Tag Archives: Signal Ensemble

12 hours of free music at the Bang on a Can Marathon

The World Financial Center Winter Garden was packed for last year's Bang on a Can Marathon. (Photo copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Every year, the Bang on a Can Marathon brings a wide range of new music and spectacular performers to New York City to perform in a massive free concert — and this year is no exception. The Marathon is coming up in just two weeks, from noon to midnight on Sunday, June 27, at the World Financial Center Winter Garden at 220 Vesey Street in Lower Manhattan.

Burkina Electric, an African band organized by composer Lukas Ligeti (second from right) is just one of the great acts at the Bang on a Can Marathon.

This year’s program will, as always, feature Bang on a Can’s house band, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and a host of other great acts, including Living Colour’s eclectic guitarist Vernon Reid, African band Burkina Electric, John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, Signal ensemble and Gamelan Galak Tika.

Bang on a Can has been presenting these marathons since 1987 at various locations around NYC. Since moving to the WFC, thanks to the generosity of co-presenter Arts World Financial Center and the River to River festival, admission has been free. The Marathon turns the Winter Garden into a big, 12-hour party, with people coming and going and the mood shifting with the performers and the changing natural light pouring through the glass walls.

Click here to check out photos and coverage of last year’s Marathon by Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?

Click to the jump for the full list of performers and schedule.

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Signal plays Philip Glass

Brad Lubman conducts Signal with Michael Riesman. (Photos copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Signal, the stunning young contemporary chamber ensemble, did a great job performing some of the works of Philip Glass at Manhattan’s (Le) Poisson Rouge on Sunday evening. They gave the New York premiere of Glassworks, the 1981 suite that in a recorded version became ubiquitous to the point of absurdity in its day as it seemed to be on everyone’s cassette Walkman during that time. Other works performed included Music in Similar Motion and selections from the opera La Belle et la Bête and Anima Mundi.

Michael Riesman, longtime keyboardist and musical director for the Philip Glass Ensemble joined Signal for Sunday’s two shows, and made new arrangements of some of the works.

Sadly, Glass himself did not show up for the early show, which many fans hoped would happen. But the heavy-lidded senior statesmen of minimalism did make it to the second set, to the apparent delight of that audience.

More photos after the jump. Continue reading

Signal tackles Helmut Lachenmann tonight

Composer Helmut Lachenmann joins Signal Enselmble and JACK Quartet to celebrate his 75th birthday on Saturday night.

German composer Helmut Lachenmann celebrates his 75th birthday at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre tonight when he joins Signal Ensemble and  JACK Quartet for the final Composer Portrait concert of the Miller season.

Lachenmann says he believes in “music which, in order to be grasped, does not require a privileged intellectual training, but can rely uniquely upon its compositional clarity and logic.”

The audience will have the rare chance to hear Lachenmann playing 2 of his solo piano works, and he will also be joining Signal as the spoken text soloist on one piece.

Additionally, cellist Lauren Radnofsky (Signal’s executive director) will be playing Pression, a wild 1969 piece for solo cello, The JACK Quartet (which includes violist John Pickford Richards, well known to New York audiences for his work with Alarm Will Sound) will be joining Signal in the ensemble and also performing his most difficult string quartet.

Here’s a video of Lachenmann speaking about his work:

And go to YouTube to see and hear Lachenmann playing his Wiegenmusick, which is on tonight’s program.

This is one of Signal’s biggest projects to date, and is expected to lead to a CD/surround sound DVD release.

It’s also a chance to hear the wonderfully flexible and talented Signal, directed by Brad Lubman, perform Lachenmann’s challenging compositions, which are somewhat different than its typical repertoire.

The program covers four decades of Lachenmann’s composing life with these pieces: Wiegenmusik for solo piano (1963), Pression for solo cello (1969-1970), Ein Kinderspiel for solo piano (1980), String Quartet No. 2 Reigen seliger Geister (1989) and …Zwei Gefühle… featuring Lachenmann himself as spoken-text soloist (1991-1992).

The evening will also include a discussion with Lachenmann and Yale professor Seth Brodsky. It should be an amazing evening of music.

Composer Portrait: Helmut Lachenmann, 8 pm tonight, Thursday, April 1, Miller Theatre,  116th St. & Broadway on the campus of Columbia University. Tickets $25, available online and at the door.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Signal’s co-founders on their new Steve Reich commission

Composer Steve Reich, center, with Signal's co-founders Brad Lubman and Lauren Radnofsky. (Photo courtesy of Todd Reynolds)

Composer Steve Reich, center, with Signal's co-founders Brad Lubman and Lauren Radnofsky. (Photo courtesy of Todd Reynolds)

Signal has existed for little over a year. But in that time, the flexible New Music ensemble has developed a reputation as one of the finest interpreters of the canon. The group skillfully tackles the music of many of today’s greatest composers, but it’s closely identified with the work of Steve Reich — partly because composer-conductor Brad Lubman, one of Signal’s two co-founders, has long been associated with Steve and the Steve Reich Ensemble.

Signal had the honor of being the first ensemble other than eighth blackbird to play Steve’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Double Sextet. It was an honor because eighth blackbird commissioned the piece and has control over who else can perform it. Signal did such a fine job with the piece, clearly illustrating its strong connections with Steve’s work — that I started wondering how long it would take before Signal would get its own piece from Steve.

