Blog
2129 Entries

Six young musicians take the stage of Zankel Hall. Acoustic instruments, music stands, the trappings of classical music. But they’re familiar from other stages. Did the tie-wearing violinist tour with Bon Iver? Was the mop-haired trumpeter onstage with Paul Simon? Could this sextet be the multitalented band that gave Ben Folds’s recent shows a soft-spoken delicacy?

The group is yMusic. Six impeccably trained classical instrumentalists. Six creative artists. Six badasses. They aren’t household names, but they have provided the foundation for powerhouse acts. This December, they step into the limelight to take their bow.

yMusic
Photos by Allan Amato

Nadia Sirota, yMusic’s violist, buzzes with wit and verve over a weary internet connection from Australia, recounting the group’s origin story. “We kept bumping in to each other at not-quite-classical gigs, playing with The National or Sufjan Stevens.” They found the quality of backing musicians varied wildly. “The world’s best trumpeter might be standing beside somebody’s cousin on cello ... who also played guitar.”

A post-gig hang, a hatched idea: “What if we weren’t 50 feet from each other? What if we treated these gigs with the care, love, and attention we give chamber music?” What if they came in spick and span and ready to kill—ready to listen, discuss, collaborate?

While older generations of classical musicians looked down their nose at indie collaborations, this new generation has a different attitude. Walls disappear, ideas flow. yMusic—as in “generation Y”—are classical music’s millennials. Critic Steve Smith says yMusic gives all music “equal enthusiasm and respect, with the idea that everything is worth doing and worth considering on its own terms.”

When playing alone, “our castle needs to stand up on its own. It requires a different kind of focus.”
 

Since yMusic’s founding in 2008, they have become indie darlings, collaborators of choice for artists from Ben Folds to the Dirty Projectors to José González. As backing players, “we work off someone else’s charisma, building little houses around this human, making them shine,” Sirota adds. When playing alone, “our castle needs to stand up on its own. It requires a different kind of focus.”

Composer Nico Muhly, a frequent musical partner, calls yMusic an “engaging and explosive group. I always look forward to seeing how others have unlocked the strange door to their sound.”

Their mission developed two prongs. One: collaborate with bands and songwriters “to develop interesting, toothsome, awesome projects,” says Sirota. Two: work with composers to make “dynamic, contemporary chamber music.”

yMusic photo by Allan Amato
Photo by Allan Amato.

And with Carnegie Hall being 125 years young, the venerable institution echoes yMusic’s ideals. Looking firmly to the future, it is celebrating the energy and spirit of classical music by bringing 125 new musical works into being. Last season, pianist Brad Mehldau spun delicate webs around J. S. Bach, Shara Worden’s tremulous voice mused on birth and death, and composer Mehmet Ali Sanlikol communed with Turkish Sufi mysticism. This season brings new works by Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, Russian mystic Sofi a Gubaidulina, The National’s guitarist Bryce Dessner, and minimalist master Steve Reich.

yMusic
Photos by Allan Amato

And in December, yMusic presents two new Carnegie Hall–commissioned works by Caroline Shaw and Chris Thile—two energetic musical omnivores, collaborating with six open-hearted instrumentalists.

Composer Caroline Shaw seeks to capture “the tragic, beautiful loneliness of existence, and the complete ecstatic joy of existence.” Her musical voice—direct, heartfelt, with a keening edge of pain—is connected to older worlds, but breathes the 21st century’s bracing air.

For Shaw, the members of yMusic are “some of the most versatile musicians I know.” That’s high praise from the Pulitzer Prize–winning composer who is equally at home playing viola, singing with Roomful of Teeth, or collaborating with Kanye West. And she is pushing yMusic into uncharted territory, “to get them to sing with their own voices as well as with their instruments.” This challenge, to sing while playing, is familiar in many genres, but stubbornly remains a rarity in classical music.

yMusic is eager to step onto the tightrope. “Putting yourself in uncomfortable positions,” says Sirota, “keeps you honest and musically interesting. We enjoy seeing how ‘flexie’ we can be.” And flexible they are, as multi-instrumentalists, arrangers, radio presenters, classical soloists, entrepreneurs, jazz musicians, and orchestral players. Composer Timo Andres calls yMusic “the most useful implement in your kitchen, pressed into service in a nearly infinite number of ways.”

