November 19, 2013
August 17, 2011
J.C. Combs (born 1970) is a Seattle-based neoteric composer. His works include “Charmed Elixirs” from 2008 (Sequenza21 described it as “antique poise and luminescence recalled in a disturbing dream from just last night”), “Bats in the Belfry” from 2009, “Safe Passage” on the premiere Russian label Electroshock Records from 2010 which has been featured on Max Shea’s “Martian Gardens” (WMUA 91.1FM Amherst and online), Don Campau’s “No Pigeonholes” program (KOWS FM Sonoma and online) “Solta a Franga” (Netherleands), The Mystery Lesson –radio show presented by Daniel Spicer. 97.2FM in Brighton, UK, “WWSP”, Program “Ambient Aether/Space Continuum”, Aural Innovations Space Rock Radio (show #249) and more; Jane Martin” from 2010 (video excerpt of a piece set to dance at BEAF), “Minstrel Nomadic” from 2010, “File Under: Misc.” (an ongoing album of misc. works featuring many artists), and “Rings of Saturn” – 2010. Combs also participated in the international event 60X60, 2010 – Magenta Mix. In 2011, Combs released “Confessions of a Deviant Machine,” a collaboration with Lee Noyes on the label Con-V, which was included in “Spiritual Archives” magazine year-end favorites of 2011 and Acts of Silence magazine top 100 netlabel releases of 2011.
2012 brought the release of “The Chrome Castle and an Overgrown Lawn” on his independent label Cellar Door Records.
In the summer of 2013, Combs released the EP “Gazing” on the Spectropol label, which has been featured on radio programs including Max Shea’s “Martian Gardens” (WMUA 91.1FM Amherst and online) and Don Campau’s “No Pigeonholes” program (KOWS FM Sonoma and online) and Miniature Minotaurs with Kurt Gottschalk (WFMU 91.1 FM in New York and 90.1 FM in the Hudson Valley). Gazing is also the soundtrack for some great choreography by Susan Haines with performances in Bellingham WA. More performances in early 2014 will include even more music from Combs.
In the fall of 2014, Combs announced a solo piano project called “Excursion” which consists of a travelogue in and around Seattle. 10 works composed between October and November. In March 2014 Combs returned to his private label after a two year hiatus and released “Every Junkie is a Recording.” , a piece which travels in and around ambient, drone, accidental sounds, mystery synthesis and melodic noise.
Combs has also been involved in several compilation projects, including “ImprovFriday Volumes 1. and 2.” and “For Japan” on the “Amaranth Records” independent label. He has also made appearances on the “Three Legs Duck” label and “Spectropol” label via compilation projects.
Combs founded and is actively involved in the serious musician’s social network “Sound-In” 2009-present.
September 20, 2008
Let me introduce you to a friend of mine, composer Marc’antonio Modaro. I met Marco back in the days of Mp3.com. We used to frequent their message boards and enjoyed lively debates (of course in the middle of composing works). We then coincidently joined a composer network called “The Group” which subsequently changed (with my suggestion) to Classical Music Makers (CMM). CMM turned into a venture which happened to coincide with my retirement from composition. I don’t know what became of CMM, but I know Marco helped in that arena along with Jeff Harrington and many more composers who have been reunited over at NetNewMusic.
Marco writes beautifully constructed works (described in more detail below in the interview), much of them with a touch of difficult piano sections. I used to write up reviews back in those days on a popular indie online review site and gave his Fantasia opus 10 a 10! (P.S. He also performed a piano work of mine called “Time Capsule” which is at his page over at NNM)
I highly recommend visiting his site for a listen over at NetNewMusic.
Here is a brief bit of his bio followed by a little Q&A.
The italian Composer-Pianist Marc’ antonio Modaro was born in 1964 in Pistoia but he always lived nearby in the city of Montecatini Terme. He studied piano in Firenze with Giorgio Sacchetti who studied with pianists such as Carlo Zecchi and Benedetti Michelangeli. In 1990 Modaro moved to New York and he was often performing at the Steinway Hall where he quickly gained a virtuoso reputation among the other concert pianists. He was offered to take part at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1993 and he was selected for a tournee’ of concerts in the United States and South America, but he refused preferring to dedicate intensely to composition.
JC: Who are your greatest influences?
MM: In composing I think Bach, Liszt, Chopin and Debussy, as a pianist Horowitz and of course Michelangeli because I studied with one of his students, Giorgio Sacchetti in Firenze.
JC: What are you working on right now?
