September 14, 2009 | Comments Off
From their website:
Elegant and epic, realist and romantic, foreign and familiar – Likeness to Lily is a Brooklyn-based New Music quartet with a flair for telling syncopated stories in the patois of post-modern pop. Vocalist Susan Oetgen’s classically poetic melodies come from the heart of everyday life and love, and find pulse and passion in the jazz-inspired rhythms, harmonies and compositional savoir-faire of pianist Tony Melone, drummer Evan Pazner and bassist Ian M. Riggs.
Since forming in 2003, Likeness to Lily has performed regularly in the downtown music clubs of New York City, recently venturing forth to appear in concert series and performing arts venues along the East Coast, notably on the Vermont Arts Exchange’s Basement Music Series in N. Bennington, VT, and the Hump Day Groovz Series at Washington, DC’s Busboys & Poets. In 2005, Likeness to Lily independently recorded and released their debut record, Solitude’s Dollhouse, which features the song ‘Jewelia’, as heard on A&E Television’s prime-time reality show, Random 1.
In March 2008, Likeness to Lily premiered an original multimedia song-cycle entitled Bazm-o-Razm on the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s Music off the Walls series at the Brooklyn Museum, featuring chamber musicians from the Brooklyn Philharmonic, visual images by artist Justin Waldstein, Iraq War photos by Pulitzer Prize-nominee Alan Chin, and choreography by Sahar Javedani. Bazm-o-Razm was reprised at The Performance Project @ University Settlement in May 2008, and will be performed again on December 5, 2008 at Galapagos Art Space, for the occasion of Likeness to Lily’s Farewell, Recruit CD release. Farewell, Recruit contains the complete music of Bazm-o-Razm, as well 6 other original songs that integrate the dramatic depth of opera with tight, but conversational, song arrangements and ageless acoustic appeal.
September 7, 2009 | Comments Off
Imani Winds has established itself as more than a wind quintet. Since 1997, the Grammy nominated ensemble has taken a unique path, carving out a distinct presence in the classical music world with its dynamic playing, culturally poignant programming, genre-blurring collaborations, and inspirational outreach programs. With two member composers and a deep commitment to commissioning new work, the group is enriching the traditional wind quintet repertoire while meaningfully bridging European, American, African and Latin American traditions.
The wide range of programs offered by Imani Winds demonstrates their mission to expand the wind quintet repertoire and diversify sources of new music. From Mendelssohn, Jean Françaix, György Ligeti, and Luciano Berio, to Astor Piazzolla, Elliott Carter and John Harbison; to the unexpected ranks of Paquito D’Rivera and Wayne Shorter, Imani Winds actively seek to engage new music and new voices into the modern classical idiom. Imani members Valerie Coleman and Jeff Scott both regularly contribute compositions and arrangements to the ensemble’s expanding repertoire, bringing new sounds and textures to the traditional instrumentation.
Imani Winds enjoy frequent national exposure in all forms of media, including two features on NPR’s All Things Considered, appearances on APM’s Saint Paul Sunday, NPR’s Performance Today and News and Notes with Ed Gordon, the Bob Edwards Show on XM Satellite Radio, BBC The World, as well as frequent coverage in major music magazines and newspapers.
June 1, 2009 | Leave a Comment
Dr Kent: What a great tune, False Hopes, from the album Farewell, Recruit, and the band is called Likeness to Lily. Welcome to the show, Susan, I’m going to say your name incorrectly. Why don’t you tell me how to say it.
Susan Oetgen: Thank you, my last name is pronounced “Oetgen.”
Dr Kent: “Oetgen,” oh great. I slaughtered it earlier. Well, what an incredible track. There’s a little bit of out music in there, there’s some classical, there’s some jazz. Tell me about this.
Susan Oetgen: Well, that’s a piece that I co-wrote actually with the pianist in my band, Tony Malone, who trained, really as like a jazz pianist, and one of the reasons that I’ve loved writing this tune with him is because he really sort of brought that improvisatory and kind of off the rails sensibility of the jazz and improvisations you have, and we invited Peter Huff to play the clarinet, and Franz Nicolai who is on that track playing the accordian. He’s also, I think maybe if you know the band, the whole study, Franz (inaudible) is the whole study, and they’re kind of old friends of all of ours from jazz circles and old circles in New York. It was just kind of a tune that we wanted to get pretty free form and let everybody have their way with.
