Thursday, January 19, 2017

Adam Schoenberg's Dream Becomes Reality

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I have dreamt of having an orchestral disc of my music since first becoming a composer. This is an extraordinary gift, and I am thrilled to be sharing my music with all of you. The three pieces that you will soon experience embody my growth from student to professional composer. They each explore different styles, but my artistic voice remains consistent throughout.

Finding Rothko was written during my second year as a doctoral student at Juilliard. I was 25, and studying with John Corigliano. I spent six months writing the piece, and the experience forever shaped me as a composer. I’d show up early in the fall for lessons, wanting to discuss the work and show John material, but I was still grappling with my ideas and how to organize them. I didn’t realize until much later that John was intentionally staying out of my process. I had 2-3 months of lessons that lasted only 15-20 minutes each. We would talk, I would express my frustrations, and he would then tell me to go home and figure it out. It wasn’t until I completed a full draft that John began to weigh in. For four consecutive days, I spent hours in his studio while he asked me endless questions. We went over each measure linearly and vertically, and what I learned was immeasurable. Rothko embodies my first attempt at atmospheric and aleatoric music. The 3rd movement is almost entirely written using graphic notation. It represents an improvisation, as if Rothko himself were spattering the vibrant red paint onto the canvas for the first time, before turning it into his signature multi- form style. The last movement, Wine, represents some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever written.

American Symphony is the first orchestral work I wrote after graduating from Juilliard in 2010. The symphony also represents my first time primarily working with technology as a way of composing. I love to improvise, and I began using a midi-sequencing program called Logic Pro while working on this piece. I improvised movements I and III into Logic, and played every single line on the keyboard that you’ll hear in the orchestra. Once the movement felt complete within Logic, I then orchestrated it in Finale. Movements II and IV were written by hand and/or directly into Finale. The final movement used Logic, pencil and paper, and Finale. The symphony also represents my exploration of layer-oriented music. The first movement has up to eight layers being played simultaneously (it requires multiple hearings in order to discern each one). The piece also embodies my first attempt at writing groove-oriented music (e.g., movements I, III, and parts of V), which is something I have gone on to further explore over the last few years.
Picture Studies is my largest work to date. It showcases many different styles, from groove-oriented to atmospheric music, but also exhibits a new style. “Three Pierrots,” “Kandinsky” and “Miró” contain angular, rigid, jazz-like music. “Kandinsky” in particular, reflects the fastest and most aggressive work I’ve written, while “Miró” has a rambunctious, virtuosic solo (played beautifully by Boris Allakhverdyan on the E-flat clarinet). All of the styles that I had been grappling with in both Finding Rothko and American Symphony are expressed with a greater sense of clarity, from both a structural and orchestrational point of view. Movements like “Kandinsky,” “Calder,” “Pigeons in Flight,” etc. represent a world that I’m now exploring.

My music is deceptively difficult; as a musician once told me, “it’s perfectly off.” On paper it looks relatively straightforward, because it lives in more of a tonal or modal world, but it is extremely challenging rhythmically, technically, and most importantly, musically. It requires more discipline from the performer and conductor, because it demands technical facility and emotional depth. This is especially challenging when rehearsal time is limited. The musicians must get in- side the notes to understand their subtleties as they evolve. They might not fully understand their role until much later in the rehearsal process when the piece comes together as a whole.

With this in mind, I must give a special thank you to Michael Stern. He is the first conductor to champion my music. He understands it, embraces it, and gives it an emotional dimension that would otherwise not exist. I also must thank the musicians of the Kansas City Symphony. This is an orchestra that plays with tremendous vigor, spirit, and emotion. They have patiently watched me grow as a composer, and I could not be more pleased to have them be the first to bring my music to life in a permanent form. Lastly, I would like to thank Frank Byrne, Joan Horan, David Frost, Professor Keith Johnson and the entire Reference Recordings team. Without any of them, this recording would not exist.

My goal as a composer has always been to try and bring more beauty into our conflicted world. I want listeners to momentarily escape, and be transported to a place like no other, before returning to their everyday lives. I hope that you enjoy the journey that you are about to embark upon. Thank you for taking the time to listen.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

2017 Blues Music Awards Nominations!

The Blues Foundation announced their 2017 Blues Music Awards Nominees, and RR artists Fiona Boyes, Doug MacLeod, and Jimi Bott have all been nominated!

Best Acoustic Album

Eric Bibb – The Happiest Man in the World
Fiona Boyes – Professin’ the Blues
Jimmy “Duck” Holmes – Live at Briggs Farm
John Long – Stand Your Ground
Luther Dickinson – Blues and Ballads (A Folksinger’s Songbook) Vol I and II

Best Acoustic Artist

Doug MacLeod
Eric Bibb
Fiona Boyes
Jimmy “Duck” Holmes
Luther Dickinson

Best Instrumentalist - Drums

Cedric Burnside
Jimi Bott
June Core
Tom Hambridge
Tony Braunagel

Historical Album

Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup - A Music Man Like Nobody Ever Saw
B.B. King - More B.B. King: Here’s One You Haven’t Heard
Bobby Rush - Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush
Doug MacLeodLive in Europe
Michael Burks - I’m A Bluesman
Pinetop Perkins & Jimmy Rogers - Genuine Blues Legends

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Pre-Order The new Adam Schoenberg Recording!

Now Available for Pre-Order!

