I regret missing the first of the four installments of Undiscovered Islands, the festival of new music presented on Friday nights in May at Galapagos Art Space in Dumbo, Brooklyn, by New Amsterdam Records. By all acconts, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society — an 18-piece ensemble that Argue has dubbed a “steampunk big band” — put on a killer show. (I still haven’t figured out how to be in two places at once, and MONO and the Wordless Music Orchestra were already on my calendar for that night!)
I’m glad I didn’t miss the second installment last night. It was a CD-release party for violist Nadia Sirota‘s first solo CD, First Things First. The program, credited as Nadia Sirota and friends, included many of the pieces on the new album. But her friends, including Caleb Burhans and Grey McMurry of itsnotyouitsme, cellist Clarice Jensen, and the Chiara String Quartet, did their own works as well.
Much of the work Sirota performs is written specifically for her, and that plays to her technical strengths. She and Jensen opened the evening with Nico Muhly‘s “Duet No. 1, Chorale Pointing Downwards.” It’s a short duet that played with 14 chords, producing a beautiful, cyclical feeling that built to a significant peak before gently fading away. Muhly later joined Sirota onstage for two edtudes he wrote for her.
Composers Marcos Balter and Judd Greenstein (a founder of the record label) also contributed pieces to Sirota’s program. Balter’s “Live Water” was the more compelling of his two works, featuring Sirota’s viola ostinatos over a recording of whispered text.
Greenstein’s “Duo 1979,” featuring his Moog Prodigy synthesizer (made in 1979, as he explained it) and Sirota’s viola, often playing parallel figures, was so jovial that it brought a smile to my face.
Two more installments of Undiscovered Islands remain at Galapagos, Main and Front streets, Dumbo, Brooklyn. Next Friday brings new-music supergroup Signal to the stage to perform the world premiere of “Penelope,” Sarah Kirkland Snider‘s 48-minute song cycle. Vocalist Rachel Calloway and guitarist Steven Mackey are featured. The series closes May 29 with the Now Ensemble’s world premiere performance of composer Missy Mazzoli‘s “Song from the Uproar,” a work for ensemble, voice, electronics and film (by documentary filmmaker Stephen Taylor) examining the life of adventurer Isabelle Eberhardt. Shows start at 8 p.m. $12.