But they come to Carnegie Hall together, a team. “There’s something comforting about walking on stage with five of your closest friends, trying to make stirring performances in front of a live audience. It’s a special, privileged thing.”

yMusic
Photos by Allan Amato

Another of yMusic’s closest friends—“besties,” as he calls them—is Chris Thile, who is equally at home with Bach, bluegrass, and Bartók. A thoroughly modern musician, he plays mandolin with loose-limbed ease, and writes music of intelligence and joy. The Grammy-winning musician, part of the uncategorizable Punch Brothers, seeks a path “between music that is visceral and music that is intellectual. I want a new perspective on what it means to be alive.”

Thile’s new piece for yMusic is a nerve-racking beta-test—the first in which he doesn’t perform. He calls his presence “a crutch”—able to cover for weaknesses by translating wishes, leaning on his playing, and relying on a band “I know almost as well as myself.”

Thile says of instrumental music, “I love its mercurial nature. We are free as listeners to spin our own yarns. Something is being communicated, but exactly what is a dance between composers, performers, and listeners. I love collaborative meaning in concert—a living, breathing organism that can evolve”—which is exactly what yMusic brings to the stage.

So yMusic, as in “why music”?

Sirota was in a Minneapolis cab, bedraggled and disillusioned, at the end of a long travel day. The driver told her, “You are a musician. You bring people joy. You have the most important job.” “I needed to hear that,” she says. “Music gives joy, brings people together. It is something we crave on a fundamental level. It’s why people worship. In yMusic, we have the privilege of working with some of the most incredible creative thinkers. We participate in music history in some way. It’s one of the most joyful projects I can think of.”

—By Tim Munro, an Australian-born, Grammy-winning flutist based in Chicago




yMusic
yMusic
Friday, December 2 at 7:30 PM
yMusic

yMusic has been called “one of the groups that has really helped to shape the future of classical music” by NPR. This daring multi-instrument ensemble’s catholic taste, stylistic versatility, and impeccable musicianship bring striking vitality to the music of our time. yMusic performs works from its critically acclaimed albums Beautiful Mechanical and Balance Problems, and premieres new works by Chris Thile and Caroline Shaw, both part of Carnegie Hall’s 125 Commissions Project.

6 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

This Saturday, November 12, South African guitarist Derek Gripper will be joined on stage in Zankel Hall by Trio Da Kali, musicians from the Mandé culture of southern Mali. Read more about the African guitar and music of the griots of West Africa and join us for an unforgettable evening of traditional Malian music on November 12.


African Guitar

Derek Gripper
Derek Gripper photo by Christoph Lenz

Derek Gripper began studying the playing techniques of the kora in 2009 by learning traditional Malian compositions. Two years later, he had a breakthrough: By using the simple textural language of the vihuela Spanish renaissance lute, it was possible to play the highly complex kora compositions of Malian virtuoso Toumani Diabaté on the six-string guitar without omitting a note of the original performances. Gripper’s project to create an African repertoire for the classical guitar, based on transcriptions of works by some of Africa’s greatest musicians, resulted in a growing collection of outstanding African guitar arrangements, with works by Toumani Diabaté, Ballaké Sissoko, Ali Farka Touré, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, Madosini, and others, bringing the guitar and the music of Africa to life in new and exciting ways.

Music of the Griots of West Africa

Of all the music of Africa that has come to the attention of Americans and Europeans in the past 50 years, none has drawn more attention than that of the Mandinka and Bambara peoples of West Africa. Often credited by ethnomusicologists and folklorists as the incubator of the blues, the music of the Mandinka jajalu and Bambara jeliw (griots) has long given inspiration to American musicians; artists such as Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder, Béla Fleck, and others have performed with griots from the Gambia, Senegal, and Mali, and have been influenced by their instrumental styles.

