At NCP we love Halloween. So much so that we created this video with our iPhones back in August at Avaloch Farm, complete creepy, improvised sounds by Mara and Sugar. We've been counting down the days to October to finally release it, and here it is!
The 2015-2016 season was our first with cellist, composer, and musician extraordinaire Jillian Blythe. We will perform her piece Item 8, which was written for NCP, at our 2016 Benefit at (le) poisson rouge on September 27th. Before then, read up on Jillian's path to composition, the ideas behind Item 8, and her passion for coffee and improvisation.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started with NCP.
Well, I’m a cellist and composer based here in New York City. A few years ago I was living in Bend, Oregon when I felt desperate to come back to a place more fully concentrated in the arts and music. As much as I felt inspired by the surrounding beauty I was lucky enough to experience daily, it was time to move back to NYC. Trust me, it was a difficult choice to leave the mountains and community I enjoyed so much. Anyway, it wasn’t too long before I reconnected with the lovely Mara Mayer (clarinetist of NCP), whom I’ve known for quite some time now, and she mentioned the search for a new cellist was on—things kind of took off from there. I had been looking to join an ensemble that was willing to push the norm and explore new ideas, allowing the creative process to really unfold. I’m grateful that our paths crossed and I’m excited to see how things evolve from here.
Composing is something you began doing recently. What inspired you to go in this direction?
I actually began writing when I was much younger, though I guess I didn’t really think of it that way at the time. I wrote things for myself to play—pieces that used unconventional techniques and bits that I heard in my head over and over again, sometimes graphics that represented shapes I imagined. Some thoughts began as improv and worked themselves into full form ideas, and sometimes the other way around. Lately I’ve been trying to step outside what I know, which is how to translate thoughts straight to the cello, and branch out into other instruments and sounds. Sometimes it is incredibly uncomfortable, but those are also some of the most beautiful moments in the process. These days I write quite a bit of music for fixed electronic track with mixed or solo instruments, sometimes free and sometimes not. Playing with a fixed track can be limiting, but also freeing—I think perhaps my inspiration is more a curiosity, to investigate how something fixed and synthetic can exist in the same aural moment as something free and organic.
How does your experience as a cellist inform your compositions?
It probably isn’t so simple as to say my experience as a cellist informs my compositions. I would say that for me, everything begins on a physical level. You throw a sound and then others come to follow in whatever trajectory that happens naturally. As a cellist, what I pay attention to most is that a piece of music evolves organically, and without force. This is equally important for me as a composer, and it is something I come back to again and again when writing.
What is the inspiration for your piece Item 8? What was your process in creating it?
Sugar approached me about a piece for NCP while we were eating tacos in Texas on a break from our recent collaboration with DJ Spooky. She asked me to write something that could really highlight the whole ensemble and I immediately though to try working with a fixed track and went on my way. In a sense, the players of NCP inspired what the final product of Item 8 has become. In my mind, I chose carefully the material and instructions, dependent on who would be playing and their individual approach and relationship to their instruments. For instance, Laura Cocks, who is an incredible improviser and flutist really inspired quite a bit of the direction in this piece. In a brief technical breakdown, the flute’s (important) role in this piece is to copy, interpret, and then do away with any inkling of the primary musical material. I can’t even really take much credit for this—her first read through nailed exactly what I was hoping to hear, and I don’t think I had to say anything more about it to her. Every time we play it down, things are slightly different, and that’s something I really love about writing music—creating a space for freedom within an otherwise ordered template. Additionally, Item 8 calls on the players to use sustained bouts of vocal vamping, improv, and extended techniques—I’m thankful NCP is such an adventurous and experimental group of people!
What are your interests outside of music?
Well that’s a tough question… not. I love coffee, climbing all over rocks, poems, puppies, and biking—pretty much anything that gives me the opportunity to hang upside down, from a rope, or on the side of a mountain is my thing. Also, did I mention I love coffee?
At NCP we've created a new position of seasonal Artistic Associate. Each season, a different member of our ensemble will take on this role and get a more hands-on experience on the organizational side. Our clarinetist Mara Mayer will serve as our 2016-17 Artistic Associate. Mara is an incredible musician, producer, curator, yogi, and cat lady, and we could not be more pleased that she will be offering up her sage wisdom this season.
