Dan VanHassel: Balance of Power
Richard Valitutto: Walk of Shame
Ursula Kwong-Brown: Sonata XX
Nick Norton: Beach Song
Jason Barabba: cry, trojans, cry
Scott Worthington: Unphotographable
Joshua Carro: Spectral Fields in Time
Sophie Huet, clarinets
Weston Olencki, trombone
Mckenzie Camp, percussion
Margaret Halbig, piano
Giacomo Fiore, guitar
Joanne de Mars, violoncello
Eugene Theriault, contrabass
Vanessa Langer, soprano
The music of composer and multi-instrumentalist Dan VanHassel (b. 1981) has been described as “energizing” (Wall Street Journal), “a refreshing direction” (I Care If You Listen.com), and “an imaginative and rewarding soundscape” (San Francisco Classical Voice). Drawing from a background in rock, Indonesian gamelan, free improvisation, and classical music, his works create an evocative sound world that is both exuberantly expressive and intricately constructed.
Recent performances of note include the Talea Ensemble at the MATA Festival in New York City, the International Computer Music Conference in Perth, Australia, Shanghai Conservatory Electronic Music Week, Dinosaur Annex in Boston, pianists Gloria Cheng and Keith Kirchoff, Empyrean Ensemble, Ignition Duo, Ensemble Pamplemousse, Red Fish Blue Fish, and Santa Barbara’s Now Hear Ensemble. His work has also been featured at the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, UC Davis Music and Words Festival, Wellesley Composers Conference, June in Buffalo, Music11 Festival, and the SEAMUS National Conference.
Also active as a concert organizer and performer on piano and electric guitar, Dan is co-founder and artistic director of contemporary chamber ensemble Wild Rumpus in San Francisco. Currently residing in Boston, Massachusetts, Dan has degrees from the University of California-Berkeley, New England Conservatory, and Carnegie Mellon University.
Balance of Power pits the opposing forces of noise and harmony against each other. On the noisy side, the ensemble plays an array of percussive sounds in interlocking rhythms. On the side of harmony is a slow-moving chord progression based on a low C drone. These two forces engage in a delicate balancing act, sometimes moving in parallel to each other, and at other times playing directly off of one another.
Richard Valitutto is an emphatic and dedicated performer of compositions for the piano that span the instrument’s entire existence. Described by the Los Angeles Times as a “vivid soloist,” “quietly dazzling,” and “vigorously virtuosic,” he is a piano soloist, chamber musician, vocal accompanist, and composing/improvising creative whose soloistic charisma and flexible collaborative artistry have made him one of the most sought after pianists of his generation for his tenacity in bringing dynamic life to scores old and new in the spirit of integrated collaboration and informed understanding.
His recorded playing was nominated for a Grammy for Best Classical Compendium for the Bridge Records release Harry Partch: Bitter Music. He has also been featured as a concerto soloist and ensemble member on critically acclaimed recordings for the New World, Populist, pfMENTUM, and Bôłt Records labels. He has worked closely with a myriad of composers in performances and premieres of their works, including contemporary luminaries such as John Adams, Brian Ferneyhough, Michael Gordon, Sofia Gubaidulina, John Harbison, David Lang, George Lewis, Meredith Monk, Steve Reich, Wolfgang von Schweinitz, and Chinary Ung. Particularly dedicated to giving voice to the music of the next generation of contemporary greats, Richard has premiered works by Timo Andres, Christopher Cerrone, Nicholas Deyoe, Davíd Brynjar Franzson, Ted Hearne, Klaus Lang, Missy Mazzoli, and Andrew Nathaniel McIntosh. He has been the featured performer with organizations and series such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Opera Omaha, Monday Evening Concerts, Piano Spheres, Omaha Under the Radar, wasteLAnd, People Inside Electronics, and the Louis Moreau Institute.
As an accompanist, Richard has been rehearsal pianist for the Los Angeles Philharmonic in their productions of Unsuk Chin's Alice in Wonderland, Olga Neuwirth’s Hommage à Klaus Nomi, and Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels as well as numerous concert works for their Green Umbrella contemporary music series. He has also been the rehearsal pianist with Beth Morrison Projects and LA Opera (Missy Mazzoli, Song from the Uproar) as well as The Industry in their productions of new opera premieres by Pulitzer finalist Christopher Cerrone (Invisible Cities) and Anne LeBaron (Crescent City) including The Industry's First Take opera workshops. He regularly coaches and concertizes with singers in the Los Angeles area. Richard has held fellowships and performed at Tanglewood, SongFest, Bang on a Can, International Performing Arts Institute, New Music on the Point, Brevard, and Eastern Music Summer Festivals.