Griots are essentially oral historians. They are members of a hereditary caste known by various names, depending on tribal and linguistic heritage: jalalu (sing. jali) to the Mandinka, jeliw to the Bambara of Mali, guewel to the Wolof, iggawin to the Moors of Mauritania. Traditionally, they perform various functions: as praise singers and musicians to kings, princes, and important personages; as entertainers and storytellers; and as keepers of the history and genealogy of the people. Griots were traditionally attached to the Mandinka and Bambara princes and chiefs. Their duties were to recount tribal history and genealogy, to compose commemorative songs, and to perform at important community events. Some of the traditional story-songs are epic poems that recount the deeds of great warriors like Sundiata Keita, who founded the Mali Empire in the 13th century. Sundiata’s conquests have been eulogized and mythologized for centuries by Mandinka griots and are still a part of most griots’ repertoire.

Trio da Kali
Trio Da Kali photo by Youri Lenquette

While griots are no longer attached to princely courts (though the president of the Gambia still retains an official griot), they are still highly valued by local Mandinka communities throughout the world. They continue to perform at weddings and naming ceremonies, recounting the genealogies of the families that have hired them, and sing praises of important leaders and businessmen.

Like the troubadours of medieval Europe, griots accompany themselves on musical instruments, the most popular of which are the balafon, a wooden xylophone; the ngoni (also known as halam), a skin-faced lute that is the ancestor of the banjo; and kora, a 21-string harp-lute with a large gourd resonator. The kora is the most recent of these instruments, probably originating during the time of Jali Mady Fouling Cissoko in the 16th century.

The balafon is one of many wooden xylophones found throughout Africa. Originating in the 12th century in Guinea, it has 16 to 27 keys with gourds suspended below the keys to amplify the sound. In Guinea, the Mandé balafon is considered to be a sacred instrument. The original instrument, known as the soso-bala, was thought to have supernatural powers and was taken as a war trophy by Sunjata when he defeated Soumaoro, the Susu king, in 1236. In the hands of Sujata’s griot, Balafaseke Kouyate, it became an instrument of healing, bringing together the many warring tribes of the Mandé people.



Derek Gripper and Trio Da Kali
Derek Gripper | Trio Da Kali
Saturday, November 12 at 8:45 PM
Derek Gripper
Trio Da Kali


In his search for new directions in African music, South African guitarist Derek Gripper began transcribing the kora (harp-lute) music of Malian masters Toumani Diabaté, Ballaké Sissoko, and others for classical guitar. The Malian tradition is also represented by Trio Da Kali, a group of musicians from the Mandé culture of southern Mali who come from a long line of distinguished griots (oral historians / praise singers).

6 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

This Saturday, November 12, South African guitarist Derek Gripper will be joined on stage in Zankel Hall by Trio Da Kali, musicians from the Mandé culture of southern Mali. Read more about the African guitar and music of the griots of West Africa and join us for an unforgettable evening of traditional Malian music on November 12.


African Guitar

Derek Gripper
Derek Gripper photo by Christoph Lenz

Derek Gripper began studying the playing techniques of the kora in 2009 by learning traditional Malian compositions. Two years later, he had a breakthrough: By using the simple textural language of the vihuela Spanish renaissance lute, it was possible to play the highly complex kora compositions of Malian virtuoso Toumani Diabaté on the six-string guitar without omitting a note of the original performances. Gripper’s project to create an African repertoire for the classical guitar, based on transcriptions of works by some of Africa’s greatest musicians, resulted in a growing collection of outstanding African guitar arrangements, with works by Toumani Diabaté, Ballaké Sissoko, Ali Farka Touré, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, Madosini, and others, bringing the guitar and the music of Africa to life in new and exciting ways.

Music of the Griots of West Africa

Of all the music of Africa that has come to the attention of Americans and Europeans in the past 50 years, none has drawn more attention than that of the Mandinka and Bambara peoples of West Africa. Often credited by ethnomusicologists and folklorists as the incubator of the blues, the music of the Mandinka jajalu and Bambara jeliw (griots) has long given inspiration to American musicians; artists such as Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder, Béla Fleck, and others have performed with griots from the Gambia, Senegal, and Mali, and have been influenced by their instrumental styles.