We think you'll love Mara as much as we do, so we asked her a few questions to introduce her to the NCP audience!
How did you get started with NCP?
I got started with NCP due to my love of the bass clarinet. They needed someone to play bass clarinet in Pierrot Lunaire and I was super excited to be involved in that work. I had been introduced to Sugar at a Composer’s Forum event at Exapno (back in 2011?!) and then Isabel, NCP’s regular clarinetist who had been my classmate at Eastman, recommended me for playing bass clarinet. I also started filling in for Isabel when she was too busy doing other awesome things.
What are you looking forward to as the NCP Artistic Associate?
As NCP’s Artistic Associate I am looking forward to getting my curatorial paws on NCP’s programming for a couple of events at the end of 2016, and helping to facilitate communication with composers writing new pieces for us in 2017. As curator for the interdisciplinary experimental performance series Home Audio for the past five years, I’ve developed a sense of how to program events that showcase brand new adventurous work. Sugar and I have discussed expanding NCP’s repertoire to include more experimental composers’ work, and I’m happy to help bring that music to new audiences. I’m really excited for our 2017 season because we’ll be playing a bunch of new music written specifically for the group by composers including Gabrielle Herbst, Isaac Schankler, Nina Young, David Byrd, Olga Bell, and will be revisiting Vincent Calianno’s piece written for us last year.
What is your favorite NCP memory?
My favorite NCP memory is getting to spend a week in New Hampshire at a residency with Sugar, Marina, and Gabi (Gabrielle Herbst), working on material for Gabi’s new piece for us and canoeing around a magical lake.
What have you been working on lately?
I have been working on planning upcoming Home Audio events for this fall. You can check out the series at homeaudioseries.com. I’m also starting to develop some solo material on bass clarinet as performer/composer/improviser. Here’s a little taste of what that sounds like.
How do you like to spend your time outside of music?
I also practice and teach yoga. Right now I teach at a lovely little community studio in Crown Heights called Shambhala and at two senior living communities where I teach chair yoga to older adults.
Last week, Mara, Marina, composer Gabrielle Herbst, and I went to the Avaloch Farm Music Institute in Boscawen, New Hampshire, a magical place where musicians and composers can have the time and space to work, not to mention delicious meals for sustenance. We were there specifically for the New Music Initiative, a program directed by Hannah Collins and Michael Compitello of New Morse Code, which focuses exclusively on ensemble/composer collaborations. The facilities were pristine, the landscape was beautiful, and the people were so lovely. We were truly lucky to have the opportunity to work with Gabi in this idyllic setting!
During our group work sessions, Gabi led improvisations that opened up the weird and strange possibilities that could come out of our instruments and our vocal cords. I don’t want to give too much away, but after this, I’m so excited to hear what Gabi creates. In addition to writing classical music, she composes short-form, vocal-centric compositions under the name GABI. If you aren’t familiar with her work yet, you can see her opera Bodiless online here and listen to (and buy!) her album, Sympathy, here.
Big thanks to Dr. Fred Tauber and Deborah Scherr of Avaloch for making such a unique place exist! And we’re also grateful to Hannah and Michael for being so receptive to our proposal.
Here are some photos. We don’t have as many in the studio because we were focused on work and rarely took our phones out, which was a refreshing change from our usual day-to-day.
Last Wednesday and Thursday we recorded Potential Energies by Trevor Gureckis, a 55-minute ballet for musicians and dancers that we commissioned in 2014. We know, we're late to recording the game; after all, we have been around for about 8 years. But better late than never! We recorded at Mission Sound in Williamsburg, hopped up on caffeine from Gimme Coffee, which was a few steps away, and had the privilege of working with recording engineer extraordinaire, Dan Bora. And we didn't kill each other! Yes, we are still a group! Maybe we owe that to Lola the dog and Poofsy the cat. Below is the trailer of the original project plus photos from the session. Mission is an instrument hoarder's paradise!
Stay tuned for news on which record label will release the album, and mark your calendars for our album release performance at National Sawdust on June 1!
This Friday is the deadline for our Call for Scores! While doing research for pieces for Pierrot ensemble with electronics for an upcoming concert, sans additional instruments, we noticed it was slim pickin’s out there. So we decided to throw out a call, a shout, a plea into the universe (and of course, the Twitterverse) to see what was out there, as well as create a commissioning opportunity for emerging composers who use electronics in their practice to write something brand new for us.
