Pavel Karmanov’s “Get In”: A Sunny Post-Minimalist Quintet

Born in Siberia in 1970, the Russian composer, Pavel Karmanov, has been called “a romantic dressed in a minimalist gown.” Perhaps more accurately, Karmanov’s music inhabits the sunny, uninhibited world of post-minimalism. Influenced by the repeating patterns and pulse of the 1970s works of Steve Reich and Philip Glass, this music embraces tonality and the language of contemporary popular music. Karmanov is equally at home as a flutist, pianist, and rock musician. …

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Arvo Pärt’s “Da Pacem Domine”: A Timeless Meditation

Time has a deep meaning, but it is temporary, like our lives. Only eternity is timeless. –Arvo Pärt A sense of mysticism and timelessness pervades the music of the Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt. Emerging from the currents of twentieth century minimalism, it is music which inhabits the quiet, meditative space of Gregorian chant and early polyphony. “The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity,” said Pärt, who …

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Night Voyages: Salonen’s “Insomnia” and Sibelius’ “Nightride and Sunrise”

Esa-Pekka Salonen’s 2002 orchestral tone poem, Insomnia, takes us on a haunting nocturnal voyage. The opening bars slip into a restless, looping stream of musical “thoughts” which toss and turn with prickly persistence in the woodwinds. As the piece develops, the insomniac’s obsessive mental chatter becomes a colorful tonal dreamscape which is simultaneously beautiful and disturbing. Gradually, restlessness dissolves into the serenity of near sleep in the final minutes, only to be interrupted …

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Samuel Adams’ “Shade Studies”: The Marriage of Acoustic and Electronic Sound

Shade Studies is a brief and meditative work for solo piano and sine wave resonance, written in 2014 by the American composer, Samuel Adams (b. 1985). The piece sets up a haunting dialogue between the world of acoustic sound and ethereal electronic aftertones. In his program notes, the composer writes, Shade Studies examines the counterpoint between the acoustic resonance of the piano and sine waves. The music is quiet and built of cadences, silences, …

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New Release: Michael Torke’s “Being”

Being, the newest album of American composer Michael Torke (b. 1961), is a celebration of pulse and pattern. Written in 2019 and scored for a chamber orchestra of 24 instruments, the work is described in Torke’s program notes simply as “a continuous 43 minute composition, in 9 parts, whose tempo is a consistent 126 beats per minute.” Being plays tricks with our perception of time, centering us in the moment, and delivering an experience akin …

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John Adams’ Piano Concerto, “Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?”

John Adams’ Piano Concerto, Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?, was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic as part of its 2018-19 Centennial season. Technically, it counts as Adams’ “Piano Concerto No. 3,” following the exhilaratingly mechanical Century Rolls (1996) and the dreamy impressionism of Eros Piano (1989). The Concerto unfolds seamlessly in a single, continuous movement broken into three sections (fast-slow-fast). According to Adams, the title, attributed to Martin Luther, came from an article …

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Music of Oscar-Winning Composer, Hildur Guðnadóttir

At the recent Oscars, the Academy Award for Best Original Score went to the 2019 psychological thriller, Joker. The score’s composer is the Icelandic cellist, Hildur Guðnadóttir (b. 1982). She has a growing list of film and television score credits, including Stefano Sollima’s Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018), Trapped (an Icelandic television mystery series), and Chernobyl, a series produced by HBO and Sky TV. After listening to some of the film music, I was inspired to investigate a few excerpts …

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