Monday, June 10, 2013

Introducing KAPOW!

Well, folks, it doesn’t get much "funner" than this.  Our concerts are usually more on the “serious” side, even if we do try to break the mold of the traditional classical music concert.  This time, however, the whole evening is, for the most part, tongue-in-cheek and hilariously entertaining.  For starters, Linus Roache is joining us.  That one is for the ladies…especially the wife, who has been smitten with him since watching “Wings of the Dove” in the late ‘90s.  I get it, I get it.  For once, there will be a handsomer man than I on stage!  (Just kidding, btw.)  Secondly, we have Tony Roberts, who needs no introduction if you’ve seen “Annie Hall” or “Play It Again, Sam.”  Then we have Tony Award-nominee Stephanie D’Abruzzo, whom you may know as Lucy the Slut from “Avenue Q.”  Add to that mix the multi-faceted Elliott Forrest – you New Yorkers out there will know his mellifluous voice on WQXR – as narrator for the evening, and you have a seriously interesting mix there. 

Did I mention that this awesome cast is bringing to life the adventures of caped crusader, The Green Lama?  For those of you who don’t know The Green Lama, that would be Jethro Dumont, rich New Yorker-turned-lama who – and I’m not making this up! – turns into the superhero crime-fighter by chanting “Om! Ma-ni pad-me Hum!”  If only transforming into a superhero were that easy…

So where does Sympho fit into all of this (besides putting the whole thing together)?  The music, of course!  We’ve spent many a day composing and compiling a live soundtrack for this event.  And did I mention sound effects?  If you come and hear bullets whizzing in the hall, never fear, that’s just yours truly on my trusty laptop.

Lastly, we’re excited to introduce new software art by Scott Draves, creator of “Electric Sheep.”  You may have to be a nerd to have heard of “Electric Sheep,” but you don’t have to be one to be awed by them.  It’s like watching universes folding into themselves and then emerging into new and hypnotic forms.  We’ll be presenting a new generation (in ultra hi-def, better than Blu-Ray!) of “Electric Sheep,” accompanied by live music, and I dare you not to be transported while you’re watching. 
So if you thought Sympho was all about high-brow, “serious” art, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that we have a wicked sense of humor, too!  KAPOW!  This Wednesday, 7 p.m., at the Rubin Museum.  You can buy tickets here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cameos by...

Another one of the great things about putting together a Sympho concert is the incredibly talented artists we get to work with (this on top of the fantastic musicians of the orchestra, of course!).  So here we are, around the calendar corner from Ascending Darkness, and we have another brilliant line-up.

We have cameo appearances by classical guitar virtuoso David Leisner, who has been described by American Record Guide as "...among the finest guitarists currently performing," and he certainly lives up to that description.

And if you've ever wondered how gorgeous a theorbo can sound (or if you just wanted to know what a theorbo was), look no further than master theorbist Hank Heijink, who we've managed to snag for a special number.

We are also bringing back multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer Bora Yoon, who captivated our audiences on both coasts during ARCO and TOWER.

And, finally, Trio Eos, a female vocal trio whose voices are what we imagine angels sound like when they sing.

Two weeks until the big reveal, and we are itching with anticipation.  Hoping that some of you are as well.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Darkness, Blessed Darkness...

One of the exhilarating things about putting together a Sympho concert is that we never know how the many moving parts will coalesce on the night of.  One of the terrifying things about putting together a Sympho concert is that we never know how the many moving parts will coalesce on the night of. 

By that, I mean, we usually start with a concept, then search for the right venue to bring that concept to life, then curate a “playlist,” then compose or commission the interstitial pieces, then bring in guest artists (musical or other), then add lighting, then determine musician placement throughout the space, then figure out the logistics of getting musicians around the space if the program calls for it, etc.  (There’s more to it, of course, but I won’t bore you with minutiae.)  Needless to say, there’s always room for things to go wrong – like when one of our commissioned composers pulled out at the last minute for one of our concerts, or when our projector failed for another concert, or when, for yet another concert, the projections weren’t quite what we had been expecting.  But the unexpected is just par for the course for us, and we’ve learned to roll with the punches.

What we can’t take chances on, though, for our next concert, is darkness, given that we’ve entitled our concert Ascending Darkness, and that we’ve been describing this concert, more or less, as a concert in the dark.  Were we performing in a black box theater or standard interior concert space, the possibility of pitch blackness would be a given.  But this concert calls for resonant acoustics, and we were fortunate enough to have been granted use of the architectural marvel that is the Church of the Ascension in Greenwich Village.  While perfect in just about every aspect for “Ascending Darkness,” I had noted, though, a potential glitch in the possibility of light transmittal from the gorgeous, stain-glassed windows. 

So we were worried, and not just a little…until our visit to the space last night.  Relief.  Finally, we were able to see the space with the lights turned off, and, oh, blessed, blessed darkness.  We were able to revel and dream in the limitless luxury of blackness – surprisingly black, given the aforementioned windows – imagining ourselves as the audience immersed in the dream we’re planning to weave.  So here we are, planning and prepping for this concert with a renewed commitment.  Finalizing touches to the musical offerings now, and our lighting designer – yes, we have a lighting designer for a concert in the dark, but more on that later – plotting his concept to execution, to assist us in enhancing the experience for our audience. 