MM: I am finishing the first part of my concerto for piano and orchestra and I am also finishing my Piano Etudes op.11 .
JC: Fill us in on what you you have been up to for the last five years?
MM: In 2005 with another italian composer, Giorgio Sollazzi, I started a project named “New Composition in Progress” and I was back to concerts with a successful series of concerts of contemporary music, but in Italy it’s very difficult to pull up a tour of concerts of contemporary classical music, so despite the great response from the public, we didn’t find a good agent that could help to make the project grow. I also have been composing a scherzo for sax contralto and piano, an Ave Maria for organ and soprano, a piece for organ, a divertimento for guitar and an aria for soprano and orchestra. As a painter with Riccardo Lenzi and Luca Angeli, I started a new artistic movement called Movimento Aristico Praticomateriale that proposes the total symmetry between concept, work, communication and the market .
JC: How would you describe your style or technique?
MM: For sure to know well the piano technique helped me in composing the music I wanted to compose for this instrument . To have technical limits prevents you from squeezing the best you can in terms of structures and textures from an instrument. A pianist understands right away if a composer of a piano piece is a good pianist or not. If you read Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition you understand that he didn’t know the piano as much as you know that Liszt was a great pianist just from reading his Sonata in b Minor or even a simple valtzer. My style of composing is a bit complex but it’s coming right off what I said before. Piano literature lately has been going toward forms of composing that has nothing to do with being “pianistic” in the classic or in the contemporary sense of the word.
The result was that the sound of the piano was losing its own “essence” and personality. Many times it was not sounding as a piano anymore and was constrained in musical forms that were using it at 1% of its instrumental and, why not …,orchestral possibilities. I thought that it was possible to find new communicative lines, making the instrument to sound as it was made for: in a complete pianistic way. To achieve this goal I explored new pianistic textures and mechanics ( the Etude op11 were made for this purpose); that keeping a special and recognizable pianistic sound would ” enlarge” the grades of the scales, alternate arpeggios and tonal chords so that the harmonic tonal basement would lose its association from a bit to the next one. Without all this the listener would not have the sensation of any change of tonality or forced dissonances or mechanical rigidity coming from a preordered atonal texture. The result is what I called crosstonality, which is just a name that quickly describe complex pianistic motions and textures that make possible to perceive the music as a continuous palette of different notes and colors that is not more tonal in the purest sense of the word nor is it atonal or polytonal, even if in many moments coexists association of different tonality at once.
JC: If you had to describe Marc’Antonio Modaro in one word, what would that word be?
August 17, 2008
Its Saturday night and I’m dying of heat. I was planning to compose a 20 minute-plus work dedicated to Mars Webbens this weekend and ended up composing IMO the most mainstream work yet to date: An Incidental Lucid Moment (although I kind of dig it).
Anyway, I want to give a nice and loud shout out to David Toub who this weekend gave me a lesson on serial composition. I want to make it clear, he is not a professor (as you undoubtedly know), he is a composer who has no problem passing on knowledge. I have written about David Toub before and here I am again. Yet, this won’t be the last time either. Every composer I write about is someone who deserves a serious listen. Toub is a “downtown” composer, a postminimalist specialist. The greatest thing about Toub is that once you start exploring his works, you realize there are literally hours more to delve into. Happy listening!
May 31, 2008
If you haven’t, here is a little introduction and even better, an interview below.
I had a nice conversation with James Ross the other day. He is a contemporary Amaranth composer out of Brooklyn, N.Y. A guitarist and music teacher, but unique in the sense that he is far and away from guitar composing-wise the couple years I have been a fan of his and is focused on sounds, sonic art, etc. Initially, when moving into soundscapes he started out with a work simply titled, “Winds and Strings.” Truly a study of sound waves. I visit his site often to listen to that work, which is ambience at its best. I have mentioned to James that the ambience is Beethovenesque to my ear at times.
Over the last year or so he has followed in that vein and moved into field recording. “Brick Saw” is a collaboration with Night Germ (a.k.a. Stefan Graham). The work employs the sound of a brick saw, which in turn is twisted and probed sonically in almost every conceivable aspect.
His latest work is called “Heaven” and he talks about it below.
I highly recommend purchasing every work of James Ross as they are shining, radiant and luminescent wise tales understood best by centering your senses to let the music move you into the composers’ soundscape.
Combs: I really dig your works with sound, the compositions. How would you describe them?