His compositions have been performed by the What’s Next? Ensemble and the Panic Duo, as well as the widely praised wild Up Modern Music Collective, of which he is a regularly contributing performer and composer. In addition to wild Up, Richard is a founding member of the new music quartet gnarwhallaby, called “startlingly versatile” by the New York Times in their Carnegie Hall debut. gnarwhallaby is rapidly becoming one of Southern California’s premier contemporary ensembles, and their debut album, [exhibit a] (Populist Records), has garnered praises such as “remarkable precision, energy and passion along with a studied and controlled sensitivity to the music of American and European contemporary composers...a monument to tight ensemble” (Sequenza 21) and “satisfyingly musical, intelligently presented, ear twistingly enterprising” (Soundproof Room).
He holds degrees in piano performance from the California Institute of the Arts (MFA) where he studied with Vicki Ray and the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (BM, summa cum laude) where he studied with Elisabeth and Eugene Pridonoff. He is currently serving on the music faculty of the Longy School of Music of Bard College as an associate professor and guest artist.Walk of Shame was commissioned by Synchromy for trombonist Matt Barbier as one of several solo trombone interludes for The Other Side of Valentine’s Day, a concert of music performed on February 15, 2015, in which the piece's themes concerned those more jaded, disillusioned, and honestly universal experiences of the Hallmark holiday. The piece is a sort of micro-memoir concerning a particular experience of homeward-bound, morning ambulations through the sensory gauze of metabolized alcohol after a night of initially capricious, though ultimately regrettable, decisions and actions. Two songs’ melodies and chords feature prominently in the source material: Lerner and Loewe's “On the Street Where You Live" and James Taylor's “That Lonesome Road.”
Ursula Kwong-Brown (b. 1987) attended the Royal College of Music in London and Columbia University in New York where she received the Sudler Arts Prize and graduated with honors with a B.A. in music and biology. She is currently studying music composition at UC Berkeley with support from a Mellon-Berkeley fellowship.
Sonnet XX (for solo cello) was inspired by Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and A Song of Despair (1924). The title Sonnet XX is refers to the last poem in this volume (“Tonight I can write the saddest lines”) and also plays on the fact that “XX” means “kiss kiss” in text-speak! This piece won the 2014 Bowdoin Musical Festival composition prize.
Nick Norton is a composer, guitarist, and concert producer from Los Angeles. He is interested in the colorful grey areas between genres, creating new experiences for listeners, and destroying social barriers to enjoying music. The LA Times describes his music as crazy, and NewMusicBox referred to his pieces as “visceral sonic haiku.” Recent projects include pieces for Ensemble Mise-En, Wild Rumpus, Gnarwhallaby, HOCKET, The Mustang Symphony, and numerous soloists, and music with his bands, Better Looking People With Superior Ideas and Honest Iago. Nick is co-artistic director of Equal Sound, founder and editor of New Classic LA, and a member of Synchromy. He really enjoys craft beer, sci fi, and being near or in the ocean, and holds degrees from UC San Diego and King’s College London. He is currently pursuing his PhD in composition from UC Santa Barbara, where he also teaches.
He writes: “Early in 2012, after suffering a dramatic New Year’s Eve break up, I wrote about an album's worth of music (just lyrics and chords) about my relationship with F----. I told her I’d done it but likely wouldn’t ever show it to anyone, except for one song (titled “The best possible use of a tape recorder”) that I thought was really solid.
In 2014 I showed that song to my bandmate Craig Vermeyen, who thought we should use it on our next record with Better Looking People With Superior Ideas. We proceeded to arrange it for electronic/rock instrumentation, with him singing. We recorded it for the album, but figured it wouldn't work very well in a rock show so haven’t yet performed it live. We also changed the name to Beach Song, as a sequel to City Song from our first album.
Late in 2015 I went through a pretty major end-of-romantic-relations with M-----, under weirdly similar circumstances to the one with F----. My group Synchromy was collaborating on a concert with Wild Rumpus, and I needed a piece, and said, “fuck it, this song is gonna get played already.” With Craig's permission I re-arranged it and altered a few lyrics, and now here we are.”