I asked Signal’s other co-founder, cellist Lauren Radnofsky, that question, and was thrilled to learn that we were on the same page: a commission was in the works. Because the commission involved a Meet the Composer grant and a co-commissioner, the news had to stay under wraps until everything was nailed down. With today’s announcement of MTC’s grants, it’s no longer a secret.

Signal performing at (Le) Poisson Rouge.

Signal performing at (Le) Poisson Rouge.

Lauren and Brad filled in Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? about the exciting news in an email interview last night:

Q: How did Signal’s Steve Reich commission come about?

A: It was an idea we thought of early on, after Signal formed.  We love his music, so it seemed that he’d be the first and most obvious person to ask, especially given everyone’s association with him and his music — especially Brad, who has worked with Steve and premiered a number of his pieces over the last 14 years.

Q: What are the parameters of the piece? Is there a subject, context, or idea that you guys suggested, or is he totally on his own?

A: He’s totally on his own.

Q: Is there a title?

A: Not yet.

Q:  What’s the process? Is it collaborative or will Steve write and you guys will play it?

A: He writes, we play!

Q: Is he writing for a specific configuration of the group?

A: The exact instrumentation is not yet determined, but the piece will be for approximately 20 players.

Q: You describe it as a co-commission.

A: The other co-commissioner is MITO/Settembre Musica in Italy.

Q: How excited are you guys about this?

A: YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We couldn’t be more excited!!!!!!!!!

Q:  When will it be premiered?

A: The premiere will be during the 2011-12 concert season.

Q: What are your plans for the work?

A: We’re working to plan tours in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. We would record the piece at a later date.

EXCLUSIVE: Reich, Signal, Stew, ETHEL, Muhly, DuBois and more win Meet the Composer grants

Signal performing at (Le) Poisson Rouge.

Signal performing at (Le) Poisson Rouge.

It’s an exciting morning for new music. Meet the Composer, the leading new music commissioning organization, is announcing the winners of  $450,000 in grants to composers and performers for 2009, and Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? has the list first.

The list includes many of WYMMWIG? favorites like composers Steve Reich, David Lang, Julia Wolfe, Nico Muhly and R. Luke DuBois and performers like Signal, Talujon Percussion Quartet, ETHEL string quartet, Alarm Will Sound and So Percussion.

Awards also went to some pop and jazz projects, including Stew, the co-creator of the Broadway musical Passing Strange, and the Village Vanguard jazz club.

MTC doubled the pool of money this year as part of what it’s calling a “new music stimulus program,” awarding $300,000 to 31 composers through its Commissioning Music/USA program and a total of $150,000 to 30 NYC-based new music ensembles and presenters through Cary New Music Performance Fund.

MTC President Ed Harsh says: “At this critical moment for artists around the country, we wanted to be aggressive in multiplying the effect of Meet The Composer’s continuing programs. We are dedicated to keeping creative musicians on the job doing what they do best, which is to make music.”

The increased funding and extended deadlines this year flooded MTC with three times the usual number of applicants for composer awards.

Panelists for the first round of the composer awards were Christian Amigo, Elizabeth Brown, Conrad Cummings, Jenny Lin, Eleonor Sandresky, Steven Swartz, Theodore Wiprud, and Du Yun.  The panelists for the final round were Edmund Campion, Jeremy Geffen, Joan La Barbara, Oliver Lake, and Matt Haimovitz.

The committee that picked the performer winners was composed off Darcy James Argue, Allen Blustine, Margaret Leng Tan, and Randy Woolf.

See the full list of grantees after the jump. Continue reading

Signal rocks Reich

Composer Steve Reich and conductor Brad Lubman take their bows. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Composer Steve Reich and conductor Brad Lubman take their bows. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Signal, one of the nation’s premiere New Music ensembles, celebrated composer Steve Reich‘s 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Music on Monday night with a special performance of Double Sextet, the composition for which he won.

Signal managed to sell out (Le) Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village so quickly that a late show was added, and that one appeared to be nearly sold out by the time it started.

The show opened with a rendition of Reich’s Sextet, an older piece. The crowd at the late show seemed to appreciate the performance by just six of Signal’s talented members, but most were really there to hear Double Sextet, which before Monday had performed only once in NYC, at Carnegie Hall by eighth blackbird, the Chicago-based ensemble that commissioned the work.Steve Signal performing

While the premiere performances featured six musicians playing against a tape of themselves playing the second sextet parts, Signal chose to play both sextets live, with 12 musicians onstage — two sextets consisting of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, vibraphone and piano. (Steve intended the piece to be played either way.)

I enjoyed eighth blackbird’s NYC premiere of the piece last year, but Signal’s rendition brought out nuances and beauty in the piece that I missed the first time. Steve plays with dynamics and tempos in the piece, and even seems to dip into a bit of phasing, a technique that he frequently employed earlier in his career in which identical lines fall out of sync with one another, creating a kind of counterpoint.

Six of Signal's musicians performed Sextet, the 1985 predecessor to Reich's Pulitzer-winning composition.

Six of Signal's musicians performed Sextet, the 1985 predecessor to Reich's Pulitzer-winning composition.

It was a revelatory performance by an amazingly skillful ensemble, led by conductor Brad Lubman. Steve clearly gave his imprimatur to the performances, attending both shows and taking an emotional bow at the conclusion of it.