Griots are essentially oral historians. They are members of a hereditary caste known by various names, depending on tribal and linguistic heritage: jalalu (sing. jali) to the Mandinka, jeliw to the Bambara of Mali, guewel to the Wolof, iggawin to the Moors of Mauritania. Traditionally, they perform various functions: as praise singers and musicians to kings, princes, and important personages; as entertainers and storytellers; and as keepers of the history and genealogy of the people. Griots were traditionally attached to the Mandinka and Bambara princes and chiefs. Their duties were to recount tribal history and genealogy, to compose commemorative songs, and to perform at important community events. Some of the traditional story-songs are epic poems that recount the deeds of great warriors like Sundiata Keita, who founded the Mali Empire in the 13th century. Sundiata’s conquests have been eulogized and mythologized for centuries by Mandinka griots and are still a part of most griots’ repertoire.

Trio da Kali
Trio Da Kali photo by Youri Lenquette

While griots are no longer attached to princely courts (though the president of the Gambia still retains an official griot), they are still highly valued by local Mandinka communities throughout the world. They continue to perform at weddings and naming ceremonies, recounting the genealogies of the families that have hired them, and sing praises of important leaders and businessmen.

Like the troubadours of medieval Europe, griots accompany themselves on musical instruments, the most popular of which are the balafon, a wooden xylophone; the ngoni (also known as halam), a skin-faced lute that is the ancestor of the banjo; and kora, a 21-string harp-lute with a large gourd resonator. The kora is the most recent of these instruments, probably originating during the time of Jali Mady Fouling Cissoko in the 16th century.

The balafon is one of many wooden xylophones found throughout Africa. Originating in the 12th century in Guinea, it has 16 to 27 keys with gourds suspended below the keys to amplify the sound. In Guinea, the Mandé balafon is considered to be a sacred instrument. The original instrument, known as the soso-bala, was thought to have supernatural powers and was taken as a war trophy by Sunjata when he defeated Soumaoro, the Susu king, in 1236. In the hands of Sujata’s griot, Balafaseke Kouyate, it became an instrument of healing, bringing together the many warring tribes of the Mandé people.



Derek Gripper and Trio Da Kali
Derek Gripper | Trio Da Kali
Saturday, November 12 at 8:45 PM
Derek Gripper
Trio Da Kali


In his search for new directions in African music, South African guitarist Derek Gripper began transcribing the kora (harp-lute) music of Malian masters Toumani Diabaté, Ballaké Sissoko, and others for classical guitar. The Malian tradition is also represented by Trio Da Kali, a group of musicians from the Mandé culture of southern Mali who come from a long line of distinguished griots (oral historians / praise singers).

6 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Ensemble Connect flutist Rosie Gallagher reflects on preparing Hans Zender’s Winterreise with conductor Sir Simon Rattle.


smartquote left

Every moment of this project felt like a spectacular gift. It began the second Sir Simon Rattle flew in the door, windswept with his score in one hand, victoriously announcing, “I was held up in an anti-Trump rally!”—and it lasted through our performance in Zankel Hall, which was the first concert for 2016 Ensemble Connect fellows. As I reflect on this surreal week, I am struck by a feeling of gratitude: to Schubert for turning his darkness into musical poetry, to Hans Zender for having the courage to reimagine such an iconic work, to the Ensemble Connect team—both colleagues and staff—for always bring their best, and to the magnificent Sir Simon and Mark Padmore for their sincere humility and infectious joy.

In true Ensemble Connect style, Hans Zender’s Winterreise proved to be an ambitious first project. It called for several members of the ensemble to double on melodica and wind machine, use extended technique, and move around the hall. Sir Simon worked diligently with us to ensure that these sounds were not gimmicks and were instead tools used to paint a landscape full of emotional nuance and dark color. Upon tenor Mark Padmore’s arrival, his voice told us a mesmerizing story, challenging the ensemble to respond to his ideas and phrasing. It was a joy to watch Sir Simon and Mark Padmore work together. Often, no more than a couple of words were exchanged between the dynamic pair as the collaboration was one of musical osmosis and unconditional trust.

It is a rare and wonderful thing to truly feel “in the moment” during a musical performance. I find that there are often distracting voices, both internal and external, that pull focus from the task at hand. There were times, both in rehearsal and on the stage of Zankel Hall, that I could feel Sir Simon existing in this moment and the ensemble coming with him. I hope to bring this experience with me as I continue to work with my remarkable colleagues over the next two years.