We can’t give too much away, but we’re working on a concert for 2017 that will involve technology and fashion. One of the pieces from our call can make it onto that concert, on an installment of our Composed Cocktails series, or something completely different and out there…we are always dreaming up new concepts! So Composers—get your submissions to us STAT! Find information on how to apply here.
Thursday we had a creative meeting for our upcoming synesthesia-inspired music and art installation, Mysterium Novum.
Paul said, "Anne, are you telling me how to compose?"
Isabel and Sugar mostly took Instagrams and Snapchats. They were bestowed with the important task, however, of choosing the pastries. They also ate most of them.
Joel talked about his pretty flowers. They will respond to touch. Jeanette thought of ways to make them even prettier.
Beau brought a costume prototype, made of organza. ORGANZA EXTRAVAGANZA COMING TO MYSTERIUM NOVUM!
We walked through Anne's ribbons and it was magical.
Hopping off the A train and passing mobs of street fashion photographers capturing the outspoken and dressed-to-impress style of the attendees, I got my first taste of how the next hour would unfold. Some guests looked like they could have stepped right onto the runway. This specifically includes two gentlemen rocking fur coats, sunglasses INDOORS, perfectly trimmed facial hair, and one with the most incredible patterned suit/combat boot pairing I have ever seen. I had to ask for a picture of them. They seemed shy and then posed simultaneously as if on cue. Completely clueless as to what to expect next, I entered the massive NYFW Skylight at Moynihan Drive venue.
Upon being ushered into the tightly packed room which was warm with body heat and jittering with anticipation, crew and guests were cleared off of the runway. It was then unwrapped from its plastic casing from the corners to reveal a shiny and flawless runway ready, well...runway. Everyone around me looked as if this was not their first rodeo so I tried to keep my stupid amounts of excitement on the inside. I'll pretend like I succeeded.
The lights went down, the music blared, and designer Yohanix began the two-part show. (The film-score buff in me was particularly delighted when models stomped down the runway to a piece by Hans Zimmer from Inception. I’m pretty sure nobody else lost their cool over this. Oh, well.) A collection filled with blazers, jackets, and sweatshirts in shadow blacks, midnight blues, and army khakis began making their mark on a now hushed crowd. With very and dark playful humor, accessorized to perfection, featuring bold textiles, this street-chic girl commanded the runway in beanies, stunning embellishments and beading, and frameless glasses. A standout look featured a heavily structured play on an aviator jacket sporting an oversized shearling collar with spectacular straps, zippers, and fabric-mixing detailing - topped off by a twist on the aviator frames. Take my money. (This look is pictured in the finale photo later in the post.)
Commanding the runway next was Jarret. It was very clear off the bat this collection would be a seamless modern marriage of both masculine and feminine tailoring. Featuring a more couture woman complete with blood red lip and booties, draped in fur and/or layered in lace, with a metal bow-like hairpiece, this woman was here to own the room. Blue Sapphire was another fearless color found throughout these looks whether comprising an exceptional fur coat over a grey hooded sweatsuit, or making up an entire hooded embellished sweatsuit itself. Both of these looks I could not get enough of. The use of fur was definitely a prevailing theme throughout the collection which made Jarret’s girl look luxurious, posh, and powerful. The soft hooded sweatsuit looks provided a beautiful juxtaposition with the fur, yet elements tying each look together made for a seamless and exciting show.
Although both Jarret and Yohanix had independent shows that were styled to their individual preferences and aesthetics, as the models took to the runway in one grand finale, the collections became one. The structure, textiles, color, detailing, and styling all flowed beautifully to create an environment where all of these looks made perfect sense on one runway. It was very apparent that a lot of the females in the crowd at this show wanted to be the Concept Korea Womenswear FW16 girls, myself included. Overall this show was an overwhelmingly amazing and inspiring experience I will not soon forget and can now cross off my bucket list. I hope to get the opportunity to attend more like it!
