In a word, April was great. I had my first foray into the New York music scene, fueled by the MATA festival. It was time off from my ongoing Belgian experience- an opportunity to re-connect with many old friends and family, meet new people, and to hear lots of music, much of which was very impressive. I was encouraged with what feels like a sort of coming-of-age for downtown brooklyn (maybe someone can give me a better description). When Roulette and Issue Project Room are within walking distance from each other, only good things can result- I only wish I could be around more often to get a better sense.
My favorite new discovery was the Bushwick/Ridgewood area, near the Jefferson stop. It reminded me of Oakland, California in many ways (and yes, that’s a good thing). Friends tell me of an impending NYU-student led gentrification, but it was hard for me to tell. Discovering all of this via bicycle only added to the experience. It opened up the city to me in a way that drew more connections with California than I had thought. I even rode home to see my folks in New Jersey across the GWB. I look forward to doing something similar one day over the bay bridge.
Over in Manhattan were several concerts that I enjoyed, including either/or and some events uptown near Columbia. Sadly I had to miss some exciting events like the Crumb Orchestra Concert, as well as the Talea Ensemble performing one of my favorite Sciarrino works. The multitude of events recalled my years living in Paris, where the sheer number of concerts was overwhelming. I envy artists who can skip from one gallery show to another- composers always have to choose one.
As for the scene in Belgium, my experience continues to develop and diversify. I was amazed by the scope, scale, and quality in this years Ars Musica Festival. If the thirty minute train ride from Gent to Brussels was the same price as a subway ride, I would have been to every concert. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Vincent Royer‘s performance with the Wallonia Chamber Orchestra, (performing Ken Ueno’s fantastic Talus). In attendance was Charlemagne Palestine, a composer who I’ve heard much about. Parisian ensemble LeBalcon put on a great concert that included Romitelli’s Professor Bad Trip, a piece that I had been dying to hear live. They also performed similarly instrumented La Terre Sans Mal, by composer (and festival director) Claude Ledoux, a piece that I thought was really superb. Lastly, the concert was important because I finally got to hear Erin Gee perform, after hearing so much about her work from many people. Mouthpiece is a project that is so large now that it can’t be characterized by any singular sound. The festival organizers were very smart to program several pieces from mouthpiece series, almost curating it. Mouthpiece for solo voice was only half the story. The two ensemble versions that followed created a sort of territory- or a fabric- where a tightly knit pattern emerges. There are countless connections and nuance in how the voice meets the ensemble, and it is all assembled so patiently, methodically. There is a sense of ease that emerges- despite the sometimes grating sounds- an underlying coolness.
This past month included a concert at Espace Senghor, a shared recital of new solo works written first for cellist Séverine Ballon and then for violist Vincent Royer. More recently I had a chance to see part of a collaboration between Bl!ndman and HISK, resulting in works created jointly between composers and artists. I hope to see the final products in Utrecht as part of this years Gaudeamus Festival.
Upcoming are many things, including darmstadt and some other things I hope to announce over the summer. I’ll try to ramp up my blogging a bit.