Ross: Well, I use a lot of sustained tones and repetitions. I just like to display sounds so that a listener can really hear them–study them almost. Sounds are valuable. I don’t like to toss them around like pennies. I guess most of my pieces are attempts to showcase sounds.
Combs: What got you in to composition?
Ross: Besides the money? I’ve always been in awe of composers. They are the ones who actually make all that music–bring it into being from nothing. They are the unique ones. There are lots of pianists who play, say, Debussy, and make it sound great. But there was only one Debussy. At any rate, I’ve always wanted to be the one who creates those worlds that players and listeners delve into. But I’m relatively new to composition. Only been at it a few years. I have a lot to learn. Almost everything, really.
Combs: Who are your major influences.
Ross: Too many. Fripp, Eno, Glass, Cage, Feldman, John Fahey, La Monte Young, the New York City Transit system …
Combs: You recently visited China. Has that trip influenced you in any way?
Ross: I was there to visit my wife’s family. They are mostly in Sichuan province. It was such a beautiful and fascinating place. So sad what has happened there. Our friends and family there are all fine, fortunately, but what a tragedy for so many people.
You can’t help but be affected by a trip to a place like that. So much history. But probably the most immediate influence is coming from a plucked-string instrument called a zhongruan, which I bought while we were there. It has four strings, a two-octave fretboard, a wide, round body, and is usually played with a plectrum. Its origins are ancient–more than 2000 years old. It originally had silk strings, which would have given it a soft, delicate voice, I imagine. But over the centuries the instrument has been modified–“reformed” is the word some Chinese music scholars use, I believe–so now it’s rather guitar-like with metal strings and metal frets. I love the sounds. Kind of primitive, gamey. But penetrating, percussive and, in quiet playing, very soulful and deep. I’ve been doing some practicing and composing for it. The sound is in my ear and it will probably show up in some future pieces.
Combs: I’ve heard that you ran into someone at a party, a composer, and were speechless. Who was that and what happened?
Ross: You’re talking about my non-fateful meeting with John Cage. It wasn’t at a party, though. He was giving a lecture at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in the early 1980s. (I’m originally from southwestern Pennsylvania.) The talk was just Cage standing in front of the room reading from his book “Silence” in an incredibly even, detached tone of voice. I remember it was a very calming experience. After, people were hanging out talking with him, and I just couldn’t speak. But at the time I was only 18 or 19, and I felt quite intimidated. I was certain I didn’t really have anything intelligent to say or to ask him so I just kept my mouth shut. I’m still not sure what I would ask him if he were around today and I had another chance.
Combs: Tell us what we can look forward to from you over the coming months.
Ross: Just finished a long dronal/ambient piece called “Heaven.” It consists of clips of the sound of ringing pot lids that have been transposed to various pitch levels and layered together. The transpositions explore a series of modulations in seven-limit just intonation. Some excerpts are at my MySpace page (myspace. com/jrossdrone). Also, planning to finish a series of pieces I started last year called “Island of the Dead.” It’s more music based on the sounds of the pot lids mentioned above. Only with these pieces, I derived a tuning from the inharmonic tones produced by the lids, and used the tones to compose for other instruments, voices, etc. Includes prepared guitar and drumming on some old milk cans. I plan to release the recordings privately. There are also the zhongruan pieces–I have a couple of those under way. I guess that’s more than enough.
May 24, 2008
Ture Larsen has some great music up at his Myspace page. I am not aware of a blog or website to link to, but his page over at Myspace offers a fantastic visit full of mysterious sounds mixed up with electroacoustic and standard orchestral instruments. Ture doesn’t hold anything back in his composition and it shows. Exciting, enigmatic, undaunted, elaborate and precise are some words that come to mind when listening to Ture Larsen. And you know how when you visit someone’s band page and it takes three minutes to load, then you find out its because they have 20 crappy YouTube videos of themselves up? Well Ture has some Myspace videos but they are really worth watching and they don’t bog down his page. One of my favorites involves a man standing at the edge of a subway landing (could be a train). Another is the a singer who can’t seem to keep an article of clothing from falling off
May 17, 2008
I ran into Marc Chan on the web yesterday via his Myspace band page. I remember when I first heard his works, a piece called “J’s Box 2 for Five Oboes.” I sent Steve Layton a message and said check this guy out.
So yesterday I visited and noticed he has been working on a piece called “My Wounded Head.” It was performed over at Carnegie Hall by Xiayin Wang. NY Times did a little write up on it. A very cool work, showing off all registers of the piano from top to bottom, combined with expressive power and sensitivity.