Can’t wait to share this performance with you.  I suspect this will be an intensely memorable experience for most, if not all, of the audience.  And, if nothing else, it will be undoubtedly unique.

‘Til later.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ascending Darkness - beginnings

Now that Sympho's Ascending Darkness is coming up (on May 8 in NYC), I figured I'd share something of its origins.  I've always been fascinated by the idea of a concert in the dark, so this one has been on the slate for years now.

About a year ago, though, I was struck by how light/dark opposition might be stretched -- in the concert context -- into a land of conscious/unconscious thought, or awake/dreaming.  That led to the "Aha!" moment that is about to culminate in Ascending Darkness (subtitled "Soundtrack to a Dream").

In my mind (and my mind only, unless someone else is drawn there by chance), the dramatic arc of this concert is very much informed by the writings of Joseph Campbell - specifically "Hero With a Thousand Faces."  It's a journey into the un- (or sub-) conscious, something akin to a quest.  With that said, I think the only important thing to know going into a concert like this is that you have the opportunity to make it into your own journey, your own quest.

The music and lighting are designed to draw you into a quasi-sleep state -- not that you'll be out cold, snoring, but more like withdrawn from the outside and paying serious attention to things sonic.  Once you're there, each piece develops the dream further.  Whatever associations or images you come up with along the way, they're all valid.  This is YOUR dream, remember?  One of the interesting things to know about archetypal hero quests/dream journeys is that they all share the same broad-based sequence of events, regardless of culture or time period.  Given that, it's likely that the sequence of associations and images you experience during this concert will be similar to what others experience.  Interesting post-concert discussion fodder, we hope!

Back to writing music for this.  More soon...

Friday, January 18, 2013

A belated Happy New Year's greeting to all of our Sympho supporters and fans.  2012 was an artistically fulfilling year, with events on both coasts (in NYC and California), but 2013 promises to be an even more exciting one.  Artistic ideas are percolating.  Sleeves have been rolled up.  We have two concerts coming up in NYC -- a multimedia follow-up to "Green Lama" and a concert that explores the ideas of darkness in music and music in darkness -- not to mention an educational initiative that mentors young musicians while teaching them how to perform for children in pediatric intensive care units.  The latter is a project near and dear to us, and we look forward to providing updates in the coming weeks.  Finally, we have an exciting commission in San Francisco that we can't wait to share with you!  Until the official press announcement, we have to keep it under wraps, but it's going to be quite the event, so stay tuned!

Happy Friday, and here's a little clip of something we've been listening to a lot recently:
It's not exactly "classical," but we like to mix things up a little!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bionic Symphony

Given that Sympho's Bionic Symphony is coming up on June 6 at 8pm in NYC, I wanted to let our readers know what it is and why it's going to be so special. (Click here to buy tickets.)

This concert started in my mind with the idea of alternating electrical current, or more specifically the notion that extreme energy, and ultimately power, can be generated by alternating differing signal types in rapid succession. A quick glance at the program notes shows that this idea – switching back and forth between old (Classical) and new (Neo-Classical) music – is still very much alive.

Then I began to think about the very “Sympho” idea of using that generation of power to create something new and very large-scale, something specifically inspired by human aspirations.

Bionic Symphony is a large-scale work, composed of four “bionic symphonies” (Parts I, II, III, and IV in the program order), connected by interludes. The music in these “bionic symphonies” alternates between Classical (in this case by Mozart and Haydn) and Neoclassical (music that uses Classical forms and conventions as a starting point for the creative process) movements or short pieces.

What is a Symphony? In Reader’s Digest terms, it’s a musical piece of Classical origins, usually but not necessarily in four movements, where those movements were typically in the order fast-slow-dance-fast. (The dance movements could be slow or fast but were usually in triple meter.) The first movement is typically in sonata form, where (after an optional slow introduction) initial material is presented in an “exposition”, then toyed with in the“development”, and finally re-presented in more final terms in the “recapitulation”.

More importantly, and in terms we can all understand, a Symphony is a journey contemplated and then travelled, a problem encountered and then solved. As we progress from the Classical into the Romantic period, especially with composers like Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms, we start to encounter thematic and other organic links between movements. In some later instances (e.g., Sibelius’s Symphony No. 7), there are no breaks, yielding a Symphony in one movement.

Our “bionic symphonies” are designed to integrate the feeling and sweep of a Symphony: in either two, three, or four movements, they have their own journey to travel or their own problem to solve. Indeed, the evening as a whole, if you look at it carefully, is itself of Symphonic proportions: four movements, each with its own flavor, and designed with a forward momentum from beginning to end.

In the end, though, you'll be able to put all of that in the background, because this evening has been designed to transport you into an exciting, emotional space: a movie-length, nonstop, century-hopping smorgasbord of great music.  I can't wait to share it all with you!

(Again, for tickets, click here.)

Friday, February 10, 2012 review

OK, we at Sympho are pretty happy with this one. The Green Lama was, according to, "a mixed-media sensory experience that was like nothing I’ve seen before and, dare I say it, it even bordered on the spiritual." To check out the full review, please click here.