For the Record: July 10, 2020
Keeping tabs on new recordings of interest to the new-music community, on CD, vinyl LP, cassette, and digital-only formats—including the Album of the Week from beguiling songsmith Jacob Cooper.
For the Record is a weekly round-up of new and pending recordings of interest to the new-music community: contemporary classical music and jazz, electronic and electroacoustic music, and idioms for which no clever genre name has been coined, on CD, vinyl LP, cassette, digital-only formats… you name it.
This list of release dates is culled from press releases, Amazon, Bandcamp, and other internet stores and sources, social-media posts, and online resources such as Discogs. Dates cited correspond to U.S. release of physical recordings, for the most part, and are subject to change. (Links to Amazon, where used, do not imply endorsement.)
After publication, these new listings will be incorporated into On the Record: The Master List, a continuously compiled and updated resource exclusively accessible to paid Night After Night subscribers, found here.
These listings are not comprehensive—nor could they be! To submit a forthcoming recording for consideration, email information to email@example.com.
Nief-Norf Marathon Weekend
Just over a month ago, Ashley Walters presented a deeply impressive recital of unaccompanied cello works, streamed live from her home, under the auspices of Nief-Norf. (If you missed it, or want to see it again, the archived concert is hovering right above these words, and the music starts at the 32-minute mark.) That organization – based in Knoxville, TN, and devoted to fostering collaboration among performers, composers, and scholars – was to have celebrated its tenth anniversary with its customary Summer Music Festival.
Naturally, pandemic forced a shift in plans: now Nief-Norf is set to present a fantastically impressive nine-hour Virtual Marathon concert this Sunday, July 12, streaming from 3pm to 12am EDT, and Walters is in the thick of it. The lineup of composers is truly exceptional: Wadada Leo Smith, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Annea Lockwood, Carolyn Chen, George Lewis, Alvin Singleton, Nathalie Joachim, Yaz Lancaster, and Joseph C. Philips Jr., among many others, will have works played by Nief-Norf members, alums, and broader community.
Individual tickets are a steal at $8.65 apiece, or you can buy a “family pack” for $40. Take a look at the exhilarating schedule of performances and conversations, here.
Moving Music Forward
Photograph: Jill Steinberg for National Sawdust
While we’re on the subject of events streaming this weekend, take note that cellist, vocalist, and entrepreneurial curator Amanda Gookin – whose new CD, Forward Music Project 1.0, arrives today (see “New This Week,” below) – will perform in a program titled “Divine Feminine.” The event is part of a series called Room / to / Breathe, organized by New York performance space the cell and the Bright Shiny Things label. Also appearing are mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert, violist-composer Jessica Meyer, and dancer Caroline Fermin. The event streams live on Saturday, July 11, at 5pm EDT, with a replay at 8pm; part of the proceeds benefit Step Up, an organization that empowers girls to fulfill their potential. For details, go here.
Recording of the Week
Photograph: David Johanson
It’s been a long time since composer Jacob Cooper last issued an album under his own name: Silver Threads, an exquisite cycle of electronic art songs beautifully voiced by Mellissa Hughes, with electronic treatments and accompaniment by Cooper, came out on Nonesuch in 2014. The world has changed a lot since then, but one thing has remained consistent: Cooper still knows how to write a drop-dead beautiful, subtle melody that complements and caresses a singer’s voice, and how to manipulate the sounds his singers produce subtly, to beguiling effect.
Cooper hasn’t been silent in the interim. You shouldn’t miss Stabat Mater Dolorosa, issued in January in a performance by the String Orchestra of Brooklyn with Hughes and mezzo-soprano Kate Maroney, or Ley Line, the piece he wrote for cellist Ashley Bathgate, included on her 2019 album Ash alongside works by Cooper’s fellow members of the Sleeping Giant collective. But Terrain, out today on New Amsterdam, extends the same expressive vein that proved so bewitching on Silver Threads.
One chief difference is that here, the singers Cooper works with are male: Theo Bleckmann representing the east coast, Jodie Landau the west. Still, both singers – who also happen to be improvising composers – cultivate strains of cool ambiguity in their personal practices, a quality Cooper clearly cultivates. Thanks to his maneuvers and effects, both can sound less corporeal than usual here—or, paradoxically, much more physically present in isolation, adrift in washes of synthetic sound.
Bleckman’s voice is featured in “Ripple the Sky,” an eerie evocation of Robert Schumann’s mental deterioration that also invokes Shakespeare’s Ophelia, with words provided by Greg Brownderville. You’ll be forgiven if you imagine that you’re hearing more than a single singer at work among the chugging strings, smears, and splashes. Landau is the focus of “Expiation,” a chittering, eventful journey with texts by Dora Malech, a vocal treatment that provides a chorus, and a setting that makes dazzling use of Landau’s capacity for delivering like an angelic pop singer.
The closer, “Terrain,” brings Bleckmann and Landau together with Bathgate for a conversational construction assembled in the studio by Cooper. The vocalists, singing fragmentary verse by Zach Savich, effect sinuous tandems; Bathgate accompanies with tanpura-like drone and short melodic gestures that ascend like light climbing a wall, the effect conveying a sensation akin to the eternal nowhere/now in which we’re all sequestered. What results is gentle, tender, and entirely compelling.
New Amsterdam Records will host a livestream release event for Terrain involving a video premiere and conversations with Jacob Cooper, the performers, and the poets, on Thursday, July 16, at 8pm EDT, on Facebook; details here.
New This Week
Photograph: Jill Steinberg for National Sawdust
Jacob Cooper - Terrain (New Amsterdam)
Amanda Gookin - Forward Music Project 1.0 - compositions by Nathalie Joachim, Allison Loggins-Hull, Angélica Negrón, Morgan Krauss, Amanda Feery, Leila Adu-Gilmore, and Jessica Meyer (Bright Shiny Things)
Andy Kozar - A Few Kites - compositions by Quinn Collins, Paula Matthusen, Ken Ueno, Scott Worthington, Tyler Harrison, Davíð Brynjar Franzson, Jeffrey Gavett, Heather Stebbins, and Eve Beglarian (New Focus)
Pacifica Quartet - Contemporary Voices – compositions by Shulamit Ran, Jennifer Higdon, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (Çedille)
RedmanMehldauMcBrideBlade - RoundAgain (Nonesuch)
Sarah Kirkland Snider
Photograph: Anja Schütz
Various artists - Hildegard Competition Winners, Vol. 1 - compositions by Emma O’Halloran, inti figgis-vizueta, Niloufar Nourbakhsh, Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir, X. Lee, and Kayla Cashetta (National Sawdust Tracks)
Max Richter - Voices (Decca)
Nat Evans - Say Those Words for Me (Circuit Church)
Dan Rosenboom - Points on an Infinite Line (Orenda)
Danielle Buonaiuto - Marfa Songs - compositions by James Young, Cecilia Livingstone, Natalie Draper, and Douglas Buchanan (Starkland)
Brendon Randall-Myers - dynamics of vanishing bodies - Dither (New Focus)
Sarah Kirkland Snider - Mass for the Endangered - Gallicantus/Gabriel Crouch (New Amsterdam/Nonesuch)
Simon Moullier - Spirit Song (Outside In Music)
Karl Larson (left) and Scott Wollschleger
Photograph: Catherine DeGennaro