If you're in the area, we'd love to see you at one or both of these shows!!
RSVP Here: https://www.facebook.com/events/605530792853515/?ref=22
Get Tickets Here:
Here we go! Next week Quince is going full steam into album preparation during our residency at the HERE Arts Center in New York. We'll be performing two full concerts as part of the residency, and fine-tuning each and every piece that's going on the album.
If you're in the area, we'd love to see you at one or both of these shows!!
RSVP Here: https://www.facebook.com/events/605530792853515/?ref=22
Get Tickets Here:
Before writing Squarepushers, I envied writers and performers. I had also convinced myself that every other composer was in their element during the process of writing a piece, happily number-crunching dots on a page. I believed their eight hour day started with a heel-click and traversed into sunset with a terrific sense of accomplishment. Their large chunk of work when it came to clock-out time showed their dedication and enthusiasm, so they rightfully deserved that 3 hour marathon of The Sopranos!
I knew the process, whether practice or prose, was as painstaking as writing music but I craved the immediacy those art forms offered. The abstracted lines and ink dots gave me little satisfaction because I couldn’t envisage the end result of my work. It didn’t help that I harbored these grievances about a composers expressive bread and butter, the centuries-old method used to make music something tangible.
To prevent deeper madness and frustration at this thought process, I knew I had to find a way out, and my solution was improvisation. Whatever cave in my brain my ideas crawl out of, improvisation is the light that coaxes them out. I put this into practice when I wrote Squarepushers. I cleared my desk of laptop and manuscript paper, and just sang in my bedroom when nobody was in the house
(you're welcome roommates).
When I felt comfortable enough, I started to record little bursts of song. The patterns and fragments of melody for Squarepushers evolved from those recordings. From there, I notated bits and blips on scraps of manuscript paper. My desk resembled the work window in a music sequencer or video editor. I moved the squares of paper around my desk as if they were on the screen of my
For Squarepushers, I wanted to loosen the grip I have on my musical ideas, and move the control into the hands of the performers. There are patterns in the piece that are just cellular springboards that the performers can jump from. There are also more developed melodic phrases; some that are strictly harmonized and others that can be treated like a rubber band. I wondered how the patterns
and melodies would fall onto each other vertically, and how the elasticity would affect the overall pace of the piece. I almost felt a tiny flicker of satisfaction – almost!
Writing Squarepushers helped me accept the fact that I don’t have to justify how I work. I don’t know why I forced myself to work in such a rigid way. Maybe I was trying to do it the same way all the famous dead lads did it, but whatever the reason, the obsessive Beethoven madness wasn’t working. I've been extremely lucky to work with Quince. They took complete control over the material and have really made the piece their own without batting one of their lovely eyelids. I have them to thank for, more than performing the piece so beautifully, a genuine sea change in how I make music.
– link to sound cloud
Quince has loved getting to know the eclectic music of Anthony Marasco. Check out his website here!
Last summer, I started writing the first in a series of pieces that examines love and relationships in today’s Digimodernist society through an original narrative revolving around two twenty-somethings coming to terms with their feelings for one another while traveling across the United States with a group of friends. The series, entitled Jason and the Argonauts, will be comprised of around ten individual compositions, each written for a different solo or ensemble instrumentation with male and/or female narration representing the story’s main characters. In addition to forming a large, multi-composition work, each movement will be able to stand on it’s own, and will also give me the chance to work with some fantastic performers in the process.
After speaking with Amanda about this project, I was thrilled when she told me that Quince would like to come on board and include a movement one their Fall 2012 tour. I immediately began looking for a piece of the story that would work well through the prism of female vocal quartet and electronics, and eventually, I decided to tackle the middle of JATA’s storyline first: a “chapter” narrated by the male lead that describes events that took place two years before the main storyline. The resulting work, Communiqué, is an aleotoric, quasi-improvisatory, and highly interactive piece that allows the ladies of Quince to bring a lot to the table when it comes to creating the final sonic result.
Throughout the piece, the male narrator tells the story of Karen (our female lead) during her two-year stint in Glasgow, Scotland as an intern at the museum of modern art. Throughout her time overseas, Karen and our nameless narrator correspond regularly through emails and phone calls, but once our narrator confesses his romantic feelings for her, she ends their regular stream of communication. While our narrator thinks that this means things are over between them, Karen realizes that she reciprocates his romantic feelings, but can’t quite come to terms with that just yet. In an attempt to relay her mutual feelings without truly confronting them, she sends a series of anonymous, cryptic postcards—containing terms of endearment written in foreign languages—to our narrator over the course of a year and a half while she travels across Europe for work.
