What I’m Listening To - 2

Playlist: Shaw | Adès | Reich


Music has a way of solidifying blocks of time in our memory — repeat listens to albums or songs “remind us of the time when…” and so, from time to time, I will post some of the contemporary (classical) music that’s shaped and given context to my week.

For most people, this will be a truly new musical experience, with unheard-of performers, composers and even sounds; with the help of YouTube and Spotify, “New Music” has emerged as its own vibrant genre and, I hope you will agree, one well worth exploring.

This week I’ve been listening to music that evokes shapes. Caroline Shaw’s unusual Pulitzer-winning Partita includes mathematical equations as a part of its spoken text. Thomas Ades’ remarkable violin concerto Concentric Paths weaves in and out of its own musical material. And, for whatever reason, Steve Reich’s genre-defining Music for 18 Musicians always feels distinctly geometric to me.

Below the playlist you’ll find brief listening notes for each piece.

Caroline Shaw | Partita

8 Singers| 2013 | 25 minutes

Shaw (b. 1982, North Carolina) won a Pulitzer (at age 30) for her Partita; she also won a grammy singing with the ensemble the premiered it (Roomful of Teeth). I love how seamlessly she merges spoken text, sung text and vocal sound effects. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll have the openings text, “to the side; to the side; to the side (and around); (and to the middle) to the side…” stuck in your head the rest of the day ;)

What to hear next by Shaw:

Say You Will, (her collaboration with Kanye West)

Its Motion Keeps for Youth Chorus & String Quartet

Valencia for String Quartet

For more, check out New Music Box’ in-depth interview with her.

Roomful of Teeth is a vocal ensemble that won a grammy for their performance of member Caroline Shaw’s Partita.

Thomas Adès | Concentric Paths

Violin Concerto | 2005 | 19 minutes

Adès (b. 1971, UK) — composer/pianist/conductor who teaches at the Royal Academy of Music. I love the violin concerto because of its incredible beauty; the second movement has one of my favorite moments in music, a phrase that seems to unfold endlessly. One of the amazing things about this piece is the way the orchestra and violin interact: in “traditional” concertos the soloist either opposes, follows, or leads the orchestral material, but in Concentric Paths the orchestra and soloist often take their own independent lines to their own logical conclusion before finding each other again. The second movement has one my favorite phrases in all of music.

What to hear next by Adès:

Asyla for Orchestra

Lieux retrouvés for Cello and Piano

Chamber Symphony

For more, check out The Guardian’s article about him.

Peter Herresthal teaches violin at the Oslo Academy of music and specializes in new music.

Steve Reich | Music for 18 Musicians

Chamber Ensemble of… 18 musicians | 1976 | 59 minutes

Reich (b. 1936, New York) — Dubbed “our greatest living composer” by the New York Times, he has been awarded Guggenheim Grants, 2 Grammys and the 2009 Pulitzer. I love Music for 18 because it takes the listener on an incredible journey that has a different context each time it’s heard. The recapitulation (when the music from the very beginning of the piece appears almost an hour later, at the end of the piece) is simply marvelous. This is, perhaps, the best traveling music in existence (including Music for Airports) and it’s perfect for a run or a plane flight.

What to hear next by Reich:

Piano Phase for Two Pianos

Cello Counterpoint for Amplified Cello and Overdubbed Cellos

Electric Counterpoint for Amplified Guitar and Overdubbed Guitars

For more, check out The Guardian’s article about him.

Brad Lubman is music director of Ensemble Signal and also Musica Nova at the Eastman School of Music, where he teaches.


Follow Eric on Medium for more installments. Enjoy!