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Lucier, Alvin: Orpheus Variations (Important Records)

A new composition by Alvin Lucier for solo cello and seven wind instruments, primarily brass and flute, performed by the NY-based S.E.M. Ensemble, with many performers also associated with the Downtown NY scene (John Zorn, Nate Wooley); "Orpheus Variations" is a minimal work focused on sonority as a waveform produced by physical effect, that merges and interferes in its motion.

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product information:

UPC: 793447546926

Label: Important Records
Catalog ID: IMPREC 469CD
Squidco Product Code: 27374

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2019
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded at Peter Karl Studios, in Brooklyn, New York, by Peter Karl.


Charles Curtis-cello

Alvin Lucier-composer

Petr Kotik-conductor

Jill Sokol-flute

Roberta Michel-flute

Jill Van Nostrand-horn

Jen Baker-trombone

William Lang-trombone

Thomas Verchot-trumpet

Tim Leopold-trumpet

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Artist Biographies:

"Cellist Charles Curtis is an internationally renowned performer and composer of a wide variety of music, with particular emphasis on the avant-garde. Curtis is most strongly associated with minimalism, modern classical, and so-called "downtown music."

A graduate of the prestigious Juilliard School, Curtis has since been involved with the music department at Princeton University and at the University of California, San Diego, where he has served as Professor of Contemporary Music Performance since the year 2000.

Curtis has studied under such masters as vocalist Pandit Pran Nath and composer La Monte Young and still regularly records and performs."

-Wikipedia (

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"Alvin Lucier was born in 1931 in Nashua, New Hampshire. He was educated in Nashua public and parochial schools, the Portsmouth Abbey School, Yale, and Brandeis and spent two years in Rome on a Fulbright Scholarship. From 1962 to 1970 he taught at Brandeis, where he conducted the Brandeis University Chamber Chorus, which devoted much of its time to the performance of new music. In 1966, along with Robert Ashley, David Behrman and Gordon Mumma, he co-founded the Sonic Arts Union. From 1968 to 2011 he taught at Wesleyan University where he was John Spencer Camp Professor of Music.

Lucier lectures and performs extensively in Asia, Europe and The United States. He has collaborated with John Ashbury (Theme) and Robert Wilson (Skin, Meat, Bone). His recent sound installation, 6 Resonant Points Along a Curved Wall, accompanied Sol DeWitt's enormous sculpture, Curved Wall, in Graz, Austria, and in the Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan University in January 2005. Recent instrumental works include Coda Variations for 6-valve solo tuba; Twonings for cello and piano; Canon, commissioned by the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and Music with Missing Parts, a re-orchestration of Mozart's Requiem, premiered at the Mozarteum, Salzburg in December 2007. In October 2012 Two Circles, a chamber work, commissioned by The Venice Biennale, was premiered there by the Alter Ego Ensemble and in December 2013 a new work, December 12th, was performed by the Ensemble Pamplemousse at the Issue Project Room, Brooklyn and Firewood, performed in March 2014 by the Bang on a Can All Stars at Merkin Hall, New York. Lucier has recently completed two new chamber works: Orpheus Variations for solo cello and seven wind instruments and Hanover for violin, alto and tenor saxophones, piano, percussion and three banjos.

In 2013 Mr. Lucier was the guest composer at the Tectonics Festival in Glasgow, the Ultima Festival, Oslo and gave a portrait concert at the Louvre, Paris, with cellist Charles Curtis. Recent events in 2014 include three evenings of Lucier's works presented by the International Contemporary Ensemble, in Chicago; two concerts at Roulette, performed by the Callithumpian Consort, as well several concerts at The Tectonics Festival, Reykjavik, Iceland. In October 2014 Lucier was honored by a three-day festival of his works at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

Reflections/Reflexionen, a bi-lingual edition of Lucier's scores, interviews and writings was published by MusikTexte, Köln. In September 2012 the Wesleyan Press published Lucier's latest book, Music 109: Notes on Experimental Music. In 2013 New World Records released a recording of three of Lucier's orchestra works.