Dr Kent: Well, it’s so cool. How did you all find each other in the first place?
Susan Oetgen: The band? Likeness to Lily?
Dr Kent: Yes.
Susan Oetgen: Well, I started the band in 2003, and at the time I gathered together a group of musicians that I had worked with on different projects, and piano-based drums and guitar at the very beginning. Ian Riggs and I are actually the only two originals who sort of started with the band. But after a period of time, we were looking for a different drummer, and Ian suggested Evan Pasner, who he knew from lots of different projects around Brooklyn. Then Tony Malone went to, I guess Ian and Tony met each other when they went at Oberlin, so he came on board a little while after that, and that’s been the quartet for the last two years, two and a half years.
Dr Kent: When you’re writing a tune like this, with a great piano player like he obviously is, and this crazy arrangement, what do you do? Do you start with some words? Do you fish out a little tune here and a little tune there? What’s your process?
Susan Oetgen: Well actually I think one of the things that makes Likeness to Lily a unique, and sort of have the unique sound that it has is that it’s a very collaborative setup, the four of us are really good collaborators. But every song that we’ve written so far…
Dr Kent: You still there? I think I might have lost Susan, but hopefully we’ll try and get her back. Are you back? I lost her again. Their website is likenesstolilymusic.com, and it’s really inspiring music, incredible lyrics, and I’m pretty amazed by their whole sound, and it’s a mix of classical, jazz, and this and that. I’m going to play another song from it, and in the meantime we’re going to get Susan back on the line, she’s the lead singer from Likeness to Lily. So I’m going to play a track from their album called Farewell, Recruit, and we’ll talk to her about it right after the little pause here.
Dr Kent: And what a beautiful tune that is. That was called Farewell, Recruit, by Likeness to Lily. And we’ve had some technical difficulties today, talking with Susan, but she’s going to be calling in here in a minute, and we’ll talk to her live on the show. In the meantime, the band Likeness to Lily is four members, she’s Susan Oetgen, and there’s Tony Malone on piano, Ian Riggs on bass and Evan Pasner on drums. And I think I have you live on the air again, Susan.
Susan Oetgen: Hi.
Dr. Kent: How are you doing?
Susan Oetgen: I’m good, I’m good.
Dr. Kent: We lost you for a minute there, but we’re now back. That was a beautiful tune, my goodness, tell me about some of the other tunes from the album, including the one we just listened to, which is called Farewell, Recruit.
Susan Oetgen: Oh, sure. Well, the record has six songs on it, there are twelve songs in total, but six of the songs on the record come from a piece that I was commissioned to write by the Brooklyn Philharmonic last year, where I was invited to bring Likeness to Lily and combine Likeness to Lily with chamber musicians, violin, cello and flute, and create a piece for a series that the Brooklyn Philharmonic does at the Brooklyn Museum, which involves collections, like the paintings or images in the museum’s collection. And the program that I was invited to write this commission for was based on the Islamic Art Collection at the Brooklyn Museum. So I had been working really with material related to the Marine Corp and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and somehow it kind of all came together when I went to the museum to research the actual paintings, and saw these really beautiful works of art that told the story of two lovers called Leila and Maglilan, which is sort of like the Romeo and Juliet of Islamic literature. So I created a piece with six songs that told the story of Leila and Maglilan in a kind of updated version of a United States Marine and a woman who meet and fall in love and then are separated because he’s deployed, which roughly follows the same story line as the two lovers Leila and Maglilan, who are separated for various reasons. So the song Farewell, Recruit, I think really sets the stage of that story and kind of introduces the rest of the record as like a sort of story that incorporates contemporary ideas as well as a more poetic and ancient one, too.
Dr. Kent: I’d like to talk about the words for a minute, before we get disconnected. We were kind of talking about that, whether you were talking about the process of how Likeness to Lily is special to you, and I was asking you about words first, music first.
Susan Oetgen: Yeah, sure. I think that the thing that makes Likeness to Lily unique is that really the songs start as poems or stories that I write and then set to a melody and then create for, and then bring to Tony and Evan and Ian, and as a group we arrange those melodies and create the songs that you hear on the record. I think that as we’ve developed as a band one thing has become really clear to us, and that is that the music is really, it’s very storytelling, not just in terms of the lyrics, which are always, you know, really most of the songs have a really narrative point of view, they’re about characters or portraits of characters, and that sort of thing, but the music itself also contributes to that storytelling, because I think that what we create I the moment, either listening to the songs on a record or live, is a way to kind of escape into another universe where as an audience you can kind of have a keyhole viewpoint on a different story or different people living out a different story line. So yeah, they always sort of start with the lyrics, that’s for sure.
