NEW SOUNDS: SEQUENZA TIME

Hey there reader/listener/new friend!

Luci B giving us some saucy side eye.

Luci B giving us some saucy side eye.

If you’re reading this you’re probably considering coming to our upcoming concert this Saturday BACH/BERIO at the Sawyer Yard’s Silos (HOT TAKE: you should DEFINITELY come). This concert is a site-specific installation: starting at 1:30pm and 3pm, seven of our fantastic players will each be occupying a different silo. In their personal silos, at specific times, they will each be playing excerpts of pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach and also Luciano Berio. Now, you all have probably heard of J.S. Bach, but maybe are not familiar with Luciano Berio. Lucky for you, Berio is one of my all time favorite composers! So, today I’m going to introduce you to Luciano Berio and his famous “Sequenza”(s) that you will be hearing on Saturday!

Boundaries is a word that I would never associate with Italian composer Luciano Berio. Born in 1925, his compositions always pushed what can be considered music, right up until his death in 2003. Although we’re focusing today on his “Sequenza”(s), he is known for pioneering avant-garde, mixed-media, and electronic music. If you’d like to take a quick listen to some of that, here is his Sinfonia:

What you will be experiencing on Saturday are his incredible “Sequenza”(s). Starting in 1958, Berio wrote fourteen wild solo works, each titled “Sequenza”. He wrote them for flute, harp, voice, piano, trombone, viola, oboe, violin, clarinet, trumpet, guitar, bassoon, accordian, and cello. Each of these pieces is wildly different and demands virtuosic playing in terms of technical skill and emotional range. They also each heavily feature the use of “extended techniques”. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with what “extended technique” means, it just means using the instrument to make sounds that are traditionally not associated with it. That could be a harpist slapping the wood of her harp, a flutist singing into their flute, or a singer grunting, gurgling, and screaming. What is incredible about the Sequenza(s) is that they contrast beautiful playing with these techniques, drawing the listener into a sound world that mirrors the absurdity and intensity of real life.

It’s as if each piece explores every possibility of each instrument, allowing us to hear them in a completely new way!


What is just as fascinating about how these pieces sound is how they’re notated. How do you put all these sounds onto paper? Berio’s solution was to come up with a “key”, where all the extended techniques are represented by a symbol. Each player memorizes the key for their Sequenza, so that they can decode the score. Below is the “Sequenza III” for voice you will hear on Saturday; follow along watching the score so you can take a peek at what our performers will be seeing to make these incredible sounds:

Like I said, these are some of my all time favourite pieces of music. If you’re on board for a trippy Saturday afternoon, I definitely suggest coming out to hear BACH/BERIO.

Make sure you register for a spot, we’re filling up quick! Can’t wait to see you there!

xxox Ally xoxx

NEW SOUNDS #3: BAYOU BORN - Angélica Negrón

Hey there, reader/listener/new friend!

Thanks for stopping in! All of us here at Loop38 firmly believe that it’s much easier to enjoy a concert when you have some background in what you’re about to hear and why it’s incredible! SO, leading up our concerts this year, I will be posting these short little tidbits about our featured composers. Hoping that this will feel like you’re chilling with a friend, getting psyched about great music! Feel free to take a peak, have a listen, and get a taste for what’s to come!

Our upcoming concert bayou born is COMING UP QUICK THIS TUESDAY NIGHT!!! It will be up at the Live Oak Meeting House, which is also a James Turrell designed space. Most importantly, it’s free! So, you really have no excuse for not showing up.

Today we’re getting to know one of my favourite new composers. Angélica Negrón is a composer and mutli-instrumentalist born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1981. She is currently based in New York where she is spinning out evocative new works encompassing toy instruments, live electronics, and contemplative idiosyncrasies. One of the first pieces of hers I came across was this fantastic number for toy piano and electronics:

She is also a founder of the electronic indie band Balun, where she sings and plays the accordion. Check it out!

She has been featured in many magazines and editorials as an up and coming composer and has been commissioned by Bang on a Can and the American Composers Orchestra, among many. She is currently in residency at National Sawdust working on her “lip sync opera titled Chimera for drag queen performers and chamber ensemble exploring the ideas of fantasy and illusion as well as the intricacies and complexities of identity”.

Here’s a great interview with her on Youtube!

Here’s another favourite interview with Negron of mine. In response to being asked about boundary pushing art she responds,

“I love art that makes me see the world in different ways, that makes me question my perceptions and understandings, and that invites me to change something about myself and my surroundings.”


In case you need another reason to love Negrón, aside from her wonderful compositions, she co-founded Acopladitos, a music program for children, and is currently a teaching artist at New York Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers program at Lincoln Center. What a STAR.

-Ally

NEW SOUNDS #2: BAYOU BORN - Julia Wolfe and Annea Lockwood

Hey there, reader/listener/new friend!

Thanks for stopping in! All of us here at Loop38 firmly believe that it’s much easier to enjoy a concert when you have some background in what you’re about to hear and why it’s incredible! SO, leading up our concerts this year, I will be posting these short little tidbits about our featured composers. Hoping that this will feel like you’re chilling with a friend, getting psyched about great music! Feel free to take a peak, have a listen, and get a taste for what’s to come!

Our upcoming concert bayou born is coming up this Tuesday night! It will be up at the Live Oak Meeting House, which is also a James Turrell designed space. It’s free, you just need to sign up! Today we’re going to get to know two of the composers on our program, Julia Wolfe and Annea Lockwood!

