New Year's Music

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Hammered! welcomes the New York-based composer collective Sleeping Giant for a month-long December residency. Composer-pianist Timothy Andres hosts and curates each Monday episode while the rest of the week is filled in with specially curated episodes by the five other Sleepy Gs: Christopher Cerrone, Jacob Cooper, Ted Hearne, Robert Honstein and Andrew Norman.

Monday | Episode 16: New Year's Music
by Timothy Andres

Though my family is technically Jewish, I grew up singing Christmas carols. Today's program celebrates the advent and the coming new year in a decidedly non-non-denominational spirit. We begin with an amazing and odd piece called New Year's Music by the Latvian composer Georg Pelecis, which melds the stolid stanzas of Russian carols with the pianistic showmanship of Keith Jarrett's improvisations (which I realize sounds like a terrible idea on paper but works incredibly well. Trust me and listen).

George Crumb's A Little Suite for Christmas is an impressionistic and ecstatic series of tableaux incorporating the composer's characteristic range of extended piano techniques, culminating in a beautiful, harp-like rendition of the Coventry Carol. That most iconoclastic composer of sacred music, Olivier Messiaen, leads us tenderly back to his spiritual progenitor, Johann Sebastian Bach, heard here in wonderfully inventive transcription by Gyorgy Kurtág.

Happy new year, and enjoy the rest of the week

Tuesday | Episode 17: Borrowers Afield
by Jacob Cooper

This program presents two pairs of music in which more recent compositions borrow from older ones. Gyorgy Ligeti’s Horn Trio (for Piano, Violin, and French Horn) uses a theme strikingly similar to the opening of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Les Adieux Sonata, Op. 81a. Beethoven is not the only great master Ligeti’s piece recognizes, as it is dedicated to Brahms and transparently employs a Classical framework that would befit music by either of these composers.

In the second pair of works, I myself am the borrower. The first piece I ever heard pianist Timo Andres perform—on an overnight concert in 2006—was John Adams’s watershed work Phrygian Gates. Adams names his composition after the sudden shifts of “gates” in electronics (and electronic music), which provided inspiration for the work’s abrupt modulation of keys. Clifton Gates employs—among other digital effects—actual audio gates, creating a rhythmic alteration out of sudden shifts in amplitude. The gating effect is especially audible as the work begins, processing music whose tonality and texture are reminiscent of the slow middle section of Adams’s piece.

Wednesday | Episode 17: Surf's Up: California Piano
by Andrew Norman 

Music by Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison, Stephen Hartke, Matt McBane and Donald Crockett.

Thursday | Episode 18: The Piano Stylings Of George Antheil
by Andrew Norman 

Piano music of George Antheil.

Friday | Episode 14: Voices and Piano
by Ted Hearne

This hour is dedicated to all the modern-jazz-influenced "classical" composers out there, and all the modern-classical-influenced "jazz" composers out there, and all the people who realize that while these terms might help sell a record or book a venue, they are often pretty limited in describing music itself.
Matthew Shipp, a longtime darling of the avant-jazz scene, plays his piece Teleportation, which would be a 94% OKCupid match with Luminosity by David Broome (pianist/composer of New York's Ensemble Pamplemousse). Steve Lehman's Rai is played by his group Fieldwork, with a rhythmic intensity that is matched with Eric Wubbels' piece This is This is This (for David Foster Wallace), a work for 2 saxophones and piano wherein the saxes play in exact unison throughout. 
Another pianist/composer, Vijay Iyer contributes complex forms and angularities to his works Helix and Galang, and Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus recontextualizes a solo piece of Milton Babbitt's when his band adds a beat and bass line. Craig Taborn's Junk Magic creates a really infectious feel by slowly layering seemingly-incompatible metric feels atop one another, and Talibam! moves from feel to feel with their trademark reckless precision. My piece 359 Each Time - taken from a set of songs called Delusion Story - features Timo Andres on a piano solo riff that pits one hand against the other.
The set opens with a track from the only album on which the great fuser-of-classical-and-jazz-traditions (and Juilliard-trained pianist) Nina Simone plays the piano herself.