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The 21st Century Music Ecosystem

It’s a tough time to be a classical musician.

Of course, it always has been.  When I started conservatory, everyone was upset that the opportunities for American string players to work in Europe were drying up.  And then there were funding cuts!  Many were worried (rightfully so) about cuts to the NEA.  Five years later, when I played at the White House for the Congressional Picnic during the Clinton administration, we were all (still!) talking about cuts in funding.

And here we are today, again looking at potentially devastating cuts in funding.  Of course, now we are looking at major government cuts to so many worthwhile programs, so the NEA and NEH aren’t getting that much attention.

Small ensembles like ours depend on our earnings from concerts, the generosity of our supporters, and small grants to survive.  Like most other ensembles our size, we have never received any money from the government.

So why should we care about the NEA and government funding?  Because we are all a big community, or to paraphrase my friend Judith Insell (Music Programs Manager for the Bronx Arts Ensemble), an ecosystem.  What impacts one part of the community will trickle down, to use a Reaganism, and effect us all — for good or for bad.

So right now, as we should all be hunkering down, preparing for the oncoming storm, we have decided to start a competition for composers.

Logically, it’s not the best idea— it’s not the most financially sensible plan.  But we think it is a necessity.

When you decide to follow the path to be a performing musician, you know that your chances of a stable income and security are unlikely.  Even less of a “sure thing” is becoming a composer.  Only a handful of classical composers are able to make an actual living composing.  The large majority do other things: they teach (music and other subjects), run publishing companies, work regular day jobs, and a host of other things. They spend a lot of time alone, composing, hoping to get their works performed.

This past September, we had the good fortune of performing at Tulane University.  There, we got to meet a number of composition students.  Writing for an ensemble like ours wasn’t something most had considered.  We had a great time talking to them about our group and what’s possible with a mixed-instrument ensemble (i.e. a group that mixes instruments from different families, as opposed to something more homogeneous, like a string quartet).

When we left, all three of us felt that we wanted to work more with student composers.  To that end, we have decided to launch our first competition.

We hope to accomplish a few things:

1) Selfishly, we of course hope to encourage more works for our trio’s combination of instruments.  So many great composers have written and continue to write for us, but inspiring more composers from across the country and the world has to be part of our motivation.

2) Keeping modern classical chamber music a high priority for composers.  Let’s face it – what money is out there for new works often goes to the large arts organizations, like major symphonies and opera companies.  Because of this composers are encouraged to write large scales works for relatively well funded groups. But chamber music is the life blood of classical music.  Chamber music, by design, is intended for smaller, more intimate audiences.  How better to build a direct connection between performer and audience then in intimate environs of a chamber performance?

3) We decided to not put an age limit on our competition, but open it to anyone working towards a Bachelor, Master, Doctorate or doing Post-Graduate work.  We’ve been together as a trio for almost twenty years, and in that time we have had amazing interactions with so many composers who have written for us.  We feel, and most of the composers we have worked with would agree, that the exchange of ideas brings about better pieces and better performances.  We want to bring this opportunity to composers whom we might never meet without the incentive a competition provides.

Of course, competitions cost money.  For the first prize, we’re planning to premiere the work at our annual Fall concert in New York City and a small stipend for the winner, but there are plenty of other expenses.  We need to advertise the competition — much of which can be done on line, but a hard copy mailing to colleges is advised, and we’ll need to buy advertising in printed publications.  We need to pay our adjudicators for sorting through and judging the submissions.  Speaking of the submissions, we need to set up an electronic means for scores and recording to be uploaded and have a project manager to make sure everything runs smoothly and fairly.

And more…

All of this brings me to fund raising.  I hate fund raising.  We all do.  We hate asking for money.  But in our current environment, we know that funding for a small chamber ensemble isn’t coming from the government or some large grant.  It’s coming from the individual, local donor who believes chamber music is important.

That’s why we hope you will join us at our Benefit on Sunday, March 19 at 4:00 PM.  We will be performing a short program, including music of Graun, Jaime Zenamon (a work from our first concert together!), a new work by Spencer Synder, dances by our good friend, Tony Price, as well some of our own tango arrangements.  There will be tapas and sangria as well!  For more information, and to purchase your ticket, please visit: http://eightstringsandawhistle.com/in-concert/please-join-us.html

Can’t be there on the 19th?  You can still make a donation.  Just follow the link and look to the bottom of the page.