Adam Schoenberg: American Symphony • Finding Rothko • Picture Studies

Michael Stern, music director; Kansas City Symphony


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Says Schoenberg: “I have dreamt of having an orchestral disc of my music since first becoming a composer. This is an extraordinary gift, and I am thrilled to be sharing my music with all of you. The three pieces that you will soon experience embody my growth from student to professional composer. They each explore different styles, but my artistic voice remains consistent throughout.” Recently named one of the Top 10 most performed living classical composers by orchestras in the United States, Adam Schoenberg’s (b. November 15, 1980) music is “invigorating” (Los Angeles Times), and full of “mystery and sensuality” (The New York Times). This most recent season included performances and premieres at the Library of Congress, Kennedy Center, New York Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and Hollywood Bowl.

We are proud to present these new works, two of them commissioned by the Kansas City Symphony: American Symphony and Picture Studies. The collaboration between Schoenberg and Michael Stern is extraordinary. Schoenberg states: “He is the first conductor to champion my music. He understands it, embraces it, and gives it an emotional dimension that would otherwise not exist. I also must thank the musicians of the Kansas City Symphony. This is an orchestra that plays with tremendous vigor, spirit, and emotion.” The performances were brilliantly captured by GRAMMY® award winners Keith O. Johnson (engineer), David Frost (producer) and GRAMMY® nominee Sean R. Martin (engineer). The album will be released as a hybrid SACD, compatible with all CD and SACD players; and digitally in standard and high resolution.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Blues Music Magazine Reviews Professin’ The Blues

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A fantastic new review for Fiona Boyes' Professin’ The Blues recording in the January 2017 issue of Blues Music Magazine:

“[Fiona Boyes] is simply a great player and gutsy singer who has released one of the finest acoustic blues albums in the past year. …Professin’ The Blues, is a 53-minute, 16-song collection where she plays National Reso-Phonic and Beeton resonator instruments, a standard six-string acoustic and an odd little four-string cigar box guitar that she uses as a lap steel. Backing her with easy-going support are former Mighty Flyers/ Fabulous Thunderbirds drummer Jimi Bott and first-call studio bassist Denny Croy, who also heads the McCabe’s School of Music in what California locals call the People’s Republic of Santa Monica. It’s a relaxed-sounding trio. Boyes’ songs – 14 originals plus covers of Big Joe Williams and Chris Wilson tunes – follow that old Igor Stravinsky rule of not overstaying their welcome (“Too many pieces of music,” he said, “finish too long after the end”). … There’s also a fair amount of up-tempo material where Boyes adds a bit of Borax-like grit to her vocals that may put listeners in mind of Big Mama Thornton and Koko Taylor. An added plus is that Professin’ The Blues is a high-definition compact disc (HDCD), which means it captures her god(dess)-like playing in all its acoustic splendor.” –Bill Wasserzieher, Blues Music Magazine

Read the full review on BluesMusicMagazine.com

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Strauss Opera Suites a Showcase for Pittsburgh Symphony

Gramophone Magazine features the new Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Manfred Honeck Strauss: Elektra/Rosenkavaalier recording in the January 2017 issue:

The recording packs a mighty punch from the initial Agamemnon motif, scything brass braying Elektra’s revenge theme. There is percussive glitter for Klytemnestra, whip cracks marking the arrival of her entourage. The full barbarism of Strauss’s score makes a searing impact, Orest’s murder of Klytemnestra especially brutal, yet there are moments of great tenderness too. Reference Recordings affords the Pittsburgh Symphony a weighty sound, strong in bass attack. Honeck provides his own excellent booklet-notes which give the listener a blow-by-blow account of the music, with helpful timings. … A splendid showcase for Honeck's Pittsburgh forces.” —Mark Pullinger, Gramophone

See the full review on www.gramophone.co.uk

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

More Best of 2016 Honors for Fiona Boyes!

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The Best of 2016 honors for Fiona Boyes' new Professin’ The Blues release continue to roll in!

The Professor's Honor Roll of 2016


“I hereby dub Fiona Boyes, The Queen of Old School. She has a great sound and manages to pour more blues into her stripped-down approach than just about anybody else. Her guitar work is top notch, and her vocals are dead on. If you like that sound, you will love her. We sure do…” —John Porter, Professor Johnny P's Juke Joint

See the full honor roll

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Pittsburgh Symphony on Forbes' Best Recordings List!

Forbes has released their 10 Best Classical Recordings of 2016 list and the Pittsburgh Symphony and Manfred Honeck Strauss: Elektra/Rosenkavalier recording comes in at #8:

“Manfred Honeck’s ‘Elektra Symphonic Drama’ (co-written by Manfred Honeck and Tomáš Ille) absolutely lifts the lid and shows you how much sensuous and sumptuous music there’s in this opera already, which otherwise looks and sounds, on experiencing in toto or in the opera house, so very, very – indeed totally – different from Strauss’ later operas. Here, Elektra seems like the natural lede for Rosenkavalier – which incidentally, and unfathomably upon first hearing – was the opera that, in 1911, immediately followed Elektra (1909) in Strauss’ operatic output.… And speaking of Rosenkavalier: Honeck and his sublimely playing Pittsburgh band add the Artur Rodzinski arrangement of the Suite from that opera to close out this disc that is a must for any Strauss-lover. Just terrific! The sound on this Reference Recordings SACD is smashingly vivid, something that is true for the whole lot of their wonderful recordings of the last few years.” —Jens F. Laurson, Forbes

Read the full review and list at Forbes.com

Reference Recordings Amazon Native DSD