First up, Julia Wolfe (born 1958) is a 2016 MacArthur Fellow and the winner of the 2015 Pulitzer prize in music for her work Anthracite Fields. Her music draws inspiration from folk, classical, and rock genres, and combines them with a modern sensibility that simultaneously reinvents all three. She is a founding member and co-artistic director of the Bang on a Can Festival and has been commissioned by major orchestras across the world including a 2018 commission from the New York Philharmonic. Her music is physically and mentally demanding from both the performers and the audience alike.

I thought that Wolfe’s Pulitzer winning Anthracite Fields was a good place to start today! The work is an all encompassing masterpiece for chorus and orchestra that draws on a myriad of sources to piece together the story of those who laboured in the Pennsylvania Anthracite coal mines. The work draws on testimonials, interviews, oral histories, and historical documents to paint a heartbreaking picture of a dark and dusty life. Below is a documentary featuring clips of the work as well as Wolfe talking about it!

Drawing on her success with Anthracite Fields, Wolfe was recently commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to write another immersive piece: her visual and musical event “Fire in my Mouth” premieres in February of 2019. It explores the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 that killed more than 100 young immigrants. Listen to the feature on it below:

The deeply challenging physicality of Wolfe’s work can be heard especially in her grueling string works. A particular favourite of mine is “Cruel Sister” for string orchestra:

Although I had heard of Wolfe, it was stumbling across this interview with her last year that really made me fall in love. How she talks about discovering her sound, and self, is incredibly interesting and accessible.


Up next is the amazing Annea Lockwood. She was born in New Zealand in 1939. In 1961, she moved to England to study composition at the Royal College of Music, additionally studying at Darmstadt and completing her studies in Cologne and Holland. Due to her strong connection with Pauline Oliveros and John Cage, she eventually moved to the United States and currently lives in Compond, NY.

In the 1960s, Lockwood began collaborating and creating outside the “expected” sphere of classical composition; in 1962 she began her series called “Piano transplants”, in which defucnct pianos were burned, planted, and placed into water. Here’s a clip below of her “Piano Transplant: Burning”:

Although the initial object of these Transplants were to gain recordings, they very quickly trasitioned into the realm of performance art. Her future works would focus heavily on enviornmental sounds, life narratives, and sound installations. Another personal favourite of mine is “A Give you Back”, an anthem for solo soprano written on text by Native American poet Joy Harjo. Listen below, but also take a listen to some of Harjo’s spoken word poetry too!

A moment of connection with our other featured composer Julia Wolfe, Lockwood was commissioned by Bang on a Can All-Stars for a surround-sound installation. Although I couldn’t find a video of Vortex, I was able to find a clip of a lecture she gave about being a composer and sound artist. Check it out:

Let me also say that Lockwood is one of the friendliest composer I have ever communicated with. I completely fangirled her one night and e-mailed her and she was absolutely lovely.

That’s all for today!! Make sure you come on out Tuesday night to bayou born !!!

-Ally

NEW SOUNDS #1: BAYOU BORN - René Eespere and Evan Chapman

Hey there, reader/listener/new friend!

Thanks for stopping in! All of us here at Loop38 firmly believe that it’s much easier to enjoy a concert when you have some background in what you’re about to hear and why it’s incredible! SO, leading up our concerts this year, I will be posting these short little tidbits about our featured composers. Hoping that this will feel like you’re chilling with a friend, getting psyched about great music! Feel free to take a peak, have a listen, and get a taste for what’s to come!

Our upcoming concert bayou born is in only two days away!! It will be up at the Live Oak Meeting House, which is also a James Turrell designed space. If that isn’t enough to motivate you to come join us, let’s get to know a couple of the composers on our program, René Eespere and Evan Chapman!

First up we have Estonian composer René Eespere! Eespere was born on Dec 14th, 1953 in Tallinn, Estonia. Eespere became publicly known first by his allegorical short ballets A Man and a Night, The Furies, and Ancient Dwellers that were all staged in the 1970s at the Vanemuine Theatre (Tartu). He is well known for incorporating idomatic influences of baroque and rock music into the world of estonian folk music and minimalism. Spiritual and ethical questions dominate eespere’s work, including contemplations on existence and humanity. He is especially well known for his vocal music and using that idiom to carry these ideals.

If there is a better way to contemplate the meaning of life than through gorgeous chanted Estonian folk music, then I don’t know what it is. Listen below to a selection of his choral work from a HUGE outdoor song celebration in Estonia:

As previously mentioned, Eespere’s first chamber works were inspired by Baroque music, with an emphasis on sound colour and exploration. You can hear this Baroque sensibility in his piece for guitar and violin, Respectus:


Up next is the multi-talented Evan Chapman!

Evan Chapman is a composer, percussionist, and filmmaker out of Philadelphia. A signature of his work is his seamless blend of multimedia and contemporary music. Especially his skills as a filmmaker have brought him in collaboration with many prominent names in classical music like Bang-On-A-Can, Chris Cerrone, Alarm Will Sound, and Julia Wolfe. Here is the trailer for an incredible collaboration between him and So Percussion!

In addition to his incredible film work, he is a founding member of the contemporary-classical percussion trio/band Square Peg Round Hole. I’m really digging their stuff, take a listen to one of their videos below!

If you’re as into Evan’s music as I am, check out one of his many compositions with video up on Youtube! This dark, pulsing number is one of my new favourites, especially with the dance component.

Hope you all had a great time listening to all that groovy music! If you want more (which I hope you do!!) make sure to sign up for a spot at bayou born this Tuesday night! Did I mention it’s free?

See you next time xx

-Ally

"how they flow apart and together"

Happy 2019!! As January comes bursting in to all of our lives, we here at Loop38 thought it might be nice to take a moment to reflect while looking forward. What better way to do this than with the music of our time, inspired by our city?

