Blue State

The “blue” of this piece doesn’t just come through in the flatted notes in Elliott Sharp’s guitar playing or the minor-key refrain in the rough timbres of trombone and baritone sax. It’s also the color that a wind musician’s face might turn upon attempting to recreate the harmonics, arpeggiated runs, and furious trills of Sharp’s […]

Missa Brevis

Chorus of the University of Utah and brass from the Utah Symphony conducted by Newell Weight Here’s another curio from New World’s ongoing project to reissue the back catalogue of the sadly discontinued Composers Recordings Inc. (CRI): a harmonically eclectic setting of the mass for chorus and brass composed by Vladimir Ussachevsky, who today is […]


James Kosnick, organ; David Walker and Rob Cross, percussion Here’s one for the oddest-instrumentation-you’ll-hear-this-month category: a work for organ and two percussionists. And such a combination can create some really ferocious sounds, all of which find their way into Virginia-based composer Adolphus Hailstork’s appropriately turbulent 29-minute response to the events of September 11, 2001. —FJO

Heroes Symphony

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop At the center of this five-movement work is a spare, tense and perfectly named section: “Sense of Doubt.” The alternation of heavy descending figures and light, shimmering sounds captures the uncertainty of Cold War-era Berlin that inspired the 1977 Brian Eno/David Bowie album and, in turn, Glass’s 1996 […]

Toot tooT

David Gier, trombone; David Greenhoe, trumpet The piece gives its name to a CD of “Chamber Trios with Trombone.” Stemper’s note on the performance reflects a political edge (it was written in the “bewildering span of time between 9/11 and the Iraq ‘conflict’”), and the piece wildly veers from subtle to raging to comical. The […]


Mark Hill, oboe A joke, long circulated among woodwind players (how it ever made it back to me in the trombone section, I’ll never know): What’s the difference between an oboe and a clarinet? A clarinet burns longer. But on Alchemy (suggestive of a transformation by fire), oboist Mark Hill’s sizzling sound falls somewhere between […]


Latigo, a 2007 Grammy-nominated disc by Quartet San Francisco, features Latin percussion accompanying string quartet tangos and dances. Some of the tracks have odd ripples of “Oye Como Va”—congas and cowbells playing familiar patterns—but Cohen, the group’s first violinist, uses the quartet creatively to mirror the percussion instruments in his piece “Crowdambo.” Some fancy bow […]

Wake Up Dead Man

Chris Becker creates extraordinarily vivid, almost cinematic, sonic landscapes from layering old field recordings with modern day electronics and contributions from a wide variety of improvising instrumentalists. On “Wake Up Dead Man,” Becker uses a chain-gang chant as a starting point for an extraordinarily eerie evocation of hard time. —FJO

Quartet for Percussion

Matthew Gold, Eduardo Leandro, Tom Kolor, Matthre Ward, percussion; Paul Hostetter, conductor When confronted with an album titled Matrix, a compilation of chamber music by baby boomer composer Louis Karchin, one would expect to hear a big giant mound of integral serialism. Yes, there’s a fair share of atonal sonorities, but the longest work on […]

East St. Louis, 1968

It’s a truly ’60s flashback—to composer Soldier’s childhood specifically. Soldier seems to be pursuing some sort of intellectual mash up philosophy in many of the pieces included on this disc of chamber works—Baroque suites meet North American powwow dances, a bass flute player channels a young rapper—but in East St. Louis, 1968, Soldier takes us […]

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