In order to emulate the story’s focus on memory and the recurrence of unpredicted actions, each of the four vocalists are tasked with repeating cells of melodic and percussive material as many times as they’d like across a designated span of time. While many of these actions are unsynchronized, the piece calls for a few moments of unification between the four vocalists, resulting in swelling chords and moments of punctuated, parallel-motion voice leading. In addition to the repetitive approach to vocal performance, the prerecorded audio track includes skipping, glitching samples of organ drones and melodic figures—emulating a skipping mixed CD that would have surely been sent between these two characters as a slightly ironic romantic gesture—made with the Chocolate Grinder software designed by Rodrigo Constanzo. The story’s focus on phone and digital means of communication vs. physical postcards and letters also makes it way into the audio track in the form of electronic voltage sounds recorded with a teletap coil microphone being run over my laptop’s spinning disc drive, battery pack, and motherboard (you can see video of this process in action by heading here).
Communiqué also includes elements of theatricality that directly connect to Karen’s actions throughout the narration. In the middle of the piece, each vocalist takes a turn pulling a “prepared” postcard from a randomly shuffled pile and performs the musical passage attached to the back of it. While the repeated cells of musical material throughout the majority of the piece are to performed with minimal expression and are short and precise in nature, these postcard passages are highly expressive and allow the vocalists to sing with a more operatic, soloistic approach in order to emulate Karen’s romantic yet cryptic confessions of love towards our male narrator. The juxtaposition between repetitive, mechanical performances and emotionally stirring, old-world operatic soloistic performances comments on Communiqué’s main discussions of digital vs. analog communication and carefully planned, rehearsed conversation vs. visceral, emotional confessions.
I couldn’t be happier with the skill and creativity that Amanda, Kayleigh, Aubrey, and Liz have brought to this piece, and I’m thrilled to have them include it on their debut album along with so many other great pieces by some of today’s best composers.
Ravi Kittappa is a man of his time, and Quince has always loved his music and conversation. Here he discusses the inception of Decantions II:
In August at the Color Field Festival in Madison, WI, Karl Larson, Amanda DeBoer Bartlett and the other Color Fielders were sound checking my piece Diasporas (http://snd.sc/1b7AYDY) and I commented that it was funny how everyone pronounced the name of the piece a
slightly different way.
"Well. . . isn't that what the piece is sort of about?" Amanda asked. Without going into too many particulars of the piece, I can say that her short remark hits the nail in the center of its head.
Amanda has a knack for cutting through the bullshit and dropping wisdom and profundity in a totally matter-of-fact way, as if it was obvious all along. It shows me how insightful she is and just how oblivious I can be. These moments always prove valuable.
After the premiere of one of my pieces at the Bang on a Can Summer Institute (where Amanda and I were both fellows), Amanda very simply asked me, "If the piece is a comment on chant, wouldn't it make sense to have a version with singers?"
Her question struck a chord with me and also presented me with a challenge, one that I gladly took up.
The piece that Amanda was referring to is called Decantations, a piece that ended up being the first in a series with that title. It was written for the fellows of the Bang on a Can Summer Institute and Evan Ziporyn. The score calls for sruti boxes, which are drone instruments from India that serve as a simulated tambura for Indian musicians to play along with. I have seen these instruments coax people into extemporizing melodies and spontaneously breaking out into song. I have also seen these instruments used as a basis for groups to chant over.
Here's my take on chanting: In lieu of written forms, either because a written alphabet does not exist or because people are unable to read it, chanting can serve as a very broad and very effective method of indoctrination.
During one of my many trips to India, I witnessed a small child who was unable to read, yet was able to recite the entire Suprabhatam (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Fjw_6AntJo) in its entirety. This young innocent person was thus indoctrinated and brought in among the followers with very little understanding of the words being said, and without awareness of the caste system that they were becoming a part of. I also see parallels in the US amongst yoga enthusiasts and new agers who often chant words in Sanskrit, oblivious to the meaning of the words.
I wanted to provide an antidote to the sruti box playing a part in this type of brainwashing and allow for introspection within its sound, giving way to individualized thought - a sort of "de-doctrination."
In essence, Decantations is the anti-chant.
I decided to look for a text that could suit this purpose and found myself pulled toward the Siddhar poets. The Siddhars are interesting figures because they are revered like Hindu saints, but they lived the lives of ascetics, removed from society and the Hindu clergy.
Here are the words that I chose to set (translated from Tamil) from Sivavakkiyar circa 10th Century AD:
"Considering the planted stone to be god
placing four flowers upon it
circumambulating and mumbling. .
could it be a mantra that you speak?
Will the planted stone reply when god is inside you?"
In the performance of the piece the singers of Quince do a mighty fine job of singing the text in the original Tamil. I suppose you could listen for yourself and see: http://snd.sc/1b7EZZh
Not only is Jonn Sokol one of the nicest guys on the planet, he's also a brilliant composer. His sense of harmony, counterpoint, and text setting are matched only by his wickedly unique style and captivating story-telling.