That being said, our program on January 29th is BAYOU BORN, happening at the Live Oak Meeting House in Shady Acres. The meeting space in was designed by James Turrell. For those of you unfamiliar with James Turrell, he is an artist whose work primarily deals with light and space. He designs rooms that welcome in the sky and ask us to look out and above to the beauty of the world around us.

All that being said, when percussionist Craig designed this program he thought Live Oak Meeting House would be a perfect compliment to this music that asks us to listen to our own internal pulse and look outward.

Composer Pauline Oliveros, the genius behind “Deep Listening”

Composer Pauline Oliveros, the genius behind “Deep Listening”

The program is conceived of as a single meditation to be performed without breaks.  The central work is by Annea Lockwood and is a graphic score written in honor of Houston-born and recently deceased, Pauline Oliveros. Pauline Oliveros is most famous for her concept of “Deep Listening”. ‘Pauline Oliveros herself described Deep Listening as “listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear no matter what one is doing.” Basically Deep Listening, as developed by Oliveros, explores the difference between the involuntary nature of hearing and the voluntary, selective nature – exclusive and inclusive -- of listening.  The practice includes bodywork, sonic meditations, interactive performance, listening to the sounds of daily life, nature, one’s own thoughts, imagination and dreams, and listening to listening itself. It cultivates a heightened awareness of the sonic environment, both external and internal, and promotes experimentation, improvisation, collaboration, playfulness and other creative skills vital to personal and community growth. Annea’s piece takes Houston’s Bayous and puts them central in her work. “Each of [our] six players in the piece represent a different bayou; how they flow apart and together is how the music is formed.”*

Composer Annea Lockwood

Composer Annea Lockwood

The other incredible pieces on the program include magnetic works by Julia Wolfe, René Eespere, Evan Chapman, and Arvo Pärt. We’ll be telling you all about these pieces throughout this week, so make sure to check back here!

What is so compelling about this program is that it is an invitation for all of us to participate. We all live in this beautiful, complex, and sometimes confounding city. We know the sounds of our bayous and of our own lives. This concert will be a journey in exploration and an invitation to quiet our minds and hear what fills us.

We really hope you’ll come and join us for this evening of music, meditation, and love for our city.

*Thank you to the Deep Listening Institute for the information on Pauline’s mission and brilliance!

Ally Smither

On to the Next One! Looking Forward to the Rest of the Season

Hi everyone! This is Jacob, violinist with Loop38. I had a blast performing in strange~wild~weird Monday night, and since we’re on the last day (!!) of our fundraising campaign, I wanted to share some of what I’m excited about in the rest of our season. We have concerts coming up every month through April, and I think it’s incredible how diverse and unique they all are.

First, in January we’re heading out to the Live Oak Friends Meeting House in the Heights, which features one of artist James Turrell’s Skyspaces. This will be one of our location-specific concerts this season, with a program created specifically for the Meeting House. The central work on the program is bayou-born by Annea Lockwood, written in honor of the late Houston-born musical pioneer Pauline Oliveros. In this piece, six performers converse with and flow around each other, mimicking how Houston’s bayous wind their way through the city. Bookending the program are ensemble works by Estonian composers: Sculpture’s Morning by René Eespere and Estonian Lullaby by Arvo Pärt. In between are works by Julia Wolfe, Angélica Negron, and Evan Chapman which feature one or two of our performers in short, often meditative pieces. As a specifically Houston-based ensemble, we wanted to create something that would highlight our connections to the city, and we hope that this concert will be a meaningful, meditative experience and a moving tribute to what it means to live in Houston.

In February we’ll be performing a completely different program: Bach/Berio at the Silos. For this concert we’re breaking into solo acts to perform music by Johann Sebastian Bach and Luciano Berio at the Silos at Sawyer Yards (thus the name of the event!). These two composers come from completely different time periods and wrote in completely different styles, but they both created sets of works for solo instruments that pushed the boundaries of what was thought to be musically and technically possible. In this program, we’ll perform various solo works by Bach and juxtapose them with performances of Berio’s Sequenzas. What makes this possible is the unique set-up of the Silos: each silo is its own performance space, but the audience can move between them. So when I’m playing Berio’s Sequenza 8 for violin, Loop38’s cellist Ariana might be playing a Bach cello suite in the silo next door. By playing these works back-to-back and simultaneously, we want to explore what it means to play and listen to both Bach and Berio in the 21st century. In modern life we are constantly inundated with many different sounds from many different sources, from city noises to top-40 hits on the radio to snippets of orchestral excerpts from practice rooms (or maybe that one’s just me!). But everything we hear has a history—some very recent, and some quite old. So in honor of our fragmented, postmodern (or are we now post-postmodern?) culture, it seems appropriate to explore what this means in classical music with two of the most important composers of their eras.

All this, and I haven’t even touched on all our other concerts coming up! In March, we’re collaborating with Rice University’s Theatre Program to perform Words and Music by Samuel Beckett and Morton Feldman, a cross-disciplinary exploration of the interaction of words and music, and of the natures of semantic meaning and tonal law. Plus, we’ll continue our collaboration with Sawyer Yards: on the Second Saturday of each month, we present our musical interpretation of one of their artists’ works, drawing on the tradition of graphic scores. This culminates in our season finale in April at MATCH—which is a surprise! (Stay tuned…) For more details on all of these concerts, be sure to check out our homepage.

