Music of Blake, Bynum & Laubrock: Agora, Questions of Transfiguration, Vogelfrei

by The Tri-Centric Orchestra

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This recording offers three premiere performances of new music for creative orchestra by Daniel Blake, Taylor Ho Bynum, and Ingrid Laubrock, performed by the Tri-Centric Orchestra and conducted by Bynum. While all three composers have well-established reputations as leading figures in contemporary improvised music, this album presents their first works for an ensemble of this size and scope.

Composers' notes:
Agora takes its name from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, in which the author muses about a film that consists only of extras who, instead of mouthing and gesticulating silent dialogue in the background, are each fully heard as central protagonists in the story. This calls to mind my early fascination listening to the orchestral tuning ritual, and how I have always understood this moment of cacophonous beauty as a true gathering of individuals. The Tri-Centric Orchestra is the ideal ensemble to consider the orchestra as such a gathering, and in doing so to develop a work whose identity is rooted in the soloists who comprise this unique and very special creative community. (Dan Blake: )

Questions of Transfiguration (choices for creative orchestra and choir with three conductors) is an attempt to translate the compositional and improvisational strategies I use with my usual mid-sized ensembles (6 to 10 musicians) to a larger scale, seeing if I can offer the musicians in the orchestra the kind of individual agency and artistic choices I give to my smaller groups, without descending into chaos. (But perhaps tempting chaos.) The text for the piece is inspired by the book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, a meditation on how the planet would change in humans' absence. (Taylor Ho Bynum, )

The original inspirations for Vogelfrei were photos I took of the various shapes and patterns formed by over-ground train electrical wires in the Ruhr Valley of Germany, where I spent several months of 2012 as an artist-in-residence. I love the seemingly endless combinations of the electrical wires and connectors suspended in the air, which are interrupted by pylons and masts, and I tried to capture this texture in my composition. I grew up in Germany and my piece also tries to mirror the feelings of both unrest and, yet, the deep familiarity I was experiencing while being in Germany again after not having lived there for 23 years. (Ingrid Laubrock, )

The Tri-Centric Orchestra was founded by Anthony Braxton for the recording of the opera Trillium E in the spring of 2010. The project brought together an extraordinary community of creative artists: a family of artists 60-musicians strong, equally comfortable improvising and interpreting the most rigorous notation, wholly committed to pursuing a new American music. The group has grown into a permanent entity, dedicated to performing the large ensemble works of Braxton and similarly forward-thinking composers, as well as developing the composers and conceptualists within its own ranks.

These performances, recorded live at Roulette in Brooklyn NY in 2013 and 2015, are the first release from the archives of the Tri-Centric Orchestra Commissioning Series, which offers artists the opportunity to create ambitious new musical works, following Braxton’s tradition of innovative and uncompromising musical exploration. The concerts were made possible in part through the generous support of the Torsten Wiesel Commissioning Award, the New York State Council on the Arts, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. Any proceeds from this album will go to support future commissions and performances by the Tri-Centric Orchestra.


released December 15, 2016

Agora recorded at Roulette, Brooklyn NY on November November 22, 2015

Violins: Erica Dicker (concertmaster), Sarah Bernstein, Julianne Carney, Jean Cook, Jason Kao Hwang, Gwen Laster, Scott Tixier, Helen Yee
Violas: Jeanann Dara, Stephanie Griffin, Brian Thompson
Cellos: Marika Hughes, Lester St. Louis, Tomas Ulrich
Bass: Ken Filiano, Carl Testa
Flute: Jessica Schmitz
Oboe/English horn: Libby van Cleve, Katie Scheele
Bassoon: Sara Schoenbeck
Clarinet/sax: Michael McGinnis, Oscar Noriega, Josh Sinton
Trumpet/cornet: Jonathan Finlayson, Kirk Knuffke
French horn: Vincent Chancey
Trombone: Sam Kulik
Tuba: Jay Rozen
Percussion: Matt Moran, David Shively, Aaron Siegel
Conductor: Taylor Ho Bynum

Questions of Transfiguration & Vogelfrei recorded at Roulette, Brooklyn NY on September 24, 2013

Violins: Jason Hwang (conductor 2 on Questions of Tranfiguration), Sarah Bernstein, Julianne Carney, Gwen Laster, Skye Steele, Curtis Stewart, Scott Tixier, Brenda Vincent
Viola: Jessica Pavone, Brian Thompson, Erin Wright
Cello: Chris Hoffman, Marika Hughes, Tomas Ulrich
Bass: Ken Filiano, Carl Testa
Clarinet/sax: Mike McGinnis, Oscar Noriega, Josh Sinton (amplified contrabass clarinet on Vogelfrei)
Oboe/English horn: Libby van Cleve, Katie Scheele
Bassoon: Dana Jessen, Sara Schoenbeck
Flute: Michel Gentile, Yukari
Trumpet: Stephanie Richards, Nate Wooley (amplified trumpet on Vogelfrei)
French horn: Vincent Chancey, Rachel Drehmann
Trombone: Curtis Hasselbring
Tuba: Jay Rozen
Percussion: Chris Dingman, David Shively
Piano: Amy Crawford (conductor 3 on Questions of Tranfiguration)
Choir: Roland Burks, Yoon Sun Choi, Tomas Cruz, Kristin Fung, Nick Hallett, Michael Douglas Jones, Kyoko Kitamura, Anne Rhodes, Kamala Sankaram, Peter Stewart
Conductor: Taylor Ho Bynum

Live concert sound recording by Jon Rosenberg and Woramon Jamjod
Mixing for Agora by Philip White
Mixing for Questions of Transfiguration and Vogelfrei by Nick Lloyd
Cover art by Ben Heller
Produced by Taylor Ho Bynum for the Tri-Centric Foundation



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