Sir Simon left us with this advice: “The people need your spirit, now more than ever. Go out and give it to them.” I do not take this responsibility lightly. It is a privilege to be part of a group that strives to do this on a daily basis. For all that music has given me—a sense of belonging, perspective, curiosity, and empathy—I am more than happy to share this incredible world with anyone who wants to escape inside of it.

smartquote right

Rosie Gallagher, flute


Ensemble Connect performed Schubert’s Winterreise—A Composed Interpretation for Tenor and Small Orchestra by Hans Zender on Sunday, October 16. Watch a replay of the performance on medici.tv:

6 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Ensemble Connect flutist Rosie Gallagher reflects on preparing Hans Zender’s Winterreise with conductor Sir Simon Rattle.


smartquote left

Every moment of this project felt like a spectacular gift. It began the second Sir Simon Rattle flew in the door, windswept with his score in one hand, victoriously announcing, “I was held up in an anti-Trump rally!”—and it lasted through our performance in Zankel Hall, which was the first concert for 2016 Ensemble Connect fellows. As I reflect on this surreal week, I am struck by a feeling of gratitude: to Schubert for turning his darkness into musical poetry, to Hans Zender for having the courage to reimagine such an iconic work, to the Ensemble Connect team—both colleagues and staff—for always bring their best, and to the magnificent Sir Simon and Mark Padmore for their sincere humility and infectious joy.

In true Ensemble Connect style, Hans Zender’s Winterreise proved to be an ambitious first project. It called for several members of the ensemble to double on melodica and wind machine, use extended technique, and move around the hall. Sir Simon worked diligently with us to ensure that these sounds were not gimmicks and were instead tools used to paint a landscape full of emotional nuance and dark color. Upon tenor Mark Padmore’s arrival, his voice told us a mesmerizing story, challenging the ensemble to respond to his ideas and phrasing. It was a joy to watch Sir Simon and Mark Padmore work together. Often, no more than a couple of words were exchanged between the dynamic pair as the collaboration was one of musical osmosis and unconditional trust.

It is a rare and wonderful thing to truly feel “in the moment” during a musical performance. I find that there are often distracting voices, both internal and external, that pull focus from the task at hand. There were times, both in rehearsal and on the stage of Zankel Hall, that I could feel Sir Simon existing in this moment and the ensemble coming with him. I hope to bring this experience with me as I continue to work with my remarkable colleagues over the next two years.

Sir Simon left us with this advice: “The people need your spirit, now more than ever. Go out and give it to them.” I do not take this responsibility lightly. It is a privilege to be part of a group that strives to do this on a daily basis. For all that music has given me—a sense of belonging, perspective, curiosity, and empathy—I am more than happy to share this incredible world with anyone who wants to escape inside of it.

smartquote right

Rosie Gallagher, flute


Ensemble Connect performed Schubert’s Winterreise—A Composed Interpretation for Tenor and Small Orchestra by Hans Zender on Sunday, October 16. Watch a replay of the performance on medici.tv:

6 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

The Carnegie Hall Digital Hall of Fame continues into its second year recognizing individuals intrinsic to the founding and continued existence of the Hall, and whose lives or careers are inextricably woven into the fabric of the Hall’s history.

Today, we induct Maria Callas into the Carnegie Hall Digital Hall of Fame 2016. Callas is famed for her dynamic voice and compelling acting, making her one of the most exciting and influential opera singers of the 20th century.

All portraits were created by Stanley Chow Illustration and exist collectively on our Digital Hall of Fame page, along with biographical information.


Maria Callas 480

Learn more about Maria Callas

 

7 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

The Carnegie Hall Digital Hall of Fame continues into its second year recognizing individuals intrinsic to the founding and continued existence of the Hall, and whose lives or careers are inextricably woven into the fabric of the Hall’s history.

Today, we induct Maria Callas into the Carnegie Hall Digital Hall of Fame 2016. Callas is famed for her dynamic voice and compelling acting, making her one of the most exciting and influential opera singers of the 20th century.