We hope to see you there.


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And the there were two!

Today is release day for Doug Anderson’s new album, Douglas Anderson: Chamber Symphonies 2,3,4.    Doug’s already garnering great reviews.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you can read it here.

We recorded Doug’s Chamber Symphony 3 nearly a decade ago in 2006.  We actually recorded in the instrument closet in the old building at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, where Doug, Matt and I all teach.  During Hurricane Sandy that closet was completely flooded with water from the Hudson River.  The odor after was a lovely combination of mold and bleach (Matt remembers notes of carpet adhesive as well).  The day of the session, years before, all was dry.  There were all sorts of cables strung up and  running from the narrow room out to the larger outer space where the computer and drives were.

Recording in a closet was a bit unusual.  I tend to think of recording studios as beautiful spaces with lots of wood and other acoustically favorable materials.  This space, with grey lockers and linoleum floors, wasn’t even close to that image.  We tried to record in the orchestra rehearsal room, but found that the closet (perhaps storage space would be a more accurate description?) was quieter and had better sound.  We laid the piece down in a few hours, and if I remember correctly, Doug took us out for lunch after .  I knew Doug had some “master plan” about getting the work out where people could hear it — but after a year or two or three, I kind of forgot about it.

That is until about two years ago, when Doug told us that he wanted to record Chamber Symphonies 2 and 4 and put out an recording of all three.  He was going in search of a label and would let us know what happened.

And now here it is.  A month after our debut album, Albert’s Window hit the virtual shelves of the internets media stores, out comes DA CS 234, also on the Ravello Records label.

As an aside, I miss when we released records.  I know it makes me sound 100 years old, but with so many ways to listen to music today there is no single word that accurately describes music that you listen to that isn’t a live performance. I hate the word “media”  but with CD’s, MP3’s and other streaming thingys, it’s probably the most accurate.  Still, I just can’t bring myself to call it that, so I’m just going with album.  Don’t take it literally — even though I personally think it would be cool, as far as I know, it isn’t available on vinyl.

We’re not quite done with recordings though.  We are currently finishing edits on an upcoming album of music of Scott Brickman.  That will be coming out later this year.  Scott wrote two pieces for our trio – French Suite and his piano quartet (Ninety Six Strings and Two Whistles) which we premiered and recorded with pianist Beth Levin.  Additionally, each of us collaborated with Beth to record an individual work.  There’s Windpower, for flute and piano (winner of best title), Divertimento for cello and piano, and Partita for viola and piano.  Don’t be fooled by the Baroque Period titles – they are all 21st century Brickman.

I’ll be writing more about Scott’s album soon, but in the meantime check out the first two here.


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REM to Robots

This has been a very busy Fall.  We finally unleashed Albert’s Window on the world, had our Tenri concert, as well as our first appearance on the Arts on the Corner series in Brooklyn.  Additionally, we finished recording music for an upcoming CD of compositions by Scott Brickman and are neck deep in edits for that.   Coupled with my running the NYC Marathon for the third time, marking term papers, getting final exams ready, attending student recitals and, oh yeah, practicing and playing some gigs, I just haven’t been able to write a blog.  So, I subbed it out.

I asked Anne Wigglesworh (or Dr. Anne, as we call her) if she would consider writing a blog and she generously has.   Please enjoy.

On becoming a groupie

In spite of having been somehow exposed to music all my life—Puccini and Chopin on the wind-up Victrola  at my grandmother’s; Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music; many choirs and school choruses; violin lessons; the Beach Boys and the Beatles and folk music and REM—I didn’t discover chamber music until my mid-sixties.

Chamber music astounded me by its permutations of sweetness and drama, the variety and tunefulness of the standard-practice repertoire, the varied emotions it revealed or evoked. Every voice could be heard both on its own and as part of the whole sound. I learned that, whereas a giant orchestra had trouble sounding small, that a quartet or trio could sound small and enormous. (Did you hear the Erlkönig encore at the Eight Strings & a Whistle Tenri concert last year?)  I gave up the Philharmonic, the ballet, the opera, and the movies and started going to chamber concerts all the time and in any venue.

