News – Christopher Cerrone

- Hide menu

News

Feb 03, 2015: Violin Sonata

A little note on my new violin sonata which premieres this coming February 6th at Subculture in NYC.

I have a distinct memory of a composition lesson I had in college (probably ca. 2005) where I told my composition teacher, “I swear will never write a piece for violin and piano.”

What I (think I) meant was: as I was developing my voice as a composer, the last thing I wanted to do was to compose a piece for the most traditional of instrumental combinations, those that Mozart, Beethoven, and Stravinsky all used. In order to avoid what I perceived as the anxiety of influence, I wrote pieces for the most unusual combinations I could come up with: soprano, double bass, percussion, and piano; saxophone, electric guitar, percussion, and piano; an orchestra with no violins; all sorts of other odd bands.

Almost ten years later (after numerous odd bands), my friend David Kaplan called me and suggested I write a piece for him and Rachel Lee Priday. Suddenly, I looked at this combination in the opposite way: in the hands of the daunting skill-sets of these particular performers, writing for violin and piano suddenly became a formidable challenge. Could I make my musical language work in this context? Could I write a work that adhered to a traditional fast-slow-fast structure? And could I use instrumental virtuosity as a way of exploring the timbral and architectural ideas I was exploring in other works?

The answer to these questions (and others that arose along the way) is my very traditionally titled Sonata for Violin and Piano. One of the primary challenges of writing my earlier portfolio of “odd band” works was blending instrumental timbres together: I would often use extended techniques or non-traditional means of sound production to create aural symmetries between these instruments. In my Sonata I use the same techniques, but the intimacy and intensity of the two instrument combination led my ambitions a step further: I wanted to create what I think of as a single meta-instrument, part violin and part piano.

The opening movement (“Fast and focused, with gradually increasing intensity”) opens with a violin solo, exclusively playing natural harmonics in perpetuo moto. As the movement progresses (and the violin part gradually transitions to open strings), the piano enters seamlessly and gradually envelopes the violin in a roaring and vibrant chorale.

The second movement (“Still and spacious, but always moving forward”) works in the opposite way: it begins as a plaintive piano solo. The violin part works as a kind of electronic looping effects pedal on the piano. I used every possible technique I could think of — harmonics, sul tasto, flautando, sul ponticello, tremolo, pizzicato, richochet — to color and distort the gradually evolving passacaglia in the piano. At some point, the violin “loops” lose track of the piano line until the one technique that has been absent from the piece finally dominates: traditional “cantabile” playing, which is the climax of the movement.

The final movement, marked “Dramatic, violent, rhythmic, very precise” joins the two instruments together in equal partnership. The piano’s violent stabbing gesture punctuates yet another perpetuo moto.

Almost all of my music tends to be narrative in nature: whether vocal or wordless instrumental, the music often points outward to a specific place, person, or memory. I wanted my Sonata to be free of that specific allusiveness: to invite the listener to draw his or her own narrative out of the work, leaving only the architectonic title Sonata as suggestion.

This piece was made possible by a grant from the Fromm Music Foundation. It is dedicated to Sarah Goldfeather.

Jan 05, 2015: Concerts in January and February!

Exciting January! Lots of performances coming up this month.

The Cornell Glee Club are taking my new choral piece they commissioned Not One Word based on texts by Ryokan on tour throughout the North East, including performances in Albany, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, New York, and more. Dates and details.

Several performances of Memory Palace in NYC, including Owen Weaver performing at Cameo Gallery in Brooklyn on January 12, and two staged performances by Ian Rosenbaum at the American Irish History Society in concerts hosted by the Metropolis Ensemble (Jan 23 and 26).

Vicky Chow gives the Boston premiere of Hoyt-Schermerhorn on January 17 at Northeastern University. And a chamber group featuring mezzo Elspeth Davis and Ian Rosenbaum are performing I will learn to love a person in Park Slope in Brooklyn on January 11.

In February, the amazing duo of Rachel Lee Priday and David Kaplan are premiering a brand new fifteen minute Sonata for Violin and Piano on February 6 at Subculture in NYC in a concert presented by the MATA Festival. The amazing Fromm Foundation at Harvard provided the funds to commission the work.

And last but not least, this June sees the premiere of Hand Eye, a new collaborative work that the Sleeping Giant Composer Collective wrote for the ever intrepid eighth blackbird! More on this soon, but here’s a short teaser trailer. My barrage of notes opens the video.

Dec 23, 2014: New Year’s Round up!

I’m going to try to keep this page fairly updated and fairly concise. Both seem challenging to me in general, but I’m really working on it.

