Podcast

Underscore: David T. Little

How has information shaped our lives? Are we really privy to all the knowledge available? David T. Little’s new album, AGENCY, seeks to investigate these questions.

On this episode we highlight composer David T. Little. The composer has a background that is as eclectic as his new album, AGENCY.  By combining all of  these influences David is ushering in a new age of opera. Sonosphere enjoyed a phone call with David as we talked about AGENCY as well as his path to this point in his illustrious career.  

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David T. Little + ACME with Third Coast Percussion
AGENCY
New Amsterdam Records
11 October 2019

David T. Little’s AGENCY features the world premiere recording of the work for string quartet and electronics, which The New York Times calls “forthright, visceral, bloody, with the intimacy and polish of a classical chamber ensemble but bulging with the loud, reverberant sweatiness of rock.” Performed by “contemporary music dynamos” (NPR) American Contemporary Music Ensemble—with special guests, the Grammy-winning Third Coast PercussionAndrew McKenna Lee (The Knells), and Julian DayAGENCY is a journey into the nature of truth, rooted in the tension between ancient faith-based cultures and modern information-based societies. Using the language and tactics of espionage, AGENCY is riddled with secret messages, ciphers, and redactions. Illuminating our need to find truth, but suggesting that the truth might be.

The Roots of Disquiet – Notes on the Music from David T. Little:

Are we free agents in this world, controlling and deciding our own paths, or are we unknowingly influenced and manipulated by powerful external forces? Is the truth about this ever really knowable?

AGENCY poses these questions and examines their meaning through contrasts. It investigates the ideological rift between the Aboriginal holy site Uluru in central Australia, and Pine Gap, a massive American spy center of top-secret function, which sits just five hours to the north; the tension between ancient faith-based indigenous cultures and modern information-based societies made manifest.

Both Uluru and Pine Gap are cloaked in mystery. AGENCY is likewise riddled with secrets: ciphers and redactions in the musical score encrypt texts, map coordinates, and philosophical quotations. The result illuminates our need to find truth, but suggests that the truth might be unknowable. We may find only conjecture or faith.

AGENCY takes a more detached approach than its explicitly violent companion, Haunt of Last Nightfall (NWAM054). The violence of Haunt is chaotic and direct: it mines the history of the 1981 massacre at El Mozote, El Salvador for evidence of American complicity. The violence of AGENCY is a nefarious secret.

The questions asked by this pair of pieces once seemed speculative. However, as immigration from Central America takes center stage in the national debate, a work like Haunt suggests a U.S.-American cause to its dramatic 40-year rise. Similarly, a work about the impossibility of knowing the truth may have seemed odd in 2013, when AGENCY was written. But in the wake of “fake news,” the rise of deep fakes, and Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US election, it acquires political salience.

Together, AGENCY and Haunt of Last Nightfall present a portrait of the disquiet pervading contemporary American culture, exposing damaged roots. It is my hope these works may begin conversations within the arts world that branch beyond it.

ABOUT DAVID T. LITTLE
David T. Little is “one of the most imaginative young composers” on the scene (The New Yorker), with “a knack for overturning musical conventions” (The New York Times). His operas Dog Days, JFK, and Vinkensport (librettos by Royce Vavrek), and Soldier Songs have been widely acclaimed and performed around the globe, “prov[ing] beyond any doubt that opera has both a relevant present and a bright future” (The New York Times).

Little has been commissioned by the world’s most prestigious institutions and performers, including recent projects for The Metropolitan Opera / Lincoln Center Theater new works program, The Kennedy Center, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony, London Sinfonietta, International Contemporary Ensemble, The Crossing, Eighth Blackbird, Kronos Quartet, and Beth Morrison Projects. His music has been presented by Carnegie Hall, Park Avenue Armory, Holland Festival, BAM Next Wave, LA Opera, Opéra de Montréal, and the LA Philharmonic.

From 2014–2017, Little was Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia and Music-Theatre Group. He has previously served as Executive Director of the MATA Festival, and currently chairs the composition department at Mannes—The New School. The founding artistic director of the ensemble Newspeak, his music can be heard on New Amsterdam, Innova, Sono Luminus, and National Sawdust Tracks labels. He is published by Boosey & Hawkes.

ABOUT ACME
In a little more than a decade, led by cellist and artistic director Clarice Jensen, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) has risen to the highest ranks of American new music through a mix of meticulous musicianship, artistic vision, engaging collaborations, and unwavering standards in every regard. The membership of the amorphous collective includes some of the brightest young stars in the field. NPR calls them “contemporary music dynamos,” and Strings reports, “ACME’s absorbing playing pulsed with warm energy. . . Shared glances and inhales triggered transitions in a flow so seamless it seemed learned in a Jedi temple.” ACME was honored by ASCAP during its 10th anniversary season in 2015 for the “virtuosity, passion, and commitment with which it performs and champions American composers.”

