces for Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ this Easter season, with a tour of South Florida that culminates in a performance at Chicago’s magnificent Rockefeller Chapel in Hyde Park. Whatever one’s spiritual persuasion, Haydn’s masterpiece creates a poignant, meditative space in which to ponder loss, hope and redemption.

« Back to the calendar

Haydn: Seven Last Words with Seraphic Fire

Concert
Haydn: Seven Last Words with Seraphic Fire
When
Sat, Apr 12, 2014
8:00pm - All Ages Buy Tickets
Where
333 Tarpon Drive
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301
Other Info
Seraphic Fire is a name impossible to miss these days, since the Miami-based chamber choir was nominated for two Grammys last year. The two ensembles are joining forces for Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ this Easter season, with a tour of South Florida that culminates in a performance at Chicago’s magnificent Rockefeller Chapel in Hyde Park. Whatever one’s spiritual persuasion, Haydn’s masterpiece creates a poignant, meditative space in which to ponder loss, hope and redemption.

« Back to the calendar

Haydn: Seven Last Words with Seraphic Fire

Concert
Haydn: Seven Last Words with Seraphic Fire
When
Fri, Apr 11, 2014
7:30pm - All Ages Buy Tickets
Where
536 Coral Way
Coral Gables, FL 33134
Other Info
Seraphic Fire is a name impossible to miss these days, since the Miami-based chamber choir was nominated for two Grammys last year. The two ensembles are joining forces for Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ this Easter season, with a tour of South Florida that culminates in a performance at Chicago’s magnificent Rockefeller Chapel in Hyde Park. Whatever one’s spiritual persuasion, Haydn’s masterpiece creates a poignant, meditative space in which to ponder loss, hope and redemption.

« Back to the calendar

Haydn: Seven Last Words with Seraphic Fire

Concert
Haydn: Seven Last Words with Seraphic Fire
When
Thu, Apr 10, 2014
7:30pm - All Ages Buy Tickets
Where
100 Northeast Mizner Boulevard
Boca Raton, FL 33429
Other Info
Seraphic Fire is a name impossible to miss these days, since the Miami-based chamber choir was nominated for two Grammys last year. The two ensembles are joining forces for Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ this Easter season, with a tour of South Florida that culminates in a performance at Chicago’s magnificent Rockefeller Chapel in Hyde Park. Whatever one’s spiritual persuasion, Haydn’s masterpiece creates a poignant, meditative space in which to ponder loss, hope and redemption.

« Back to the calendar

Haydn: Seven Last Words with Seraphic Fire

Concert
Haydn: Seven Last Words with Seraphic Fire
When
Wed, Apr 09, 2014
7:30pm - All Ages Buy Tickets
Where
2401 Southwest 3rd Avenue
Miami, FL 33129
Other Info
Seraphic Fire is a name impossible to miss these days, since the Miami-based chamber choir was nominated for two Grammys last year. The two ensembles are joining forces for Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ this Easter season, with a tour of South Florida that culminates in a performance at Chicago’s magnificent Rockefeller Chapel in Hyde Park. Whatever one’s spiritual persuasion, Haydn’s masterpiece creates a poignant, meditative space in which to ponder loss, hope and redemption.

« Back to the calendar

Mobile Minatures: The Ringtone Project

Concert
Mobile Minatures: The Ringtone Project
When
Thu, Apr 03, 2014
8:00pm - $10 at the door, Free with UCID - All Ages
Where
1010 E. 59th Street
Chicago, IL

Goodspeed Hall, 4th floor

Other Info
We're bringing our Mobile Miniatures event to Hyde Park! If you couldn't make it out to Constellation for the debut, or if you just want to experience it all again, join us in Fulton Hall to explore the interactive installation and hear us play the Miniatures live and in the flesh!

On the program:

Shulamit Ran: Ringtone Suite
Augusta Read: Thomas: You're just about to miss your call
Tomas Gueglio: 1799
and many more.

More information about the installation HERE

« Back to the calendar

Mobile Miniatures: The Ringtone Project

Concert
Mobile Miniatures: The Ringtone Project
When
Sat, Mar 29, 2014
8:30pm - Admission includes 5 free ringtone downloads! - 21+ Buy Tickets
Where
3111 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
Other Info
Since the start, we have endeavored to spread classical and new music beyond the concert hall. Each of us has also spent waayy too much time staring at our phones. Enter: Mobile Miniatures!

With collaborators such as David Lang, Nico Muhly, Ted Hearne, Julia Holter, and Chicago luminaries like Augusta Read Thomas, Mason Bates, Shulamit Ran and Jay Alan Yim, Spektral is commissioning and recording these miniature works for release as downloadable ringtones, alerts and alarms.

With a roster of composers 47 strong, the Mobile Miniatures project launches publicly with an interactive exhibition and live performance at Constellation on March 29th.

Please join us to celebrate the release of these teeny-tinys out into the world! More information HERE

« Back to the calendar