Alvin Lucier was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States and received an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of Plymouth, England. In November 2011 Wesleyan University celebrated Alvin Lucier's retirement with a three-day festival of his works."

-Wesleyan University (

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"Petr Kotik (surname originally Kotík) (born January 27, 1942, in Prague) is a composer, conductor and flutist living in New York City. He was educated in Europe (Prague Conservatory, graduated 1961; Vienna Music Academy, graduated 1966; AMU Prague, graduated 1969). From 1960 to 1963, Kotik studied composition privately with Jan Rychlík in Prague, and from 1963 to 1966 at the Music Academy in Vienna with Karl Schieske, Hans Jelinek, and Friedrich Cerha. In Prague, he founded and directed Musica Viva Pragensis (1961–64) and the QUAX Ensemble (1966–69). He came to the United States in 1969 at the invitation of Lukas Foss and Lejaren Hiller to join the Center for Creative and Performing Arts at the University at Buffalo.

Since 1983, Kotik has been living in New York City. Kotik is the founder and Artistic Director of the S.E.M. Ensemble, based in New York City, which presents both chamber and orchestra concerts. Kotik has received numerous commissions and composition grants, from the National Endowment for the Arts. Kotik received a 1996 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award. He is also known for his realization of the complete musical works of Marcel Duchamp.

With the S.E.M. Ensemble (which he founded in 1970), Kotik has for many years actively promoted the work of other (mostly American) composers sharing a stylistic affinity with his own work, giving frequent performances as conductor and performer with the group as well as its larger version, the Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble.

Kotik's music is composed in the minimal vein, with works often being of long duration and featuring slow tempi and quiet dynamics. Though his works feature innumerable gradual, slight changes, giving them a seemingly static quality, his harmonies, however, are more complex than those employed by many other American minimal composers, and his musical process is not as apparent to the listener as, for example, in the works of Steve Reich or Philip Glass. Further, Kotik does not draw as heavily on jazz or rock in his works as do many of his American colleagues (though, like Steve Reich, he is quite interested in Medieval music and often integrates Medieval compositional techniques into his works). These qualities set Kotik's music apart from American minimal trends, giving his music a decidedly European character more similar in outlook to, for example, that of Hungarian minimalists such as Zoltán Jeney, László Sáry, or László Vidovszky.

Among Kotik's best known works is the six-hour opera Many Many Women (1976–78), based on a text by Gertrude Stein, for whose work, appropriately, Kotik has a special affinity.

As a performer, Kotik has been an active chamber musician throughout much of his life. Until 1992, Kotik did not have the slightest interest in orchestra. That changed in 1992, when he conducted Atlas Eclipticalis by John Cage with the 86-piece Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble in Tribute to John Cage at Carnegie Hall, with David Tudor as the soloist. Since then, Kotik has been organizing large-scale events, expanding the S.E.M. Ensemble into The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble, and encouraging and commissioning other composers to write for orchestra. In 1999, after conducting Gruppen by Karlheinz Stockhausen, Kotik initiated a project of compositions for 3 orchestras and commissioned the creation of new 3-orchestra works by Alvin Lucier, Christian Wolff, Martin Smolka, Phill Niblock and Olga Neuwirth. In 2001, Kotik founded the biennial Ostrava Days, an Institute and Festival of New Music in Ostrava, Czech Republic. This three-week program, one of the largest in existence, focuses on works for orchestra, with 2 resident orchestras and number of resident composers, chamber music groups and soloists.

Although Kotik entered the conservatory at the age of 14, he only began composing in his late teens. This was due to his lack of interest in classical harmony, a tendency shared with other composers such as Christian Wolff and John Cage. As a composer, Kotik is essentially self-taught, in spite of his education in Western composition fundamentals in Prague and Vienna. His technique has very little to do with commonly used compositional methods.