The ensemble has performed at leading international venues including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, BAM, The Kennedy Center, Washington Performing Arts, UCLA’s Royce Hall, Stanford Live, Chicago’s Millennium Park, Duke Performances, The Satellite in Los Angeles, Triple Door in Seattle, Melbourne Recital Hall and Sydney Opera House in Australia, and at festivals including the Sacrum Profanum Festival in Poland, All Tomorrow’s Parties in England, Auckland Arts Festival in New Zealand, Summer Nostos Festival in Greece, Boston Calling, and Big Ears in Knoxville, TN.

World premieres given by ACME include Ingram Marshall’s Psalmbook, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Drone Mass (commissioned by ACME in 2015; recorded for Deutsche Grammophon in 2019), Caroline Shaw’s Ritornello, Phil Kline’s Out Cold, William Brittelle’s Loving the Chambered Nautilus, Timo Andres’ Senior and Thrive on Routine, Caleb Burhans’ Jahrzeit, and many more. In 2016 at The Kitchen, ACME premiered Clarice Jensen’s transcription of Julius Eastman’s The Holy Presence of Joan d’Arc for ten cellos, the score of which had been lost since the premiere in 1981. Jensen transcribed a recording of the work to recreate the score.

ACME’s recordings appear on the Deutsche Grammophon, Sono Luminus, New World, Butterscotch, and New Amsterdam labels. www.acmemusic.org

ABOUT THIRD COAST PERCUSSION
Third Coast Percussion is a Grammy Award-winning Chicago-based percussion quartet. For fifteen years, the ensemble has created exciting and unexpected performances that constantly redefine the classical music experience. The ensemble has been praised for “commandingly elegant” (New York Times) performances, the “rare power” (Washington Post) of their recordings, and “an inspirational sense of fun and curiosity” (Minnesota Star-Tribune). Third Coast Percussion maintains a busy tour schedule, with past performances in 33 of the 50 states plus international tour dates on 4 continents. Third Coast Percussion has commissioned and premiered over 60 new works by composers including Philip Glass, Augusta Read Thomas, David T. Little and Devonté Hynes.

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Underscore: Carolina Eyck

On this episode we talk with Carolina Eyck, one of the world’s foremost thereminist, about growing up with classical music and how she knew the Theremin would be her thing.

Eyck releases her third LP for Butterscotch Records, Elegies for Theremin & Voice, on September 27, 2019. Elegies is released in the centennial year of the invention of the theremin – an instrument played without physical contact – and was created over the course of two years at producer Allen Farmelo’s studio in upstate New York.

Ten pieces form a haunting work reflecting sadness and loss, anger and depression. Eyck shares with Sonosphere the process of composing the record. She reminds us it’s okay to feel it all, necessary even, to properly remember and love those we miss.

In connection with the new album, Eyck will tour the U.S. from September 29 through November 9, 2019 and perform with the Albany Symphony and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. U.S. tour dates below.

Elegies for Theremin & Voice – Release concerts

Sept 29 – Concord, NH – Capitol Center for the Arts

Oct 16 – Chicago, IL – Constellation

Oct 20 – Los Angeles, CA – Civic Center Studios presented by Equal Sound

Oct 25 – Brooklyn, NY – National Sawdust

Nov 1 – Brattleboro, VT – Epsilon Spires Sanctuary

Nov 6 – Syracuse, NY – Syracuse University

 

Orchestral Performances – Dalit Warshaw’s Theremin Concerto Sirens

Oct 4 – Boston, MA with Boston Modern Orchestra Project

Nov 9 – Albany, NY with Albany Symphony

 

Workshops and Lessons

Oct 19 – Los Angeles, CA – Workshop

Oct 27 – New York, NY – Workshop

Find opportunities for lessons alongside Carolina’s tour cities here.

About the Sarod, the Popular Hindustani Instrument

This episode of Sonosphere features the North Indian instrument, the sarod. One of the most popular instruments in Hindustani music, the sarod’s 20th century master was Indian composer, teacher and musician, Ali Akbar Khan.

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Ali Akbar Khan

440px-Sarod_001We speak with contemporary sarod virtuoso, Ken Zuckerman about mastering the demanding instrument and how he and Khan brought various innovations and inventions to the sound.

Zuckerman  has been called “…one of the world’s most eclectic masters of improvisation.” He completed thirty-seven years of training under the rigorous discipline of India’s legendary sarod master Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, up to the maestro’s passing in June 2009. He also performed with Maestro Khan in numerous concerts in Europe, India, and the United States.

We will hear more from Zuckerman in upcoming episodes on Indian Classical Music. Stay tuned!

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Underscore: Composer Alex Weston

Welcome to Sonosphere’s Underscore series where we highlight composers, artists, creators, and more. This episode we highlight Alex Weston,  a New York-based composer. 