Here, he talks about "Le Saleve," one of our favorites and a true standout among vocal ensemble rep:
Both musically and poetically, Le Salève is a marked moment in time, wrought from and bound to memory, which breathes and behaves in a space specific to that
memory. And though the author, Jessica Rooney, was aware of my affinity with the concept of memory and my propensity for textural evolution and development when
writing the text, it was her narrative flow with which I became most invested. Or, most transformed, musically speaking. Her commingling of hyper-sibilance and
syllabic similarity with candid narrative imagery found an instant musical counterpart—such to the effect that I remember thinking “Wow, the piece is writing itself!”—and the combination of these disparities has ever since affected my output.
The music is, naturally, a direct reflection of the text. The opening “shhh” becomes a recurring element, and dovetails into the following string of s-words. Sung at different speeds, the individual words become lost in sibilance and blossom into a textural cloud, in turn becoming a backdrop against which harmonious chords emerge, as if conjuring or extracting memories from the cloud.
The nature of these chords is bittersweetness. Though direct and familiar-sounding—and to a degree, a play on the nature of some a capella and barbershop arrangements—there is an element of disquiet as the chords ceaselessly seek rest and closure. Whether falling in tumbles or rising in stretches, the chords often become disassembled in conjunction with the narrative, until, re-composed at the end, they descend exposed and unresolved.
Exciting news: The Aaron Copland Fund for Music has awarded Quince a grant to record our first album! We've been working with some amazing composers for the past 4 years, and it's an honor to bring their music to you.
Stay tuned as we feature profiles of each composer/work we'll include on the album!
We're also honored to work with recording engineer Bruce Bartlett, who is a celebrated researcher in recording techniques and a master microphone designer. Check out his work here!
This week, the ladies of Quince are hard at work on a brand-new piece by composer Rob Honstein - we'll be performing Saturday, May 11 at 7:30 at the National Pastime Theatre in Chicago. Purchase tickets in advance HERE!
WERKplaats is a co-production of Ensemble Dal Niente and High Concept Laboratories WERKplaats is a performance, a gathering, an evening born of extensive artistic collaboration.
Join Ensemble Dal Niente, Quince Vocal Ensemble, and High Concept Laboratories for an evening of new works tailor-made for the performers, featuring current and former members of High Concept Labs' Sponsored Projects Program: composer Robert Honstein, visual artist Liz McCarthy, and Ensemble Dal Niente. After the performance, audience members are encouraged to stick around for an acoustic set / afterparty by the Grant Wallace Band. Free drinks will be provided throughout the evening.
Carrie Henneman Shaw, soprano, and Quince Vocal Ensemble (Nathalie Colas will be singing in place of Liz, who had a conflict this weekend).
Daniel Dehaan (b.1988): new work (2013, WORLD PREMIERE) for solo cello
Alexandre Lunsqui: Glaes (2007) for piano and percussion
Morgan Krauss (b.1985): Overcast (2013, WORLD PREMIERE) for bass flute, bass clarinet, and baritone sax
Santiago Diez Fisher (b.1977): Moving as not moving (2012, US PREMIERE) for bass flute, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone, electric guitar, viola, cello, and bass
Grant Wallace Band
Quince is gearing up for our concert featuring new works by composers from Columbia College Chicago. We're thrilled to work with these talented composers. Chace Wall, who invited to come sing, answers our questions about CADRE, music, and Columbia College composers:
1. How did CADRE form and how did you get involved?
CADRE formed roughly ten years ago as a means for students who were highly dedicated to learning about contemporary music to meet and discuss matters that were important to their developing craft. In its beginnings, it was simply a weekly get-together for committed composition students, but in the past five years CADRE has developed into a more serious collective dedicated to promoting contemporary music and furthering the education of any student who takes an interest in the group.
I became involved in the organization around a year and half ago after being initiated into the composition curriculum, and couldn't have been more excited to find people who were as invested in writing and listening to contemporary music as I was. While it was initially a bit intimidating to walk into a room of upperclassmen, the wealth of knowledge that I gained from the listening sessions and group discussions that I participated in was completely undeniable, and the CADRE meetings quickly became the highlight of my week.
2. What has the organization done for the program and for the students involved?
CADRE has long been an important factor in the viability of Columbia's composition program. The organization gives students a much-needed opportunity to know one another outside of the context of the classroom, to know and learn from the work of their peers, and to communicate about the successes and failings they experience in their own work; ultimately creating a community of composers who not only learn from the faculty, but from one another. Lately, we've begun organizing readings of miniatures played by capable members of the group, which will give our composers extra opportunities to hear their work and the work of their peers. Additionally, we've been working on establishing a YouTube channel to host works by Columbia composers, giving the students an additional avenue for self-promotion.