I’m excited about what we have coming down the lane (bayou?) because I think it really shows who we are as a group: passionate, adventurous, virtuosic, willing to push boundaries and explore the eclectic, the unique, the new. And we want you to join with us in making this vision happen. If you’re even half as excited as I am, please consider making a donation. With your support, I think we can make the rest of this season truly special.

Words From Our Clarinettist: How Do We Spend Your Money?

Hi all, Thomas Frey here! Have you ever arrived to a concert early, sat down in the audience, and, watching the musicians meander to their seats and nonchalantly test their instruments, wonder to yourself how much do these people make?  Is it a lot, or not that much at all? Maybe your cousin was a musician who needed to teach to make a living. Maybe your aunt hit it big on The Voice, holds two platinum albums, and has a garage full of Ferraris.  Musicians are strange people anyways, especially when it pertains to our income. So how much DO we make?

To answer this I must first address how we receive money and how we allocate it.  Many of our concerts this season are Pay What You Can, with suggested donations of $10.  We also sprinkle in a few ticketed concerts here and there to cover specific venue costs, but the majority of our money comes from donations.  Most organization take at least 3 or 4 years to become profitable, and we’re so close to passing this line! If ticket sales and concert donations alone were enough to cover our costs, this is what we would spend our donations on:

thomas1.png

Only joking! Granted, the wonderful Fractured Atlas helps with a good chunk of our costs, but since Loop38 has still not received ~platinum status~ on our album yet (hoping the jury’s still out on that one), we rely on online donations to lessen the financial deficit our concerts create. But speaking seriously, a more accurate depiction of where we allocate our campaign donations looks something like this:

thomas2.png

The unfortunate reality is that the spending we cut when our budget exceeds our income comes from our musician’s pay.  Now $6,000 is a lot of money, don’t get me wrong. But when a stage-full of talented musicians dedicate all of their energy to bring unique, and underplayed music to life, spending hours practicing, rehearsing and thoroughly learning these pieces, we want to give them as close to a fair wage as we can.  To upset this deficit, many of our core artists donate part or all of their pay as honorarium for our guest artists.

15 extraordinary people already donated to our campaign online, covering a whopping 3rd of our $4,000 #GivingTuesday donation goal.  As a contemporary ensemble we want to share new music of all types to the Houston community we love, with its people of all types and backgrounds.  Above all else we want to give you the opportunity to hear some weird music, whether you’re into that or not. If you enjoy the music we make, great!  If not, that’s okay; it is a little strange after all. If you do enjoy our music, however, please consider donating so we can keep performing it. However big or small, every bit helps make us a permanent part of Houston.

– Thomas

NEW SOUNDS: NIGHT HERON!

Hey there, reader/listener/new friend!

Tomorrow night is Loop38’s concert STRANGE, WILD, WIERD! We are so excited to celebrate the best hour of the day (happy hour) with you all at Night Heron, one of our favourite Houston bars! Whether you’re reading this before sneaking off to bed, or first thing in the morning we want to give you a little taste of what you should DEFINITELY come and hear after work on MONDAY DEC 10th!!

Our program opens with Jonathan Newman’s “OK feel good new” is a colourful rhythmic playground. He is unreal at incorporating sounds from jazz and pop into his work. This piece will pep you up and put a tap in your toes for sure.

One of his favourite works of mine is “Blow it up, Start again” -- take a listen here:

Next up will be “Switches”, by Sam Pluta. This piece was awarded the 2009 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Prize. It features heavy rock influences, and sounds maybe not expected from a traditional chamber music experience. Our viola star Siggy will be rocking out on this with our guest percussionist Jamie Kollar.

Here’s a little clip of his work “Machine Language”:

Up third will be Canadian composer Nicole Lizee’s “Malfunctionlieder”. I first sang this work in a competition, and it’s one of the most difficult, rollicking scores that I’ve ever worked through. The entire piece is an incredible exploration of absurdity and pop culture, taking clips of famous movie and warping them. The singer and pianist in turn, I would say,, get a little warped themselves! Nicole is one of my favourite composers around right now, take a peek at her “Hitchcock Etudes” for piano, tape, and video (watch closely, she makes an appearance herself):

Our harpist Caitlin will be transporting us to the mesmerizing and trance-like world of Angelica Negrón in her piece “Technicolor” for harp and electronics! Negrón’s music is known for it’s heavy pop influences and transcendent sound world. This piece is no different. Take a peek at the composer herself performing one of her works:

Keeping in the pop sound world, we have a selection from Gabriel Kahane’s “Craigslistlieder”. In writing these songs, Kahane took actual adverts from Craigslist and set them to music. The results are nothing but hilarious.

Look to the right to watch Kahane himself singing and playing some excerpts from the complete Craigslistlieder:

We close our program with “Anthem” by George Lewis, both a professor of composition at Columbia University and a MacArthur Fellow (2002), a Guggenheim Fellow (2015). Anthem is an exhilarating work about belonging, power, celebrity, and desire. I first heard this work performed a couple years ago and I just about lit something on FIRE I was so worked up afterwards! I’m really hoping it has the same effect on you (but please don’t light anything on fire)!!

All in all, this program TOMORROW is going to be a RIGHTEOUS good time. Really really really really hope you can come! Until then - get excited and get those ears ready!