The next thing I knew, I was studying the cello. Me and the cello is not the story I am telling here, though full disclosure prompts me to say that Matt is my cello teacher. Likewise, Ina and Suzanne have both coached ensembles I’ve played in at Summerkeys in Lubec, Maine, where I first met them all. Naturally, I wanted to attend the ensemble’s concerts, but I doubted I’d go for the actual music. I had no idea what to expect: Living composers?   What living composers? Are there any? Will I be able to get into the music at all?

At the first of their concerts I heard, they  played Hilary Tann’s “The Walls of Morlais Castle” and I was amazed by the sound, the intricacy of the piece, and its approachability.  It was, surprisingly, beautiful.  The ensemble sounded like an orchestra, like a small ensemble, like individuals. I had to discard my preconceptions about how they were “supposed” to sound because I hadn’t heard some of those sounds before. Neither had anyone else, in many cases. The vibe at their concerts was welcoming and engaging—the musicians got up and talked about the music they played, how they’d come across it, why they’d commissioned it. Sometimes the composers appeared and said a few (or many) words about the piece. And the ensemble members were such stars. My mind opened. After a couple of performances, I was a fan for sure. I go to all their concerts. I follow them around like a groupie: Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan, Presque Isle, Machias, Bay Ridge. I hear the Big Concert programs before the Big Performances, and find them as familiar as, um, Mozart. Nearly.

I didn’t, and still don’t, always get the new pieces when I hear them. Sometimes I get distracted by my foot going to sleep, or some bit in the music —“why did the guy make them pizz 87 identical notes?” “why does this sound like a series of crashes and booms?” “Why this affected-sounding title?” “Which twelve tones are they playing now and what does it mean?”—but it’s a cornucopia of sound at every concert. I’ve become impatient for the end of the standard practice piece they always include, because I want to hear what comes next. When the first notes play, I have no idea what is going to follow. How will the other instruments joining? Where will the music is go?  It’s sure to be engaging and always beautifully played (even the crashes and booms).

Concerts are, of course, ephemeral. But there’s a recourse for those of us who want to hear pieces again, because we loved them, or because we want to understand or relive what was happening, as the performance goes by so fast. Eight Strings & a Whistle has just released a CD, Albert’s Window. Hearing on the CD the music previously experienced live in the concert space expands my enjoyment and helps me see all that action that was going past me while my foot was asleep. It clarifies the structure of pieces that didn’t seem to make total sense at first. In the first piece on the CD, Martin Rokeach’s “Going Up?”, I love the way the flute sets the pace for the more leisurely wave motion of the rest of the piece.  I can better hear the copying machine at Ed Cionek’s Staples when I hear “Bad Robots” at home, where I can listen without the distractions of the concert hall.

So why go to concerts, then, if I can draw so much enjoyment and learn so much from the CD? “That’s pretty easy,” you might say, “of course you go to your teachers’ concerts.” Even so, there are plenty of other reasons to hear them in the concert hall. The warmth of engaging directly with the musicians is missing from the CD, as are the intimate short talks before the new pieces and the remarks of the often-present composers. Listening at home, I miss the excitement of hearing music written for the musicians, that we are hearing often for the first time. Who wouldn’t find that exciting?

I’m a little past groupie age, but I think that’s what I’ve become; thank you, Eight Strings & a Whistle!

Anne at Benefit

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The Pope and Pistachios

The Pope is coming to New York tomorrow.  I’m  not Catholic, but from what I can see, as Pope’s go, this one is okay.

In spite of all the preparations, NY nonchalance is in abundance.  Sure, there’s lots of prep, street closings and traffic headaches anticipated,  but here in NY, we are used to lots and lots of stuff, so what’s a Papal visit?  And so what if 70-80 other world leaders will be in town?  Nothing to worry about.  It’s not like we’re Philly or something…

(So I realize I have just offended all our fans in Philadelphia. My apologies.  I like Philly as a city.  I just hate your sports teams, and any real Philly fan will understand this, as they feel the same way about ours.  At least you’re not Red Sox fans.)