The Invisible Cities album is doing quite well. We’ve gotten favorite write-ups in the LA Times (“The music stays with you”), the Boston Globe (“gorgeous, dreamlike”), Thought Catalog (“You’ll be hooked before you hear the first note sung.”), Stage and Screen (“this generation’s answer to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon”), and was Q2’s album of the week. Anyway, you get the idea. Lots of nice things.

Stream it all here, and buy it here. Would honestly love to hear what you think.

There’s lots of really exciting stuff coming up in the next few months, but I’ll just highlight a few things. I received a Fromm Foundation Commission from Harvard University for a new violin sonata for Rachel Lee Priday and David Kaplan. That piece—which I am furiously writing—will hear light of day on February 6 at Subculture in a concert presented by the MATA Festival—not only that, but Rachel, Dave and I curated the whole thing together so it features some of our favorite pieces.

Ian Rosenbaum—stellar percussionist and great friend—and I head up to EMPAC in January to record and video my percussion and electronics piece Memory Palace. We’re collaborating with the amazing director Mark DeChiazza to create a multimedia experience of the piece. It’s all very fun.

And hey! My friend Jonathan Maurer, currently a graduate student at USC directed an absolutely gorgeous “music video” for my piece How to Breathe Underwater. It’s beautiful:

AND… The months ahead feature the premieres of new pieces by eighth blackbird, the LA Phil, and the Albany Symphony. More on that SUPER soon.

Nov 04, 2014: Invisible Cities out today as a digital download

Starting today, Invisible Cities as a limited-edition CD Box Set and a digital download from most major retailers.

You can get the whole thing through The Industry’s bandcamp page, or find your favorite retailer here.

Oct 26, 2014: Invisible Cities album, streaming, and the season ahead!

Part I: The album. So first things first, I’m unbelievably proud to share that the Invisible Cities album will be available on November 4th from The Industry‘s new venture, The Industry Records. The album was produced, mixer, and recorded by the sonic magician, Nick Tipp, who was also the lead sound engineer in the live production. The entire original cast and orchestra returned for the recording session at Citrus Arts in Glendora, CA. And after hours and hours and hours of editing and mixing, it’s here!

You can pre-order both the digital edition and the absolutely gorgeous limited-edition CD/Memory Box directly from The Industry right now. Starting on the 4th, the album will be available through all the normal outlets (iTunes, Amazon, the dreaded Spotify, and more)!

But wait there’s more. There entire album is currently streaming at KCRW. Not only that, but I wrote a little bit about the whole process at The Industry’s blog, which features photos and a little more of an “insider’s” perspective on the whole process. Finally special thanks must be given to The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, New Music USA, and Elizabeth and Justus Schlichting for providing the support to make this album possible.

Part II: Tha Times. So, some other exciting things that have been happening. My mug appeared in the local paper recently:

#sundaytimes #sorry #shamelessselfpromotion

A photo posted by Christopher Cerrone (@chriscerrone) on

Let me explain: My friend Austin Wintory curated a really interesting concert, featuring music from concert music, film, and video games. I liked it. Here’s the article. They were kind enough to stream my piece How to Breathe Underwater.

Part III: New works! If you’re still reading, I just want to make a few notes about what else is happening in my composing life. Last weekend, the Cornell Glee Club premiered a new commission entitled “Not One Word” based on a text by the Zen monk and hermit, Ryōkan. I was lucky enough to go up to Ithaca and work with them. They are an amazing and relentlessly enthusiastic group led by the amazing Robert Isaacs, who is working really hard to bring new and exciting commissions to the group every year.

Later this season will be a rush of premieres: the amazing eighth blackbird will bring Hand/Eye—a collaborative project composed with Sleeping Giant—into the world this coming March in Richmond. It will be given its professional premiere in June at the Great Lakes Music Festival. My new Violin Sonata commissioned by the amazing duo of Rachel Lee Priday and David Kaplan, will come into this world in March in Florida. They’ll be touring the piece next season as well. Sleeping Giant has also been hard at work on two really cool projects with the Albany Symphony. In March, we’ll present a recomposed version of the Mozart Requiem. And in May, the Albany Symphony’s rogue band The Dogs of Desire will premiere a new collection of songs featuring Theo Bleckmann. More on both those collaborations here.

And last but not least, the LA Philharmonic will be giving the premiere of a new piece for soprano and chamber orchestra featuring Hila Plitman and conducted by John Adams. I’m writing it right now! There’s triangles.

HOKAY, that was a lot. I promise to update more periodically, and less densely.