Scratch That: Solidarity, Grammys, and Drinking

Two women gossiping

First things first: (Re)New Amsterdam, a benefit concert which was born when Chicago composer Marcos Balter posted a call for performers on Facebook, has now grown to include almost every new music ensemble in Chicago. The fact that the entire community could be gathered so quickly is either (a) a quaint demonstration of Midwestern generosity, like a church bake sale, or (b) a demonstration of how organized, savvy, and connected the scene has become in recent years. The concert will take place on December 16 as part of the (Un)familiar Music Series at the Empty Bottle, curated by Spektral Quartet violist Doyle Armbrust. Storm-ravaged NYC record label New Amsterdam Records is the beneficiary of the fundraiser. NewAm co-founder Sarah Kirkland Snider tweeted: “To everyone who dwells on warring factions in new music aesthetics, look no further than this.” She has a point, since the evening will include Dojo and Searchl1te (those are DJs), the hardcore Darmstadt-prize-winning ensemble dal niente, some Steve Reich easy listening-type stuff, and a folk/outsider jazz band whose members are all composers. Tickets are $10—more if you can—and you’re advised to squeeze onto the guest list right away. // Next week, ensemble dal niente will present their annual homage to new music virtuosity, Hard Music Hard Liquor, at Mayne Stage. We are really looking forward to it, although the event’s concept only magnifies the sad difference between a new music rock star and an actual rock star: the latter gets sloppy onstage; the former does not, because she is counting furiously, threading the needle, sober as a lamb. // Chicago-based touring superstars eighth blackbird have another Grammy nomination—this time for their most recent release, Meanwhile. To celebrate this, we’ll re-watch the beautiful video that Manual Cinema made in collaboration with the ensemble. The title piece by Stephen Hartke was nominated for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. // Chicago is losing Fifth House Ensemble pianist, artistic director, and mensch Adam Marks to New York City. Fifth House’s new pianist is Jani Parsons. // Over on her blog last week, Chicago composer Alex Temple posted a spirited defense of living with a moderate amount of irony. It was nice to see some pushback against that NYTimes hipster hatefest, which we sympathize with but which frankly went too far when it implied that playing the trombone was a hipster thing. // Last week, orchestral musicians in Chicago and beyond moaned in unison over a “scientific study” which found that conductors are, indeed, necessary. The experiment involved attaching an infrared laser beam to a baton and some violin bows, and figuring out who moves first. After being dealt this blow, hundreds of instrumentalists valiantly went to rehearsals in which they managed to play “Sleigh Ride” in spite of what was happening on the podium.

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