And to be fair, here in NY, we’re used to dealing with this kind of thing.  The UN General Assembly meets every year.  What’s an additional Pope?

All this has me thinking back to 2002.  We had been performing in the St. John Valley in northern Maine. After the concerts, we stuck around for four additional days to record in the beautiful acoustic space of the “Association Culturelle et Historique du Mont-Carmel”.  This was our first venture into recording as an ensemble.  We commuted each day from the dorms at the University of Maine, Fort Kent to Lille, about a 40 minute trip.  The locals thought we were crazy — though more for staying in the dorms (!!) than the drive. Saying that, quite a few were concerned about the traffic we had to deal with. This mystified us:  The three other cars on Route 1?  Not a real issue. Clearly they had never driven to a wedding gig on Long Island in June!

As I said, this was our first attempt at recording and I learned a lot.

I learned that it is really hard to play recording engineer and musician at the same time.  Matt has excellent ears in his head and knows his way around Pro Tools, but running the equipment, positioning microphones, and then having to sit at the cello and play is a lot to ask.

I learned that recording equipment makes noise.  That’s why they have it in a sound proof room.

I learned that even in Lille, there is noise from outside.  It’s rather amazing how much sound comes from Route 1.

I learned that it’s really easy to set off a fire alarm in a college dorm while illegally cooking on a hotplate.

And I learned that Don Cyr really knows how to cook and knows exactly when to bring fresh strawberries and pistachio nuts into an edit session.

Oh, that reminds me — I learned not to listen to the takes right after you play them.  Even if you are on a time constraint.

Most importantly, we learned to hire the right people so we could focus on playing.  (That’s you, Peter Karl and all the great people at PARMA Recordings!)

Once we were done, we had a few free days before we had to be down the coast for more concerts.  We were on a tight budget (hence the accommodations at UMFK) and not knowing Maine as well as we do now, we decided to stay in a motel on the outskirts of Calais.

Calais (pronounced callous by the locals — none of that fancy French stuff!) is on the corner where Downeast Maine meets inland.  Somehow, we stayed on the north end of this town.  We were far enough out to not even realize there is such thing as downtown Calais.

I”ll pause here to stay that memory is a funny thing. I am sure we were north of Calais.  Suzanne is positive it was on the south side.

And we had terrible weather.  Rain!!  And more Rain!!!

The first night there, the motel management recommended a restaurant just down the road.  We drove there in the old Chevy Cavalier (nicknamed the Chevy Cavalier of Death) even though the place was less then a mile away. I can’t recall the name of the restaurant.   This was before such things as Yelp were around, but if they had existed, I would have given this restaurant no stars. As a matter of fact, I would have given it 3 negative stars.   Super pretentious, with table cloths and 6-piece silver settings, AND they had the audacity to charge $20-30 for entrees –– NY prices (and high New York prices to boot).  We were one of maybe 2 tables there and for good reason.  Dinner was over-cooked and reminded me of a menu from a 1976 Bar Mitzvah on Long Island.  A mediocre one.  Poorly prepared and over priced.   Can we say terrible!

The next day we made a trek across the border to the Canadian tourist town of St. Andrews.  Apparently this is a really cute place.  Unfortunately it was overcast and gloomy the entire time we were there.  The only thing I really remember was being stopped at the border crossing, as the Canadian Border Patrol gave our car an extremely thorough search.  Later we heard a story on Maine Public Radio that three people had stolen a ATM card and gotten away with $220.  Apparently they had a car with NY plates.  Even though the suspects were two men and a woman, I guess we ticked enough boxes.  I also remember Suzanne buying a baby gift for her step-sister’s baby (she’s be 13 now) and. some nice person, maybe the baby shop lady, telling us about a better route back across the border. Following those directions we ended up at the alternate, truck route crossing. After the extended car search heading outbound, we were all a little on edge crossing the border home.  No extended search this time, but the US border patrol agent found it hard to believe we were staying in Calais on holiday.  In retrospect, I can’t fault him there.

