A wide-ranging Boston summer playlist featuring tracks from Pulitzer Prize Fighter, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol, Neil Cicierega, and the Boston Symphony Chamber Players.
Though Zwilich, Brouwer, and Shatin are only three of many distinguished female composers, they serve as important models of the different ways a successful career as a female composer can look. Each composer has something wildly different to offer to the contemporary music scene with new CD releases.
This selection of chamber works composed between 1993 and 2008 suggest that Becker has an “on/off” switch resulting in either intensely energetic music, or in work of concentrated repose. There isn’t a lot in-between, but clearly such extremes suit the composer.
The more you listen to Lumen, an extremely expansive two-CD set culled from twenty years of recordings of music by Philadelphia-area composer/pianist Adam Berenson, the less aware you are of whether the music was composed a priori or improvised on the spot.
John Adams’s most recent album, released by Nonesuch, could essentially be seen as an exercise in nostalgia; City Noir, commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is an homage to the city of Los Angeles and its movie-making style of the 1940s and ’50s, while the Saxophone Concerto gives a hat tip to Adams’s own jazz-steeped upbringing.
The product of a collaboration between composer/guitarist George Heathco and soprano/lyricist Misha Penton, Ravens and Radishes is a song cycle for guitar, cello, and voice that takes inspiration from classic fairy tales and, unlike the recent film Maleficent, recasts them in a new and interesting light instead of, say, ruining them.
Listening to Robert Erickson’s quartets brings to mind the image of an onion: at first glance, an onion is, well, an onion—basic and non-threatening. But as each layer is peeled away, the onion becomes more pungent and affects the person peeling it with greater, often times uncontrollable intensity.
Unraveled features works written for the group through their ongoing commissioning project. The album is filled from stem to stern with tight writing by young composers, and the spectacular playing engages both intellect and emotion throughout.
Andy Biskin’s quartet Ibid contains clarinet, cornet, trombone, and drums; it’s a quirky group, playing some appropriately zany tunes, to the point where, if you close your eyes for certain tracks, it’s easy to picture a tiny cartoon marching band dancing its way across your field of vision.
In the alternate universe I often wish I lived in, Azure Carter and Alan Sondheim’s “Making Boys” (from their new album Avatar Woman) would be a Top 40 hit. In the real one I do live in, it sounds like what might have happened if Jacqueline Humbert sang Robert Ashley’s songs with Eugene Chadbourne.