Dr. Kent: And one thing I like about Farewell, Recruit is in the middle of the song you talk about September 11th, and it’s such a visual story. This guy goes to become a member of the Army, and it’s definitely from the woman’s perspective, and she says, “Was it really so brutal?” It’s an interesting part of the story that we don’t often hear about, but it’s kind of the result of all these, there’s so many military men that are committing suicide and this and that because their relationships are, you know, people just can’t understand.
Susan Oetgen: Yeah.
Dr. Kent: A really powerful story for these times. In what sense, how do you incorporate words? Are you like a poet that gets up every morning and does ten minutes of poetry? Or do you sort of explode with it?
Susan Oetgen: I think it sort of comes in little segments here and there. Sometimes just a phrase or a word will seem really interesting, and then all of a sudden it will sort of spin out into a lyric, kind of of its own energy. But I think it’s mostly just because, as a way of communicating, language is so natural. I trained as a classical singer, and I’ve been a singer more than I would say a musician for most of my life. So the medium of words and language is something that is really natural, and I’ve spend a lot of time studying. Like in classical singing you really study the words of an opera, or the words of an art song, because a lot of times they’re in foreign languages, and you really have to know what you’re singing about. So in a way, I think that you, yeah, I heard of, I think it was E. Ennie Poole, the author who in an interview said that she gets up every morning, and it’s like any other job, she just sits down at the desk, and for like 8 hours, what she does is she writes. I definitely am not like that. I wish I had that kind of discipline, but it’s more just like, you know, words and images, or like a story kind of comes to mind and then it’s like a little bit of work at it whenever it seems inspired, you know.
Dr. Kent: Well, very cool. I’m going to play one more track here, and I’ll say goodbye to you know, but it’s Helen the Blessed. Tell me a little about that one.
Susan Oetgen: Oh sure, yeah. That actually, that piece is based on a poem that was written by my aunt, my father’s younger sister. She wrote a poem, which I adapted slightly to make it into more of like a song format lyrically, but it’s a song about my great grandmother on my father’s side, and her three sons, so she was, she lost three of her four sons before she died, and the fourth son I think was a priest. So in a way it was like saying good bye to all four of her sons, and it’s just, I thought that was an inspiring story because it seems so different than the kind of modern stories that you hear, like in the time of war there really is this thing where people have sons and daughters that go away, more than one, and it really affects the family life. So I thought it was, even though it’s a song about a different place and a different time, it’s kind of topical to what we live today in our society today. But it is about my great grandmother, a true story, if you will.
Dr. Kent: Well, very cool. Thank you so much for chatting with me. I’ve been speaking with Susan, the lead singer of Likeness to Lily, and their website is likenesstolilymusic.com.
Susan Oetgen: Thanks so much.
Dr. Kent: I’m going to play a track from Likeness to Lily, from their last album, and that’s called Farewell, Recruit, of course named after that gorgeous song we just listened to, and this song is called Helen the Blessed. Let’s listen to that.
Dr. Kent: That was a beautiful tune from Likeness to Lily, and that one’s called Helen the Blessed from their latest record called Farewell, Recruit. Well, it’s been a great show this week, thank you so much for tuning in. This is Dr. Kent, and I’m tuning out. I hope you have a safe one, and I hope you crack a book, and I hope you go to Likeness to Lily’s website and check out their music, what incredible sounds. So be well, enjoy the new spring we’ve got and have a great weekend.
May 28, 2009 | Leave a Comment
Dr. Kent: My next guest on the show is a musician, of course. On the fourth part of every show we feature authors of sound and we’ve got the Imani Winds up ahead. I’m going to play a little piece by them, by Ravel, this is Le Tombeau De Couperin, I’m not very good at French. It’s by Ravel, beautiful piece by Imani Winds. We’re going to listen to that, and then we’re going to talk to the clarinetist.
Dr. Kent: What a gorgeous rendition of that. And it’s my honor now to speak to a member of the Imani Winds. I’m speaking with Mariam Adam. Are you there?
Mariam Adam: Yes, I’m here. Thanks for having me.
Dr. Kent: What a gorgeous sound. Tell me first about that Ravel piece.