So on Day 3, with rain pouring, we holed up in one of our hotel rooms and watched TV.  All we could get was Canadian TV and what were they covering?  That’s right, Pope John Paul II was visiting Toronto, and all Canadian media was in a tizzy –– a wall to wall Pope-a-Palooza! The coverage was mainly in French (a language in which none of us are fluent) so many times we made up our own narrative.  There was quite a lot of interpretive dance and singing, in Toronto that is.  We mainly drank wine.

Now Pope Francis is coming to NY.  Sadly, we have not been asked to play for the Pope –– his loss.  Instead, I think we might have to gather together and watch a bit of NY style Pope-a-rama, for old times sake.



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With a twist of lime

I’ll skip the excuses.  This poor blog has been ignored.  We’ve been busy!

2015 is the year we learned collectively what it’s like to record a lot of music –– two CDs worth,  make editing decisions for one, and still rehearse for concerts.  It’s been exciting and tiring.

As I write this, we are very close to completion of our first recording, which will be released by PARMA Recordings.  On TV and in the movies, recording looks so glamorous –– THE ARTIST blows into the studio with their entourage, who scurry around to make sure THE ARTIST has everything they could possibly need before they even know they want it.  Works are thrown down in one take.  Playback is painless, inspiring, and as they listen, headphones that never mess up a strand of hair are used.  Moments later, the project is miraculously ready for release.

You have to love TV.

In real life, we shlepped out to Brooklyn on the Q train.  (Just to be completely honest, Suzanne was able to walk to the studio.) Every single session day, it either rained, poured or snowed.  Our entourage never showed, though the fabulous Peter Karl, a terrific engineer with a great studio, always had coffee and tea ready.

We’d dry off, then start tracking.  We always followed the same general plan:  Record the whole movement through, complete –– sometimes twice –– then record the movement in chunks.  If there was a particularly problematic section, we would do that a few more times.  Most of our sessions were about three hours, and thankfully we had Peter and our producer, John Frisch, there to keep us on track.

In November, right before Thanksgiving, we finished tracking for our CD (and yes, it has a title, but I am not saying what it is yet) and immediately starting recording Scott Brickman’s works for his CD, which will also be released by PARMA.

(For his CD, Scott wrote each of us a solo piece with piano, as well as a piano quartet.  French Suite, which he wrote for us and we premiered last November, will also be on this recording.  In addition to the continuing work on our CD, we were also rehearsing with pianist Beth Levin, and  heading out to Peter Karl’s –– in the rain –– to record.)

In my imaginary world, once you, THE ARTIST, is done tracking, you’re done.  This is how it works when you’re hired to play a session:  Show up, do your job, get paid, go home.

But when it’s your project you are in for the long haul –– all the way ––  so with the same intensity of our rehearsals, the three of us and our producer, John, listened to everything we recorded and figured out which takes we were going to use. Fortunately, everything was perfect every time, and so the selection process took no time at all…

I like to live in my fantasy world.  Everything is so easy there.

After a few more trips to Peter’s  –– in the rain –– all the edits were done.  (And as I write about Peter Karl and his excellent studio, it has begun to rain again!)

And then the files went off to Parma for mastering… and we’re done!

Well, not quite.  More listening.  The Parma engineers are wonderful.  They created masters, listened to our feedback, and responded with adjustments.  They gave us many final versions to choose from, but ultimately we could only choose one.  And this time it happened:  All three of us chose the same one.  And so now, we really are done.

I think…

Of course when one project comes to a finish, the next one gets cooking.  Very soon, we’ll start the edit process on Scott Brickman’s CD….but maybe a trip to the beach and a Hell’s Kitchen Fizz* first!


*Recipe for Hells Kitchen Fizz, courtesy Matt Goeke

  • Bombay Sapphire Gin (Or whatever Gin you like)
  • Black Currant Juice
  • Club Soda
  • Lime for garnish
  • Ice

Put ice in a nice tall glass

Add gin and juice (1/3 gin, 2/3 juice)

Top with a splash of the soda

Garnish with lime


Hell's Kitchen Fizz!!

Hell’s Kitchen Fizz!!