3. What is it like to write for the ensembles, which are different every year? Is it strange to write for players that you may have never met?
Composing for vastly different ensembles each year can prove to be an intimidating task, but is not an altogether new experience for the students at Columbia, who generally have to cope with a new instrumentation every semester. Though approaching the contemporary voice is an especially unique challenge, what has me truly excited about this year's concert is that we finally have the privilege of working with a pre-established ensemble as opposed to one derived from the group's collective imaginings. This means that the composers are writing music for Quince Ensemble as opposed to, for example, violin, flute, and clarinet. Knowing who you're composing for is, as any composer knows, a huge advantage and one that students rarely have, as we're so often assigned a generic instrumentation and have no idea who will be performing our work.
4. It seems like the composers at Columbia College are often adventurous and experimental with their composition projects and processes. How are composers approaching the voice? Will this project be different than past projects for mixed ensembles?
I think it's fair to say that we've all approached the voice from an adventurous and thoroughly contemporary standpoint, but the individual approaches of each composer vary quite drastically from one to the next. Pieces like Danny Hynd's “SWARMS” and Monte Weber's “Chanting Atmosphere” focus quite heavily on extended vocal techniques and utilize amplification as a means of exploring breath and other similarly quiet aspects of the voice. Keegan Meuris' “Far from the Tree” approaches the potential for rhythmic counterpoint and melodic contour in spoken word. My own “Veils” focuses less on extended techniques and more on rhythmic canons and the myriad colors the voice is capable of producing via syllabic transformation, both in the realm of sung pitches and in colorization of the breath.
What's most different to me about this project versus the mixed ensembles that we've composed for in the past is that we have the opportunity to more thoroughly explore a single instrument. Having only the voice to work with, I think, creates a situation in which the composer is freed by his or her limitations. As opposed to considering a few things about many instruments, this helps us come to intimately know and think deeply about the voice's capabilities. I believe these works will be much more exploratory and individualistic than what we've seen in the past, and I couldn't be more excited to hear the end result of everyone's hard work.
The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) can be an extremely helpful tool for singers. It can also be very confusing! If you plan to use IPA in your piece, consider these thoughts...
1. IPA doesn't always sound the way it looks:
Especially the vowels! If you want an "e" sound like the word "bee," the symbol is [i]. Weird, right? Sometimes we get scores that ask for [o] as in "Bob," and we get confused. Then you get annoying emails from us:)
2. Make sure your guide is consistent:
If you include an IPA guide in the notes of your score, make sure the rest of the piece stays consistent with these notes.
3. PLEASE INCLUDE NOTES!
It is so crucial that composers be very clear about their expectations. If you have really, really, really clear notes before your score, you'll get fewer annoying emails from us :) :)
4. About those tongue-chart things:
If you want an [a±] vowel, and it's truly the ONLY vowel sound that will do the job, consider including a recording for the appropriate sound. Those tongue chart things are helpful, but we won't get the exact sound until we hear it.
5. CONSULT A SINGER:
The best advice. I think I finish every blog this way...
Oh! And check out these neat-o IPA sources!
When Quince books a concert, one of the first concerns we have is - "What the heck are we going to sing?!"
There are many considerations in play - "Who's our audience? What do we have available? What new things can we bring?". . .and the one we hate having to think about: "What can we do if one of our members can't be there?" We're pretty fond of each other - and given the option, would rather sing with everyone present. However, the occasion arises where one of us has a prior engagement. (That's what happens with four busy, in-demand performers!)
When we started performing together, we began building an arsenal of varied repertoire - and as we've grown, we've acquired more works through commissions, recommendations, or our own digging. To this point, we have performed mostly quartet repertoire, with an occasional trio, duet, or quintet. It's fun to mix up the texture from time to time. As we discover more repertoire for smaller combinations of lady voices, we gain versatility, and options for when one member must be absent. Among our plans: Feldman's Three Voices (in arrangements for four when we can, and with the original scoring), Scelsi's Sauh duets, and an arrangement of the dearly departed electronic outfit Coil's "Christmas is now drawing near". In addition, we have scores that afford us the flexibility to sing with a reduced instrumentation when necessary.
Past the issue of performer availability - we have experimented with several concert formats. We've performed many potpourri-programs, featuring short works by various composers of the last few decades. At a recent concert at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, we performed (as a quintet) a few longer works, to excellent audience response. With Three Voices, it will be ONE evening-length piece, our first presentation of such a work...
Now, I turn to our audience to ask - what do you prefer? A buffet of lovely short works? One long work? A mixture of the two? We asked a similar question once regarding what we should feature on our debut album. . .now's your chance to chime in! Leave us a comment detailing your "Ideal Quince Concert"!