Pavel Karmanov’s “Cambridge Music” for Piano Quartet: A Post-Minimalist Joyride

The music of contemporary Russian composer Pavel Karmanov (b. 1970) falls loosely into a category known as post-minimalism. Influenced by the work of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and others, this is music built on a strong, satisfying sense of pulse and a warm embrace of tonality. “Cambridge Music” for Piano Quartet, written in 2008, teems with sunny, youthful energy and bright, glistening colors. Its repeating bass lines and sense of “groove” seem to …

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New Release: Ólafur Arnalds’ “re:member”

Pulse, pattern, and expansive, ambient soundscapes blend into an intoxicating brew on re:member, an album released last August by Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds (b. 1986). In an earlier post, we explored the similarities between the gradual, hypnotic inevitability of Arnalds’ looping patterns and the music of minimalist composers like Steve Reich. Here, Arnalds takes the leap into a brave new world of computer-influenced composition. The music of re:member was written using Stratus, a new software program the composer helped …

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Gabriel Kahane’s “November”

November is the haunting opening track of Book of Travelers, a new album released in late August by New York-based composer/singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane. The album was inspired by the conversations Kahane had with strangers during a two-week-long Amtrak journey across the United States in November, 2016. In the final lines of November, the train becomes a means of “escape,” perhaps a metaphor for the restless westward expansion of the American frontier days. As November progresses, its harmonic center begins to …

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Remembering Oliver Knussen

Oliver Knussen, the influential British composer, conductor, and teacher passed away last Sunday. He was 66. As a conductor and teacher, Knussen will be remembered for his associations with Tanglewood (where he served as head of contemporary music activities between 1986 and 1993), the Aldeburgh Festival, the London Sinfonietta, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, among other organizations. In a 2005 San Francisco Chronicle interview, Knussen talked about his life in music, including his aversion to composing up against deadlines. …

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Remembering Jóhann Jóhannsson

The Icelandic-born composer, Jóhann Jóhannsson, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly over the weekend in Berlin. He was 48. Jóhannsson was the Oscar-nominated composer of such films as Arrival, Sicario, and The Theory of Everything. His scores frequently enter a dark, ambient sound world, augmenting the colors of the orchestra with the sounds of electronic music. This excerpt from Jóhannsson’s rejected score for the film, Blade Runner 2049, ventures into the world of microtonality- nonconventional tuning in which …

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Nahre Sol: “Good Night I Love You Bye”

Nahre Sol is a pianist and composer whose music blends elements of “improvisation, traditional Western form and harmony, jazz harmony, and minimalism.” Her online video series, “Practice Notes” provides an educational resource for piano students. I discovered her music during her recent conversation with Rick Beato. Good Night I Love You Bye opens with a warm, quietly-embracing melody, propelled forward with crystalline, Bach-like contrapuntal lines. A series of exuberant musical adventures follows this opening statement. The …

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Ólafur Arnalds Meets Steve Reich

There’s something about Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds’ 2013 ambient track, No. Other, that reminds me of the music of Steve Reich- specifically, Reich’s 1979 Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards. It isn’t that the notes or rhythms are even remotely the same. It’s more about the general atmosphere which emerges from the two works. Both unfold with a gradual, hypnotic inevitability. In both, long, sustained, static tones in the middle register give us the sense of floating …

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