Mariam Adam: Well, it’s a piece that was originally for piano and then rearranged by Ravel himself for the orchestra, and that’s probably on of the more well known versions of the Le Tombeau De Couperin, and it was a piece that was actually dedicated to his friend that had fallen in the first World War. But then it was transcribed for the wind quintet by a horn player actually. And it’s one of the few pieces that has transcribed well for the wind quintet, and is written in such a lush way that you don’t often get to hear these five instruments. So I think for that reason alone it has an appeal to every type of listener, classical, contemporary, and even some people hear a little bit of the jazz element in the movements.
Dr. Kent: Yeah, that’s a fascinating thing about your music is that it’s got a real edge to it of, it’s got the jazz in it. We’re going to listen to some piet solo later, and you’ve got a whole bunch of different elements coming together in all of your music.
Mariam Adam: Yep, that’s our M.O. (laughter) Have to put in a little bit of everything.
Dr. Kent: Tell me about the group. Where do you guys play? You’ve got all these things going on, and of course something that’s very fascinating about the group is you’re all African American players. Talk about all of that.
Maiam Adam: Yeah. Imani Winds is a group that definitely looks the way that we do for a reason. Valerie the flutist had the name of a group before she even had the members of the group about 11 years ago and I knew her from summer festival out at Aspen. We moved to New York at the same time to go to grad school, got this group started, had no idea where it was going to go, although she always says that she did, and I believe it. But the group started out as African American, Latino musicians in classical music, one, to give the composers a similar background of voice. Another reason to give younger players that look like us role models that we feel we didn’t necessarily have growing up on our instruments. And also to really give a new direction to chamber music, and maybe a little bit of evolution of what chamber music is coming to. You know, we’ll always have the classic pieces like Ravel, and for us classic pieces also mean Milton and Carter and things from the 1940’s and 50’s. That’s about as recent as we get for the great works. But that led Imani Winds to take a path that was, one, educational, as well as slightly groundbreaking just for the reason that there weren’t many wind quartets out there doing what we do, and having two composers in the group, and think that is really the unique trump card that we have. That we have two composers who don’t just transcribe things, they write original works, and they’ve had us as their guinea pigs for many years, so they’ve gotten quite good at it. It has allowed us to expand into many different genres and bring it to our audiences. And there’s always a little bit of something for everybody on our program. And the places that we end up playing.
Dr. Kent: And on your website, imaniwinds.com, that’s i-m-a-n-i winds.com, there’s some incredible information about your group. And the bio page is just an incredible collection of folks. A number of awards, the degrees like you said, the composers, the incredible jazz and classical performers. What’s it like to play in such a small group with so many fantastic people?
Mariam Adam: Well, it’s wonderful. It really is wonderful. I think because we get along. People see that, and it comes through in our music, and I think that is also a rare thing that people say in chambers, in the groups, is that we have fun on stage, we have fun with the music. Everybody is really kick butt on their instruments. It’s a technical term. So we have a lot of freedom because of that, and not a lot of restrictions. Also, when it comes to our proper on stage, and we have stage etiquette, but also we speak to the audience and we allow them to respond to us, and we try to break down that wall that has been the stigma of classical music concerts. So we’re at Carnegie Hall and Alice Kelly, and all the big halls of New York, and all the big venues across the state. But we definitely want to celebrate the joy that we have in music and bring that infectious energy to other people. And that’s not something you get to see all the time, and I think that’s why we’ve had the longevity that we’ve had, because we love doing what we’re doing, we know we’re very lucky, to be a full time touring wind quintet. But we also work very, very hard with it, and that includes getting up at 8:00 in the morning, 7:00 in the morning, to go play for little kids in schools in every city that we visit, to bring this love of music to them.
Dr. Kent: It really is extraordinary also, for me, I have a background as a composer, and I went to Stonybrook, which I know you’re horn player did. You have a specifically, a commissioning project that’s aiming for people that wouldn’t necessarily be writing this kind of music, and featuring, well talk about that a little bit.