Ally xx

Loop38 @ Night Heron: STRANGE~WILD~WEIRD

MONDAY, DECEMBER 10TH @ 6PM

ON THE PROGRAM:

Jonathan Newman Ok feel good now

Sam Pluta Switches

Nicole Lizée Malfunctionlieder

Angelica Negron Technicolor

Gabriel Kahane Craigslistlieder

George Lewis Anthem


Hey folks, Siggy here…I absolutely cannot believe it’s December and we’re all running around town for “Gigmas Season.” Loop38’s Season Opening concert on November 14th Behind The Scenes-Behind the Sounds was evocative, challenging, and a great success! We usually have some time to breathe in between events but in addition to the holiday shows and end-of-year performances, we had our December Second Saturday at Sawyer Yards event today at 2:30 pm, STRANGE~WILD~WEIRD at Night Heron on Monday night, AND a $4000 fundraising campaign that closes on December 12th!!! We’re busy, ambitious, and if there’s something I can say about my Loop38 colleagues…they go all-out and want to do it well!

So I know you’re thinking “These new music nerds are cool; I’m gonna go to one of these events” right? We’re looking forward to seeing you there and here’s how you can help us fund the rest of our 2018-2019 Season…Click on the button above and check out our Giving Tuesday fundraising campaign! Our generous donors have helped us reach 33% of our goal thus far. I invite you to attend one of Loop38’s upcoming events and I hope you’ll consider supporting the work we do and the rest of our season!

Here’s an awesome writeup on STRANGE~WILD~WEIRD by Ally Smither, our program curator:

Do you like cocktails? Sounds? Laughs? Happy Hour?
Obviously, you do. We definitely do too.
And you know what we love even more? HOUSTON.

Join us at one of Houston’s best bars, Night Heron, for a happy hour program of things STRANGE~WILD~WEIRD. It’s going to be a fun, hour long, program of works that will shock, inspire, and make you laugh. Afterwards, you can catch Night Heron’s weekly SpeedRack practice. Did we mention that it’s happy hour priced cocktails and drinks ~ALL NIGHT~?

Night Heron is Agricola Hospitality’s fabulous bar close to the Menil Collection. The manager is Danny Kirgan; he is not only a veteran of the service industry, but also a trumpet player who has played with the Chicago Civic Orchestra. The program we devised seeks to show our audience that their perceptions about classical music and, especially new music, may be very wrong! As a group, we are all young and excited - this music really reflects that. It encompasses sounds, stories, and energies that are upbeat, exhilarating, and looking forward. Our composers come from a myriad of backgrounds, ethnicities, and genders; the world is incredibly vibrant and multifaceted, so we also seek to be just that.

From the trippy technicolor sound world of Angelica Negron to the wild, raucous, Big Brother-y commands of George Lewis’ “Anthem,” all of these pieces explore sounds that our audience may find closer to the pop music they are accustomed to. You’re doing to hear drums sets, electronics, wild words, and maybe even some references to your favorite movies.  We hope that the combination of this and Night Heron’s welcoming atmosphere will invite our audience to let down their guard and experience music in a new way.

Kick your night up a notch by opening your ears to new sounds in a new space! This is going to make your ears perk up, your body dance, and your brain tingle. Let us take you on a Strange, Wild, Weird journey through the music of George Lewis, Jonathan Newman, Nicole Lizee and MORE all while you sip on one of Night Heron’s vibrant cocktails. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

November 14 concert + Giving Tuesday

“There was a palpable sense of renewed purpose and energy in this young ensemble…[Loop38] threw down the gauntlet with this difficult opening program.”

Sherry Cheng
Arts and Culture Texas

Today we are right in between our first and second concerts, so I thought I would take the time to recap our November 14 performance: Behind the Scenes – Behind the Sounds. Our brave and curious audience spent their evening with us for a program of works that “explore the physicality of sound and challenge the definition of music itself.” You can read more about the music in Sherry Chang’s wonderful review over at Arts and Culture Texas, but right now I would like to shed a little light on what went into our preparation.

14 hours of rehearsal time: In addition to individual practice time, our artists met for rehearsals in the two weeks leading up to this concert. We were generously given space in both MECA in the Heights and West University Baptist Church. As we mature as an ensemble, the amount of time we need to get inside a new work continues to shrink. However, this time will always be a necessity in order for us to offer quality performances.

Unusual Equipment: This program required a lot of new gear, from the high tech (electromagnetic resonators, surround sound speakers, bass flute and clarinet) to the utterly nonmusical (chains, a tube of super glue). Our conductor Craig even spent one afternoon searching junkyards for the most resonant piece of sheet metal!

Add that to all the fixed expenses of renting a venue, renting the scores, paying our affiliate artists (our core members play for free!), purchasing equipment, and hiring an audio engineer, and this concert came to a total of $3,465.

As it goes with performing arts organizations, ticket sales will never the cost of putting on a show. And for that reason, we are launching a Giving Tuesday fundraiser through the fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas. Over the next two weeks, we aim to raise $4,000. That will be enough to sustain us through the end of this season, and we are looking for your support to get there! Click through to read more about our campaign, and to learn about our upcoming performances.

NEW SOUNDS #3: LEWIS NIELSON

Hey there, reader/listener/new friend!

Thanks for stopping in! All of us here at Loop38 firmly believe that it’s much easier to enjoy a concert when you have some background in what you’re about to hear and why it’s incredible! SO, leading up our concerts this year, I will be posting these short little tidbits about our featured composers. Hoping that this will feel like you’re chilling with a friend, getting psyched about great music! Feel free to take a peak, have a listen, and get a taste for what’s to come!

Our upcoming concert BEHIND THE SCENES, BEHIND THE SOUNDS, on November 14 features performances of electro acoustic works by Maja Ratkje, Ashley Fure, and Lewis Nielson.

(CONCERT IS TOMORROW !!!!)


Today we’re going to be getting to know the final featured composer on our November 14th program: Lewis Nielson! We were lucky enough to have Lewis come and visit us this past weekend to offer valuable insight on his piece USW.