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After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University with a composition degree, he then moved to New York. We’ll discuss his time working as music assistant to composer Philip Glass, helping Glass with various film and concert pieces, while also pursuing his own writing. Weston’s music showcases his wide-ranging influences, combining classical structures along with more modern harmonic language, and electronics.

Weston’s music has also been featured on “The Affair” (Showtime), the Ken Burns-produced documentary “The Emperor of All Maladies” (PBS), and various projects for NBC, Netflix and others. His film scores have premiered at festivals around the world including Sundance, and Slamdance.

He’s had concert works commissioned by the Lyrica Chamber Music Ensemble, the Utah Wind Symphony, MADArt Creative, Ballet in the City, and more, including a recent performance at the John F. Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts.

farewell artThis month he released his score for the Lulu Wang film The Farewell. On this episode we talk with him about his process for The Farewell and his approach to music in film versus his approach to commissioned works for live dance and others. Enjoy this month’s Underscore.

 

Nadah El Shazly

Welcome to Sonosphere! The first artist we present in our 2019 Sound Observation series is Nadah El Shazly, Egyptian composer, musician and producer. She will be performing at Crosstown Arts’ Green Room on May 31st as a part of her first tour in the U.S. We are so excited to have her in Memphis. Artist talk at 7 pm, performance at 8 pm.

Sonosphere spoke briefly with Nadah prior to her show. She talks about collaborating in the Cairo music scene, her debut album and her experiences on her first U.S. tour.

Thanks for listening.

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Drones: A Brief History of Sustained Tones in Music

In this month’s episode of Sonosphere, we focus on the use of drone sounds in music. There is a lot to cover with Drone music, often known as a part of the genre of Minimalism and modern ambient. 

JoannaDemers_Drone_HeaderSonosphere caught up with Joanna Demers, author of Listening Through the Noise: The Aesthetics of Experimental Electronic Music, Drone and Apocalypse, and others. 

We will focus on the drone itself, what is drone music, and the common drone instruments as a continuation of the Birth of Modern Music series on avant-garde, classical music and minimalism.

This episode begins with the evolution of the drone sound as a musical style and aesthetic used in many parts of the world. Join us!

Sound Observations on Afrofuturism: Building Communities

We are ending 2018 on a very inspiring note. We hosted our final Sound Observation series by inviting Chicago-based composer Nicole Mitchell to Memphis.

In this episode, we present Afrofuturism: Building Communities, a panel that explored beyond the concept of Afrofuturism. Memphis based Publisher and Author Sheree Renee Thomas led the discussion featuring Nicole Mitchell, and a few Memphians, including Producer/Performer and CEO of James Dukes aka “IMAKEMADBEATS,” Author/ Publisher Troy Wiggins, and Emcee, Teacher, and Author Danian Jerry.

IMG_7139They went beyond explaining afrofuturism and talked about how afrofuturism exists as much in the present as in the past and future. They also discussed how it can be used as a tool to help the community and build worlds that fit a black narrative.

Stay tuned to the next episode featuring Nicole Mitchell’s performance at Crosstown Arts.

Thank you for a wonderful year. Sit back and enjoy this fulfilling conversation. 

Unapologetic: A Conversation at Dirty Socks Studios

This episode Sonosphere visits Dirty Socks Studios, which is the base camp for Unapologetic. The studio is a sanctuary for those who dare to commit to their craft. The theme is dedication to yourself and your mission. unapologeticV5-copy-300x295

Unapologetic is a collective that looks to push Memphis forward. The collective is a cast of characters that are as odd as their aliases. Lead by IMAKEMADBEATS, Unapologetic has put the city on notice. Memphis has the reputation that you have to leave to make it in most industries especially music. Non-Memphians tend to capitalize on the “Memphis Sound,”

Unapologetic is changing that notion. This starts in Dirty Socks Studios where we will pick up our conversation.

okkyung lee

Korean cellist, composer, and improviser, Okkyung Lee talks with Sonosphere about her time at this year’s Big Ears festival in Knoxville, TN, working with Evan Parker, learning to love the cello, and what’s in store for her this year.

 

 

Join us!

 

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Okkyung Lee performing at Big Ears Knoxville 2018

Remix Memphis: The Sounds around the City

This episode Sonosphere dives into Remix Memphis with Alex Greene and Luis Seixas, two Memphis musicians that make the duo The E.G.G.G.

Remix Memphis grew out of a partnership with the Urban Arts Commission and the city of Memphis’ 3.0 comprehensive planning initiative that worked to solicit participation from community leaders, residents and planners to inform future land use and neighborhood plans for the city.

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Alex Greene demonstrating the sounds of Memphis at the Carpenter Art Garden.

Art was an important piece. As a musician Alex was interested in the sounds of the city. He talks with us about the process and how The E.G.G.G. and other local musicians are using the field recordings from Remix Memphis.

Enjoy the episode and if your interested in learning more about the recordings email: remix.memphis@gmail.com

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The E.G.G.G. performing at the Cove in May 2018