First Viola Sonata, Op. 1

Violists tend to feel like left out like second cousins at the party, but really it seems like the perfect instrument—the soul of the cello with all the portability of a violin. Easley Blackwood is a composer who appears to have relished in what the viola has to offer. Two viola sonatas are presented on […]


I’m always lured in by a musical composition that has a forceful opening, especially a piece of music scored for a large orchestra. Even better than the first paragraph of a novel that’s written in such a way that you can’t put it down, the opening measures can focus my attention and keep it there […]

Monologue with Accompaniment

The string of CDs released under Lucky Kitchen’s Sparkling Composers Series implies a global subculture of musicians and audio artists creating electronic music using acoustic means—or the reverse—without prejudice, someplace where “uptown” and “downtown” never even existed. If the 2001 release Monologue with Accompaniment by Aerospace Soundwise (a.k.a. Todd A. Carter) escaped your radar when […]

Five Melodies for Violin and Piano

What a melody—or rather, what melodies. Though I’ve never heard a performance of Charles Jones’s Five Melodies for Orchestra, and so cannot make a thorough comparison, I was quite amazed to discover that Five Melodies for Violin and Piano is a reduction of that score. I could not imagine adding or subtracting a note from […]

Bud Ran Back Out

One of the most entertaining listens that’s come across my desk in a long time is, believe it or not, a CD of MIDI generated performances by a composer principally known as a music critic. Sound unlikely? Check out Kyle Gann’s Studies for Disklavier hot off the presses on New World. The artistic reward for […]

Good Bait

With an album title that riffs off Wes Craven’s early cult clunker and a map of the Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleum superimposed under the track listings, not to mention Eugene Chadbourne’s name attached to the project, I was expecting something, well, a little scary. And like any good horror flick, I was startled. No, […]

A Yellow Rose Petal

A Yellow Rose Petal was Alvin Singleton’s first work for orchestra, commissioned by the Houston Symphony in 1982. The title is a reference to the state flower, though to my ear the musical content in no way connects with any sort of brush clearing, six-gun machismo. Rather, various sections of the orchestra play a sort […]

I Will Stay Here

I spend so much of my time in Chinatown shopping for groceries that it’s often hard to remember that this hurly-burly of shops and restaurants is also still a large residential neighborhood filled with a zillion personal stories. Chinese-American composer and jazz violinist Jason Kao Hwang has teamed up with librettist Catherine Filloux to fashion […]

Three Hallucinations

I always thought that Ken Russell was a genius for hiring John Corigliano to compose music for the over-the-top imagery of Altered States. Who else could have trumped Russell’s panache for the dramatic? Now Corigliano’s Three Hallucinations, an orchestral suite compiled from music written for the film, has taken on a life of its own, […]


In the middle of A Blessing, John Hollenbeck and his crew (a complete contingent of woodwinds, brass, and “secret weapon” vocalist Theo Bleckmann) let loose and for four minutes enter into a mad sort of Dionysian rebellion. Like a two-year-old’s worst temper tantrum, the players scream, kick, and scratch before they seem to tire themselves […]