When he isn’t coming to Houston to ~hang~ Nielson is busy doing all sorts of not-so-low-key incredible things. He was the chair of the composition department at Oberlin College, had received numerous awards, and has had his works recorded and performed by symphonies and groups across the United States and the world. His music is infused with the picturesque and the political, his work that we will be performing on Wednesday is no different.

Since we had Nielson captive for a couple days, I was lucky enough to have him answer some relevant (and maybe not so relevant) questions

Which composers have inspired your work?

Not many composers, really.  If anyone, Helmut Lachenmann and his ability to do what is necessary, not what others would do regarding the present day.  I love the music of my friend Reiko Füting in NYC--he's one of the few I listen to these days. Mostly, I spend my time listening to Renaissance polyphony (Ockeghem and Dufay mainly), some Bach, some Beethoven and Chopin piano music.  The present is too present. The past helps me hear without being influenced by the actual materials.

What is your favourite piece of music theatre/opera/performance art etc?

In history, [Mozart’s] “Die Zauberflöte” for sure; in present  “Das Mädchen mit dem Schwefelhölzern”, although I've seen two productions and the staging didn't do justice to the music

Favourite food?

India India India!!!

Favourite city?

Amsterdam......although there's also Berlin.


How did you find Houston on your little visit!!

Wetter and colder than I had thought it would be!  I live in Vermont now and I was expecting some heat..



Nielson’s work that we will be performing on Wednesday is USW, a multimedia chamber opera based on the life of revolutionary Rosa Luxembourg. Nielson himself combined fragmentary passages in several languages from Luxemburg, Karl Marx, German poet Georg Trakl and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The overall work is striking in it’s beauty as well as it’s affect. If that hasn’t peaked your interest, our bassist Austin will also be singing in the work! You do not want to miss this, he sounds fantastic.

So, all in all, if you like well-written, beautiful, and arresting political music, you NEED to know the works of Neilson. Luckily for you, you can come get to know them with us! So, you know the drill:

Hope to see you there tomorrow (!!!)

Xx ally xx





The Story of Rosa Luxemburg

On our upcoming concert at the MATCH, we’re featuring “USW” by Lewis Nielson, a musical theater work inspired by the life of Rosa Luxemburg. To fully understand the backstory to this passionate and savage work, we’ve invited Kathleen Canning, Dean of Humanities and the Andrew Mellon Professor of History at Rice University to give our musicians and listeners a brief history of this tenacious woman’s life and work.


On January 15, 1919 Polish Jewish socialist Rosa Luxemburg was beaten and murdered in Berlin by members of the nationalist German Free Corps. The murder of Luxemburg and German socialist leader Karl Liebknecht in that winter night was one of the most significant political murders of the twentieth century. 

Rosa Luxemburg was born in 1871 to middle-class Jewish parents in Tsarist Poland. At a young age, she suffered from a hip displacement that caused a permanent limp that left her vulnerable to ridicule and exclusion. Recognized as a gifted student and intellectual, Rosa joined the left-wing Proletariat Party in Poland at age 15 and completed her Gymnasium diploma in 1887.  She fled Poland to escape detention at age 18, pursuing university study in Zurich, where she studied history, philosophy, and government. She completed a doctorate in 1897 in law and political economy with a dissertation on the Polish industrial economy and promptly became an activist in the international Socialist movement. As one of the rare women, Jews, and emigres with a doctoral degree, Rosa Luxemburg was also unusually transnational in her interests and linguistic capacities in Polish, Russian, German and Hebrew. An avowed anti-nationalist during an age of fierce nationalism and imperial competition, Luxemburg took up residence in Berlin, finally acquiring German citizenship through an abbreviated marriage to the son of a family friend. 

After taking up residence in Berlin in 1898, Rosa Luxemburg went on to publish some of her hallmark works on the accumulation of capital, on social reform and revolution, on the Russian revolution of 1905, and on the rising danger of war. She disavowed all forms of nationalism and conceived of socialism as inherently international and capable of dissolving national fissions. Rosa Luxemburg’s intellectual home was the German Social Democratic Party, where she honed her theoretical critiques of reformism while building friendships that would sustain her through her wartime imprisonment as an uncompromising opponent of imperialist and nationalist war. Active in the European socialist movement, the German Social Democratic party’s vote in favor of war credits in 1914 -- based on its presumptive “defense of the fatherland” against tsarist aggression – fueled some of Rosa Luxemburg’s most fiercely critical repudiations of reformist socialism. She and Liebknecht founded the anti-war group, Die Internationale, in 1914, which was renamed the Spartacus League in 1916 and the Independent Socialist Party in 1917. Luxemburg was imprisoned in June 1916 until the war ended: her prison letters and writings reflected on the crisis of Social Democracy and after the Russian Revolution turned to critical engagement with the Bolshevik Revolution. 

Freed from prison the day before the revolution of November 9th, Luxemburg and Liebknecht founded the Spartacus League, which in December 1918 would be renamed the Communist Party (KPD). Liebknecht declared Germany a socialist republic on November 9th from a balcony in Berlin, while Majority Social Democrats sought to quell the revolutionary soldiers’ and workers’ councils and restore order in Germany. Although Rosa Luxemburg recognized that the “masses” were not yet ready for a mass strike or revolution, she firmly believed that democratic elections would not bring about the revolutionary transformation of social and economic relations she had long envisioned.  In the last days of 1918, Luxemburg and Liebknecht supported the Spartacus uprising in Berlin that sought to seize power from liberals and majority Social Democrats.  