All portraits were created by Stanley Chow Illustration and exist collectively on our Digital Hall of Fame page, along with biographical information.


Maria Callas 480

Learn more about Maria Callas

 

7 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

In Ethiopia, the word is eskeusta, which roughly translated means “ecstasy.” More specifically, it is a shaking sensation that begins at one’s shoulders, quivering down the spine and into the legs and feet. Of all the great male vocalists that Ethiopia has produced (and there have been quite a few), none have inspired eskeusta better than Mahmoud Ahmed.

For more than 40 years, Ahmed has deftly combined the traditional Amharic music of Ethiopia (essentially a five-note scale that features jazz-style singing offset by complex circular rhythm patterns that give the music a distinct Indian feel) with pop and jazz, yielding some of the most adventurous, passionate, ear-opening, downright surrealistic sounds. In fact, until you’ve heard Ahmed’s sweeping multi-octave voice in full workout, words hardly do it justice. As with the late, great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ahmed simply has to be heard to be believed and appreciated.



 

Ahmed has been a star in Ethiopia almost since the day he began recording. His vocals, complemented by the freewheeling jazziness of Ibex (the band with which he recorded his masterpiece, Ere Mela Mela), are very different from what is normally lumped into the broad style of Afro-pop. The rhythms are repetitive and intense, not too dissimilar from, say, Fela—just a little less hard. But it’s Ahmed’s voice—swirling high notes that sound as if they’re chasing one another, impeccable tone and phrasing—that is the distinguishing element. By singing in this style, Ahmed has attempted to fuse the past and the present. He is not an elitist when it comes to singing older Ethiopian music, but rather he hears the similarities in Ethiopian pop that have thrived over time and is keen to bring them together.



Mahmoud Ahmed
Mahmoud Ahmed
Saturday, October 22 at 8 PM
Mahmoud Ahmed

Ethiopian singer Mahmoud Ahmed blends the traditional Amharic music of his homeland with pop and jazz for an ear-opening, ecstatic experience.

7 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

In Ethiopia, the word is eskeusta, which roughly translated means “ecstasy.” More specifically, it is a shaking sensation that begins at one’s shoulders, quivering down the spine and into the legs and feet. Of all the great male vocalists that Ethiopia has produced (and there have been quite a few), none have inspired eskeusta better than Mahmoud Ahmed.

For more than 40 years, Ahmed has deftly combined the traditional Amharic music of Ethiopia (essentially a five-note scale that features jazz-style singing offset by complex circular rhythm patterns that give the music a distinct Indian feel) with pop and jazz, yielding some of the most adventurous, passionate, ear-opening, downright surrealistic sounds. In fact, until you’ve heard Ahmed’s sweeping multi-octave voice in full workout, words hardly do it justice. As with the late, great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ahmed simply has to be heard to be believed and appreciated.



 

Ahmed has been a star in Ethiopia almost since the day he began recording. His vocals, complemented by the freewheeling jazziness of Ibex (the band with which he recorded his masterpiece, Ere Mela Mela), are very different from what is normally lumped into the broad style of Afro-pop. The rhythms are repetitive and intense, not too dissimilar from, say, Fela—just a little less hard. But it’s Ahmed’s voice—swirling high notes that sound as if they’re chasing one another, impeccable tone and phrasing—that is the distinguishing element. By singing in this style, Ahmed has attempted to fuse the past and the present. He is not an elitist when it comes to singing older Ethiopian music, but rather he hears the similarities in Ethiopian pop that have thrived over time and is keen to bring them together.



Mahmoud Ahmed
Mahmoud Ahmed
Saturday, October 22 at 8 PM
Mahmoud Ahmed

Ethiopian singer Mahmoud Ahmed blends the traditional Amharic music of his homeland with pop and jazz for an ear-opening, ecstatic experience.

7 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Starting at 7 PM tonight, watch the live webcast of Carnegie Hall’s Opening Night with the dynamic Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony of Venezuela on medici.tv.

The program will include Ravel’s La valse, Stravinsky’s La sacre du printemps, and selected music for dance from around the world.

» Watch here. «

7 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
71 - 80  | prev 456789101112 next
InstantEncore