Mariam Adam: Yeah, the Legacy Commissioning Project started out as a commissioning project to celebrate being ten years together, same people. And it’s really evolved into a mission and a movement to get new music into the chamber music repoirtoire, especially for the woodwind quintet, because there’s a lot of woodwind quintet pieces out there, but they’re not all very good. And because people don’t have a group to write for a lot of the time, and to experiment with, they tend to write in a very similar style. So we’re getting composers like Jason Moran who is an incredibly, eclectic avant gardi and yet contemporary and down home swinging jazz pianos. And then you have Stephan Harris, who is also just multi talented. Percussionist, vibrafonist, composer, band leader, and Tanya Leone. Simoncho Hin is a ute player from Palestinian background. And these are all people who come from completely different angles but we’re forcing them, essentially, to write for us. But with the idea that they get to collaborate and we get to come back to them and say look, this is an amazing idea, why don’t you expand on this. Or, guess what, this doesn’t work. So we have feedback with the piece, and that is also to ensure that the piece is going to have legs beyond the premiere, and beyond this first world premiere that would happen. Because a lot of times that’s what would happen with commission pieces and then you never hear about them again. And we want to make sure these pieces stick around, so that they’re written well and that the person who’s writing kind of outside of their norm, ends up feeling comfortable in it, and successful.
Dr. Kent: Absolutely. I encourage everybody to go check out imaniwinds.com. I love your last album, and we’re going to play a track from that coming up ahead, Liver Tango from Master Piazzolo, which is a very brave piece to play, and it’s an incredible version of it. Are you working on any new recording projects?
Mariam Adam: Absolutely. We always have a couple in the pipeline, but one of them right now is going to be the Legacy Commissioning project pieces. We have one by Alvan Singleton. We have the piece by Jason Ran, we have a piece by Stephan Harris coming up soon. We also have a great piece that was part of the commissioning project by Roberto Sierra that’s written for string quartet, plus wind quintet, which I think is going to be a new genre. I’m so excited about it. I love the sound, I love the power that we get with these two groups together. And Valerie Coleman, our flutist, also wrote a piece to go with the concerts, with this collaboration of the string quartet. So we’re going to be recording that. We have a wonderful piece by Bucky (inaudible) who wrote (inaudible) for us called (inaudible) over Havana, and we might be putting out things in singles. But we also have a couple albums that we’ll put together from these Legacy Commissioning project pieces. And there’s always something new on the horizon, so yes, please get into our website and check out Alejandro. So we’ll probably be near somewhere near somebody soon. We’re all over the place.
Dr. Kent: Well I love it, incredible music. I hope to talk to you again after some of these CDs come out. It’s great stuff, and keep doing it.
Mariam Adam: Absolutely, and make sure you check out the Christmas album that we had, that’s the one that keeps giving back every year.
Dr. Kent: Oh, Ill bet, I’ll beat it does, yeah.
Mariam Adam: It’s great fun.
Dr. Kent: No Christmas songs here, but I want to play the song from their last Grammy nominated album, and this one’s called Libra Tango from Aster Piazzolo. Thank you so much for chatting with me, Mariam Adam.
Mariam Adam: Thank you for having me.
Dr. Kent: And the website again is imaniwinds.com. Go check out their music. It’s amazing stuff. So we’re going to listen to the whole track called Libra Tango from Aster Piazzoli, by the Imani Winds.
Dr. Kent: What a beautiful piece. I’m going to cut it off right there, but if you want to listen to more go to imaniwinds.com. That’s a piece called Libra Tango by Aster Piazzola, as performed by the Imani Winds. Check them out. It was such an honor chatting with Mariam Adam about her group, and her performances on the clarinet. And earlier in the show today we talked to Paul Austin. I could have talked to him for several hours about his riveting stories from the ER. And before that we talked to John Gilmore about his memories of Marilyn Monroe. And at the very beginning of the show, of course, was the incredible, inspirational story of Missy Jenkins, who not only survived a school shooting, but she’s starting to really get her story out there into the world, and she changes so many people’s lives with it. Well, have a great week, today is the first day of spring, and I hope you have a great one, and pick up a good book in the meantime.
April 6, 2009 | Leave a Comment
I truly enjoy the textures and scapes of Dan Goldman’s music. I haven’t heard a song I don’t enjoy immensely. Here’s a little more about Dan from his myspace page:
Luxury Pond is the songwriting project of Toronto-based musician Dan Goldman. In addition to writing and performing his own material, Dan plays regularly with Snowblink and Great Aunt Ida. He’s been a member in the Mia Sheard band, Justin Haynes’ John School, Tusks, Maps of the Night Sky, Breaking Sounds, and Kitchenmusik. He’s also created music for modern dance choreographers Jenn Goodwinn, Sara Doucet, Louis Laberge-Cote and Kathleen Rea as well as multi media producer/architect Filiz Klassen.