On the night of January 15, 1919, Karl Liebknecht was arrested in an apartment in which he had gone into hiding after the uprising. The son of Wilhelm Liebknecht, one of the founding fathers of German Social Democracy, Liebknecht was taken to the zoological garden in Berlin and shot in the back as he exited the assassins’ vehicle. His body was delivered to the police post in Berlin, where he was quickly identified.  We might understand this as a neat and clean masculine murder—of a German son of a socialist icon. Rosa Luxemburg, by contrast, sat quietly at a desk in the Eden Hotel in Berlin, awaiting her arrest. When the Freikorps unit arrived, she voluntarily left her quarters and accompanied them through the lobby of the hotel, where she was publicly beaten, as her murderers cursed her as a Jew and a Pole, scorning her for her limp. Significantly, witnesses reported later that one of her shoes flew off during this assault, remaining behind in the lobby as one of the items that would later mark her disappearance. Luxemburg was subjected to a beating by rifle butts in the back of her attackers’ car before she was shot. In the eerie silence of that Berlin night, the car came to a halt and the murderers threw her crumpled body over the bridge into the Landwehr canal. Rosa Luxemburg disappeared that night in Berlin. During those months between January and May 1919, the lost body of Rosa Luxemburg haunted the founding of Germany’s first democracy. Although Luxemburg disavowed all particularities of women's politics (or bodies), her mutilated corpse, found five months after her murder at the bottom of the Landwehr canal in Berlin, left an explicitly gendered legacy for the political culture of the labor movement during the Weimar Republic.  

The murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht marks one of the definitive events of the German revolution of November 1918, in which the popular mobilization of German soldiers and sailors, workers, women and youth for peace, bread and democracy both ended the catastrophic war and cleared the way for the founding of Germany’s first democracy in February 1919. The murder of Rosa and Karl, the topic of ballads, novels, and numerous works of visual art by leading artists, tacitly approved by their own former Socialist comrades, but carried out by demobilized nationalists determined to destroy revolution and democracy, left the Weimar Republic with a lasting “hole in its heart.” This wound by which Social Democrats, seeking to restore order amidst revolutionary upheaval, allied with violent nationalists and militarists against Luxemburg and Liebknecht’s embrace of the mass uprising, left them enemies rather than allies in the face of rising Nazism between 1929-33.  Although the two Left parties -- German Social Democrats and Communists – had wider support and more votes than the Nazis through the elections of fall 1930, they regarded each other as more dangerous enemies than the Nazis.

In these times we might recall the words of Rosa Luxemburg on the meaning of the term “freedom” from her reflections on the Russian Revolution of 1917. The notion of freedom is, of course, deeply questioned in present-day Europe and North America: 

Freedom only for supporters of the government, only for the members of one party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.  Not because of any fanatical concept of ‘justice,’ but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when ‘freedom’ becomes a special privilege. 

- Kathleen Canning

NEW SOUNDS #2: ASHLEY FURE

Hey there, reader/listener/new friend!


Thanks for stopping in! All of us here at Loop38 firmly believe that it’s much easier to enjoy a concert when you have some background in what you’re about to hear and why it’s incredible! SO, leading up our concerts this year, I will be posting these short little tidbits about our featured composers. Hoping that this will feel like you’re chilling with a friend, getting psyched about great music! Feel free to take a peak, have a listen, and get a taste for what’s to come!


Our upcoming concert BEHIND THE SCENES, BEHIND THE SOUNDS, on November 14 features performances of electro acoustic works by Maja Ratkje, Ashley Fure, and Lewis Nielson.

__________

Hope you had a great listen to Maja Ratkje’s stuff from last time and are ready for MORE because this week we are hitting up the one and ~only~ Ashley Fure.


If you’re into new music (which you DEFINITELY should be), you have undoubtedly heard about Fure. She has racked up a substantial and impressive resume, including the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a nomination for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize. Not too shabby. All of those accolades are beyond well deserved: her work constantly tears apart what sounds belong in the concert hall (answer: all of them) and how we listen. Think: wild bassoon, ASMR, and megaphones.

If you saw ASMR and did a double take, no, you read that correctly. For the uninitiated, ASMR stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response”. This refers to a tingling feeling that you can get listening to certain sounds that start in your head (re: ears) and then travel to the rest of your body. The internet has made a killing off of ASMR videos, with people whispering, crinkling, and scratching into high quality microphones. Definitely check it out if you haven’t before.

Now, although Fure’s work is not explicitly ASMR, it does frequently incorporate sounds that made your skin tingle and have a similar affect. In both her piece The Force Of Things: An Opera for Objects and her recent premiere Filament with the New York Phil, Fure used megaphones to amplify unusual sounds, lending an experience every similar to ASMR. You can read more about Filament here! And listen to a clip from rehearsal below:

You should also take a listen to a bit of The Force Of Things here (featuring the incredible Lucy Deghrae whose festival, Resonant Bodies, you should also check out).

Fure once said that, “classical instrumental technique deemphasizes the body behind the sound: one is meant to hear the melody, not the fingernails on the keys.” Fure takes up the challenge of flipping this narrative: in her works the bodies playing become instruments as well, and the movement and physicality of the players is of utmost importance. In Albatross, which you’ll hear if you come to our concert November 14 (!!!!), physical gestures and textural sounds on the instruments are written into the score. In the piece below, Soma, you will here all kinds of environmental sounds. Close your eyes and allow you mind to let go of expectations and completely drift!

Most importantly, since the piece we are performing is called Albatross, here are some facts about the aforementioned bird:

  • They have the longest wingspan of any bird

  • They have a special tendon in their shoulders that allows their wings to maintain spread, with minimal muscle expenditure. This allows them to soar for AGES.