-Kate Steinberg (NCP intern)
All photos by Kate Steinberg
Today we performed songs by Fetty Wap, Future, and Roland Carter at Pyer Moss's FW 2016 show at MILK Studios, which was part of MADE Fashion Week. Sterling Overshown did the choral arrangements and Trevor Gureckis orchestrated the accompaniment for Pierrot ensemble. We were thrilled to take part in this show! The visionary Dario Calmese contacted us a week ago and we're stoked that we were able to whip this together in such a tight span of time. It helped that the choir members were incredibly talented and super pro, and Trevor has the gift of skills and speed. We're pretty exhausted since our day started this morning at 10 am and ended around 4 pm, but we had such an amazing time playing good music in branded hospital gowns and chunky boots. We hope to do more shows next season! Maybe we'll hold a sign outside MILK that says "Will work for clothes!" :-P
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All photos after Erykah Badu + Kirby Jean-Raymond were taken by Trevor Gureckis.
This is mostly going to be a picture post. It's been a long day, but a good one: we had a rehearsal for a fashion show that we're playing tomorrow, where we were joined by the super stylish Dario Calmese (details to be revealed later!) and then a shindig at the Agatha Ruiz de la Prada store in TriBeca. We're working on a lil' something with Agatha for later this spring. Agatha's store is the brightest thing on the corner of Watts and Greenwich, even on the grayest day. We New Yorkers can definitely use a break from our black uniform! Agatha Ruiz de la Prada inspires us to wear more color and to remember to have fun with fashion. Be one of the first to get the scoop on tomorrow's fashion show by following us on Twitter.
Last Thursday, we hosted a tour of the FIT Museum’s Fairy Tale Fashion exhibition to kick off a new initiative we’re launching called the NCP Arts Council. (We’ll be sharing more on this soon…subscribe to our newsletter to be in the know!) Curator Colleen Hill was our guide, pointing out details on each garment and accessory and sharing with us her thought process during the creation of the exhibition: some pieces were directly inspired by fairy tales, while other pieces were selected because they were reminiscent of sartorial references in certain tales. Surprisingly, we learned that the way we perceive iconic garments in these tales are quite different from the original story, for instance: Little Red Riding Hood originally wore a cap knitted by her grandmother rather than a cape; Dorothy’s shoes were actually silver, not ruby red; and Cinderella’s ugly step sisters were actually kind of hot.
The pieces in the exhibition were stunning and we were so impressed. Needless to say, we had a great time. We got to see (drool over?) some imaginative high fashion while gathering with friends, familiar and new. We’ve also decided that NCP needs to go on more field trips.
And now…pictures galore!
Yesterday we had our first Mysterium Novum team meeting of 2016. Mysterium Novum is a project we've been working on since 2014. Our clarinetist, Isabel Kim, has been intrigued with synesthesia for quite some time and came up with this concept after discovering composer Alexander Scriabin’s unrealized piece Mysterium. It was to be an elaborate week-long synesthetic performance/experience combining music, dance, visual art, light projections, and scent. Using Scriabin’s project as a point of inspiration, we’ll be creating our own version of it, with music by composer Paul Haas, an installation by Anne Patterson, scent by Atelier de Geste, and interactive tech by Joel Mellin. And we’ll be performing, of course!
We started with our walk-through at White Box on the Lower East Side, where we asked a million questions about power sources, sound, chairs, and where the bathroom was because some of us needed to go. After getting a sense of the space we were all inspired and still had so many more ideas to explore, so Anne suggested we sit down and grab lunch. Isabel (an all-knowing maven of what’s cool) walked us over to Café Henrie. This place is “just fucking delightful and an Instagrammer’s paradise” according to Sugar. Well, she’s not wrong. We’d also like to add that the food was healthy and really delicious.
Mysterium Novum is one of the most challenging projects we’ve had to produce thus far. The biggest thing before this was Potential Energies, which presented its own set of challenges (primarily getting ten musicians and dancers in a room, and working in a long process with a large group of people). Funding is always a challenge, but with Mysterium Novum the major hurdle, to our surprise, was securing a presenter. It was surprising because we had funding secured, and a couple of them spoke to us over the course of several months, even talking possible dates, with the answer concluding in a “no.”
So in true NCP-style we’re making it happen ourselves. It’s going to take place in June so stay tuned for our announcement in the coming months. You might hear trumpets. Or hear trumpets and see blue at the same time! In the meantime, scroll for more photos and stay updated by signing up for our newsletter.