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photo 2We had a great rehearsal today, in preparation for our Nov. 21 concert at Tenri (tickets on sale now at http://8sw2014.bpt.me/ ) and Nov. 9  at Good Shepherd Church in Brooklyn.  Peri Mauer’s piece is coming along and almost ready to be unveiled.

After, we had a good trio business meeting over food at East Restaurant on W. 55th St.  East is a good Japanese restaurant, with tasty sushi, but often too salty miso soup.   They have huge tables and banquet seating, so plenty of place to have a score out and plenty of room to store a couple of flutes!  Here are some photos from today:

Rock and rollsChicken Katsu



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Lunch Box

I was thinking back to my first blogs and they were always about food.  What we ate, where we ate.  I haven’t ventured there recently, but as we were dinning on a delicious lunch post-rehearsal, it occurred to me that it was still very important to us.

Generally, we rehearsal in the morning and rehearsals are normally three hours.  By the time we finish, it is lunch time.  Actually, that is usually how we know it is time to stop.  One of us, often Matt, announces that we are either tired, or hungry or both.  The we go through the laborious debate of where to go.  This year we’ve had to think a bit more about time, as Suzanne is teaching on the Far East side and she needs to allow time to get there –can’t be late for the budding flutists!

So we debate the options. Mexican is a favorite, but lately we have been hitting Sushi more frequently.  Yummy, healthy and on the way to the subway.

But today, the plan was to go for Mexican. Of course, we weren’t the only people with this brilliant idea on a Friday in Hell’s Kitchen. Our favorite joint was full, full, full, so we went for plan B.

Plan B was Alfies, a beer pub, with a huge beer list, (not that useful for lunch) and excellent food.  At night and especially on the weekends, Alfies is filled with hip, twenty something’s, many of whom can not hold their liquor, but at lunch time it is fairly quiet.  One can have a nice lunch and discuss trio business all at the same time.

Okay, so we don’t always discuss business over lunch.  Often we tell stories and gossip.  In between we plot our world takeover, I mean our recording session and concert plans.

So first the review.  We recommend Alfies.  Good beer, even if I
didn’t have any today.  I had a delicious watermelon salad, while Matt had yummy fish and chips. and Suzanne had a grilled cheese sandwich. I know you are thinking,”grilled cheese –  how coffee shopish”, but you would be wrong.  The fancy gastropub is all the rage here in the West 50′s. Taking your basic comfort item and elevating it to gourmet height. Suzanne reported it to be nice and light and since she ate all of it, I can only assume was lovely.

I should say that Alfies is where I ate after last years NYC Marathon.  I thought about their ribs for a least the last ten miles of the race. Sadly, they have taken them off the menu.

And we did get a little work done, discussing some possible summer concerts, editing decisions from our recording sessions and such.  But truth be told, lunch is really about having a good meal and nice hang together.

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Wranitzsky, Inventor of the Pitchfork

The new 2014-15 season is upon us.  We’ve started a new rehearsal cycle and we’re pretty excited.

This Fall’s program is a mix of new and old repertory pieces.  We’re bring back Martin Rokeach’s Going Up?, which we recorded this summer for our upcoming CD.  Also back is Albert Roussel Trio, op. 40, the work that first brought us together.  We are very excited to be premiering Peri Mauer’s  Thought’s Torsion  and we will be performing Scott Brickman’s French Suite which got its NY premiere last May at the Queen’s New Music Festival.

Rounding out the program is a lovely trio by Paul Wranitzky.  While we play a great deal of new music, we also have a passion for uncovering works by composers sadly forgotten by many.  Wranitzky was a contemporary of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven.  Living in Vienna, he was well known as both a composer and conductor, actually conducting the premiere  of Beethoven’s First Symphony.

As a composer he was quite prolific, and while his style is clearly late Classical, there are interesting moments of innovation.  It’s easy to get lulled into just focusing on his lyric line and charm, but there is a depth this? harmonizes and structure we hope audiences will enjoy.  The a Gavotte of the Trio in G major, which we will perform at the Tenri Cultural Institute in November is a great example.  It begins as a clear gavotte, but a third of the way, Wranitzky abandons the dance, instead developing completely different melodic material.  Near the end of the movement, he reconsiders this strategy and returns to the gavotte.   His innovations in form and especially  in gavottes made him a vastly controversial composer of the early nineteenth century. Gavotte traditionalists protested his innovativeness,  fearing his new style would destroy the purity of the revered Gavotte.  Much like the divide between Tango enthusiasts of the 20th Century  over Astor Piazzolla’s music, these Gavotte traditionalists boycotted his concerts and shunned him.