  • They do a special mating dance, and then they mate for life.

Finally, if you’d like to know more about Fure, articulated MUCH better than I attempted here, check out this interview! My favourite part is where she talks about the process/struggles of notating all these wild things (and how notation holds us back). Also, this interview features maybe my new favourite quote:

“LET YOUR AUDITORY FREAK FLAG FLY” - ASHLEY FURE

(screaming)

Hope that all made sense and got you just a lil’ tingly with excitement! If you want more of where that came from, you know what you need to do:

xx ally xx

*tingly*

NEW SOUNDS #1: MAJA RATKJE

Hey there, reader/listener/new friend!

Thanks for stopping in! All of us here at Loop38 firmly believe that concerts are even more enjoyable when you have some background in what you’re about to hear and why it’s incredible! SO, leading up our concerts this year, I will be posting these short little tidbits about our featured composers. Hoping that this will feel like you’re chilling with a friend (that’s me), and getting psyched about great music (literally my constant state of being)! Feel free to take a peek, have a listen, and get a taste for what’s to come!

Our upcoming concert BEHIND THE SCENES, BEHIND THE SOUNDS, on November 14 features performances of electro acoustic works by Maja Ratkje, Ashley Fure, and Lewis Nielson.

——

Today, we’re getting to know the SoUndS (and there’s a LOT of them) of Maja Ratkje! Get those ears ready!

It can truly be said that Norwegian composer Maja Ratkje is unlike anyone else. Her compositions are known for their vibrant, feral, and jarring sound worlds. She frequently incorporates her own voice (which you can’t help but be obsessed with) into her work.

Her breakout album, Voice, released in 2002, took an absolute gamut of extended vocal techniques and gave them the electronic treatment. For those of you who might not know what an ‘extended technique’ is,  it’s actually pretty simple. If you think of ‘standard technique’ as the normal sounds you would expect from a singer (re: do re mi, la di da, I’m singing a lil’ song over here), ‘extended technique’ encompasses everything else! It’s a special art to be able to grunt, yell, whisper, shriek, vocal fry, and make the guttural, jarring noises Ratkje does. Listen below to two of my favourite tracks off that album:

DICTAPHONE JAM FROM VOICE — make sure you listen at LEAST until the middle!!

For something on the other side of that spectrum (but equally trippy), check out the title song:

VOICE FROM VOICE — again, don’t stop at the beginning, progression and form is KEY to Ratkje’s music! Take it ALL in!

You can hear that Ratkje samples some traditional-ish singing, but distorts it with extended techniques and electronics. Unreal. If that doesn’t get your heart rate up, I don’t know what will. So,

I HOPE THAT GOT YOU ALL FIRED UP BECAUSE….

You’ll definitely be hearing lots of Ratkje’s incredible voice on November 14 in her piece and sing while thou on pressed flowers dost sleep’. Her raw vocals are sampled, processed, and imitated throughout the piece. That being said, this singing is not like any singing you’ve heard - and you definitely will not fall asleep.


Before I sign off, here’s one more clip of her, this time live!

MAJA RATKJE LIVE (OMG)

Hope that this opened your ears a bit and you’re PUMPED for what is going to be a fantastic concert! I’ll be coming at you with our other featured composers shortly!

xx ally xx

What, we’re already in Season 3?! - pianist, Yvonne Chen

…and we’re back!

It’s been a solid year+ since we last updated you all on our activities. After such an amazing first season of concerts all across Houston - Rothko Chapel, “Twilight Epiphany” Turrell Skyspace, the MATCH - as well as great recording and performance collaborations with composers Shih-Hui Chen and George Lewis, we knew that Houston made a place for us.

There were a lot of growing pains that we encountered almost immediately afterwards - our players were TOO GOOD and won orchestra and ensemble jobs all across the world. With half the ensemble moved on, we decided on two things:

  • We would use this setback as an opportunity to grow organically, giving more structure to group as we moved from “project” towards “organization”

  • Our ultimate goal would be to become a reason for great musicians to stay in Houston

Our second season thus became our true foundation of the group we have now.

With Harvey, we started the season late, but were able to spark curiosity and interest with Murder Mystery Madness at Galveston Artist Residency. Between my Ligeti-esque figurations divvied up in a Reich Piano Phase style on celeste and piano, hearing skin-tingling breath sounds from the wind players and bursts of Italian whisperings from our singer extraordinaire, the performance gave me renewed excitement and hope for Loop38’s future.

That same weekend, we hosted a retreat to truly talk through our goals and start thinking about ways to make it all happen. This was all funded by a Presser Graduate Music Award I’d received in the Spring, and has since proved to be integral to our beginnings.

Given the successes of our first season, we were lucky to have been presented by Musiqa on two of their season concerts and collaborate on performances with composer Matthew Burtner and his EcoSono Ensemble, Apollo Chamber Players, Kinetic Ensemble, and WindSync. Having all of these performance opportunities helped familiarize ourselves with other performers and recruit them to become a core member.

I am happy that due to these collaborations, procuring a couple grants, and the generosity of time, talents, and resources of the members of Loop38, we are able to start the third season having saved up all contributions from our initial fundraising campaign (!!!!). All of this will go towards starting our third season with personally crafted concerts of our own.

I am so grateful to our amazing core members and wonderful donors for getting us to where we are today. Thank you.

On behalf of Loop38, we look forward to continue bringing you exciting, unfamiliar, and new works that you remember from previous seasons, performed to the highest standards. Stay “in the loop” and see you at a concert soon!

-YC