Inspired by a wide variety of unexpected places, impulses, and experiences, Los Angeles-based composer Jason Barabba processes his encounters through a personal artistic lens to create pieces that reflect his perception of the world around him. His artistry has included music based on business texts next to music inspired by television, disco music, and the writings of authors like Terry Pratchett and Edgar Allan Poe. Barabba approaches and meets each new work on its own terms and enjoys the challenge of creating music which captures his own, sometimes-idiosyncratic, perspective of the stuff in life that engages his curiosity and interest.
His music is sought out by performers across the country. Collaborations have included performances by The Janaki String Trio, The AdZel Duo, The California E.A.R. Unit, Ensemble Green, clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, The Krechkovsky-Loucks Duo, pianist Susan Svrcek, The Arneis Quartet, The Symbiosis Chamber Orchestra, The What’s Next? Ensemble and The Verismo Trio.
He is also the Executive Director of Synchromy, a composer-run collaborative advancing a robust New-Music community in Los Angeles through innovative concerts and events. Through this work as a music administrator, Barabba has a chance to work on programs of music that is often unheard elsewhere in Southern California in addition to supporting the home-grown efforts of Angeleno composers. The Crescenta Valley Weekly has called Synchromy “one of the most exciting new music projects in the Los Angeles area today.”
Several of his works are available on commercial recordings on the Yarlung Records, MMC Recordings and Navona Records labels.
cry trojans cry is about a specific time in my life. Though the text is from Shakespeare it is not a setting of his Troilus and Cessida… instead I’m using his words as raw material for my own nefarious purposes. The first half of the piece is very inwardly-focused and small. The soprano’s arrival shakes up the ensemble, and her departure at the end coincides with a return to the introspective opening motives. It has nothing to do with Trojans or the Trojan War (or for that matter the University of Southern California), they’re more like victims of my creative process. It does have a little to do with Shakespeare, though I doubt he’d approve.
“…your looks are laughable, unphotographable…” – Rodgers and Hart
Scott Worthington is a double bassist and composer based in Los Angeles. As a performer, he plays in chamber ensembles, orchestras, recording studios, and as a soloist. His focus on contemporary music frequently leads to commissions and premieres of new works for solo bass. As a composer, Worthington often uses electronics and non-standard ensembles. He strives to write music that evokes a timeless, meditative state with spacious and resonant sounds. He has released two albums on Populist Records, most recently, Prism, featuring his music for bass and electronics and bass ensemble. Some of his upcoming projects include premiering solos by Clarence Barlow, Randy Gibson, and Michael Pisaro and composing an album of electronic music.
Joshua Michael Carro (b. 1982) is a sound, visual, and performing artist who is interested in simple materials, complex sound processing, and long durations. Based in Los Angeles, carro started a disciplined practice in percussion at an early age and became obsessed with metal, jazz, percussion, electronic music, and experimental music composition which lead him to perform and study music with Ulrich Krieger (Sonic Youth, Metal Machine Trio, Lou Reed), Laurie Anderson, Wolfgang Von Schweinitz (Leading figure of Just Intonation and Music Composition at CalArts), and Shri Swapan Chaudhuri. Carro has performed in countless recitals, concerts, and recordings across the U.S.A., Canada, and Europe with sound work performances and commissions by The Futurist Intoners in Cleveland Museum of Art and Singapore Art Science Center, UC Berkeley Cellist Ensemble, Wild Rumpus, (San Francisco) What’s Next? Ensemble, Now Hear Ensemble, Fire Trio, Susan Allen (CalArts), William Powell (CalArts), and C.P.E. (ASU). As a recording artist, carro has recorded his and others works at Capitol Records, T.V. Stand Studios and has released over 20 electro-acoustic albums on labels including: XI Records, H.L.M. (France), Somehow Recordings (London), Vent (U.K.) Ephem-Aural (New York) with reviews by Silent Ballet, Kultur Industrialna (Poland), Norman Records, and Linus Records (Japan).
Spectral Fields in Time is part of a cycle of works which are a direct response to the experience of realizing the greater possibilities of sound when not constricted by traditional constructs and or expectations. Spectral Fields in Time is a cross-pollination of death/doom/noise and contemporary art music.