Fortunately, here in the 21 st century there is room for both traditional Gavottes and those of innovation.

Doing research on composers is interesting and illuminating, but sometimes it’s more fun to just make stuff up.  Wranitzky really was an interesting composer and the part about conducting Beethoven’s First Symphony is true.  Of course, if you want to read a real interview with a real composer, check out Suzanne’s interview with Scott Brickman, our next featured composer.

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On the Gowanus Canal

This coming Thursday, July 10, we are heading back to Peter Karl’s studio in Gowanus, (or North Park Slope adjacent, if you prefer), Brooklyn, to work on our debut CD for PARMA Recordings.

This is our second recording session this summer. Our first session took place in early June, when we recorded Martin Rokeach’s Going Up?. We’ve been very fortunate to have an old friend and colleague, John Frisch, handling the role of producer for us. Over the years, we’ve all come to the realization that you can’t be all things at all times. Smart doctors don’t diagnose themselves, lawyers normally engage another attorney if they need someone to represent them in court – one really shouldn’t cut one’s own hair. So, while all three of us have good ears in our heads and are capable of judging whether or not we have gotten our best performance, it is a thousand times easier with an objective person in the studio. John, along with Peter Karl, helped facilitate the last session seamlessly, but in addition to the time in the studio, we’ve actually gotten quite a bit more then we had hoped for. John has studied the scores, attended our rehearsals and really been pushing us to take our performances, both individually and collectively, to the next level. It’s been an exciting and sometimes exhausting process.

On Thursday we will record Peter Jonah Korn’s Aloysia Serenade, a significantly longer work. One of the hard parts about recording,versus performing, is stamina. Recording a twenty minute piece can take four hours. It’s easy to hit a wall or get stuck on stupid. Pacing is going to be key. And food! As readers of this blog know from past entries, food is very important to all three of us. After I complete this blog, I’ll be researching what is good to eat nearby to Peter’s place. (already thinking of Pad Thai…)

Meanwhile, enjoy a few candid photos from our last outing.


Suzanne consults with John between takes

photo 2

Engineer Peter Karl, still smiling. Must have been early in the day!

photo 1

John consults the score during playback


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Wax Cylinders

About two weeks ago, we signed with PARMA Recordings.  We’ll be recording and releasing our first album in 2016. More about PARMA soon! but in the meantime check out their website and blog announcing our addition to their roster of artists here.

Many people have asked us why we haven’t had a CD before this. After all, people sell their own CDs in the subway and on street corners. It can’t be that hard to do.

Perhaps we’ve just been a bit overly cautious, but as a group, we like to have a plan. Recording is a big deal. Anyone who has done it will tell you that going into the studio is an expensive and often stressful process. One better be ready before going in.

Personally I like to have a plan. Not to say I never do anything on the spur of the moment, but with big things, I like to know where we are going and what we are doing before starting. I feel pretty confident in saying Matt and Suzanne feel the same way.

So it was important to us to have a label before we went into the studio. We know of too many great projects that have spent years on hold while their creators tried to get the attention of a label. Or else the artist has to produce and distribute on their own. Bless the musician that has the time and wherewithal to make it happen on their own. It’s a huge undertaking, one we simply don’t have the time to do.

And there’s the changing industry. How people buy and consume music continues to change so rapidly. There are so few physical places to even buy music. And how many people even buy actual CDs anymore?

I know I sound like some old grumpy fart. Of course I do live in a home with a few hundred vinyl recordings and, yes, a reel to reel recorder. (Anyone want a reel to reel?)

So all this is a long way of saying how excited we are to partner with PARMA. Having a great label, with the knowledge of production and marketing takes such a a weight off of us. Now we can focus on what we should — performing great works.

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