Kotik's compositional system can be compared to a game in which the use of controlled chance is balanced by conscious decision-making. The two alternate, one influencing the other. In this way Kotik triggers unpredictable processes while the work progresses in the envisioned direction. In recent years, Kotik has relied increasingly on intuitive gestures. The strategies and limitations Kotik imposes on chance, along with intuitive decisions, are at the root of his compositional process.

Among Kotik's best-known compositions are Music for 3 (1964) for piano and 2 strings; Spontano (1964) for piano and ensemble (composed for Frederic Rzewski); Kontrabandt (1967), a live electronic work commissioned by the WDR Electronic Music Studio; Many Many Women (1975–78) on a text by Gertrude Stein; and Letters to Olga (1988–91) on a text by Václav Havel. His orchestra pieces include: Quiescent Form (1994–96); the one-hour-long Music in Two Movements (1998–2002); Variations for 3 Orchestras (2002–2005); and Spheres and Attraction (2005–2006) for 2 voices, string quartet and percussion on a text by R. Buckminster Fuller.

"Kotik’s massive and too modestly named Fragment (1st movement of Music in Two Movements), which he conducted with his SEM Orchestra gives me sufficient pretext to voice the overdue sentiment that he is one of the best composers working today...among those writing abstract works for ensembles of unconventional instruments, Kotik stands very near the top and possibly at the top. He produced some of the most durable, though still little-known musical monuments of the post-Cage 70s, and his output has been amazingly consistent in quality.” (New York music critic and composer Kyle Gann, The Village Voice 1998).

Kotik's music is available on the Labor, Dog w/a Bone and Ear-Rational labels.

His father was the painter Jan Kotík. He is married to the curator and art historian Charlotta Kotik, great-granddaughter of Tomá Garrigue Masaryk, and has a son, Tomas (Tom), who is a New York-based sculptor. His other son, Jan Jakub Kotik, was born in 1972 and died of cancer in 2007."

-Wikipedia (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Lauded for playing "with fire and commitment" (Schenectady Gazette 2010), flutist Jill Sokol is an established presence on the Northeast music scene. Ms. Sokol is Second Flutist with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic. Her varied freelance schedule also includes the Allentown Symphony Orchestra and Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, regional opera companies in the New York City area, and she has shared the stage with popular musicians Josh Groban and Natalie Merchant. A strong advocate of new music, Ms. Sokol has performed with the Locrian Chamber Players, Argento Chamber Ensemble, SEM Ensemble and the Pone Ensemble for New Music. Previous affiliations include the Dicapo Opera Theatre, Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, as well as the New Haven, Westchester, and Albany Symphonies. In May 2004, she gave her solo debut at Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall as winner of the Artist International Competition. As a chamber musician she has performed at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and Aspen Music Festival, and has led several ensembles of her own.

Ms. Sokol is an Adjunct Professor at Kean University and has served as an Instructor at the Skidmore College Summer Flute Institute. She also maintains a private teaching studio. Passionate about educational outreach, Ms. Sokol has taught for the Composers of the Future program sponsored by the Westchester Chamber Orchestra. She has given instrument demonstrations as part of the New York Philharmonic Young Composers Program and for the American Composers Orchestra. Ms. Sokol completed her Doctorate degree at Stony Brook University, under the tutelage of Carol Wincenc. She received her Master's degree at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and her Bachelor's degree at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College."

-Brooklyn Art Society (

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"Brooklyn-based flutist Roberta Michel is dedicated to the music of our time. Praising her "extreme adventurousness," New York Concert Review said she "riveted with her performance, inspiring one to want a repeated hearing." Michel is the Co-artistic Director of Wavefield.

A founding member of Duo RoMi and Cadillac Moon Ensemble, Michel has also performed with: Ecce Ensemble, Portland String Quartet, Newspeak, SEM Ensemble, Wet Ink Ensemble, Argento, Iktus, Wordless Music Orchestra, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Ensemble LPR, and Cygnus Ensemble among others. Recent venues include: Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Alice Tulley Hall, Merkin Hall, The Kennedy Center, Roulette, Issue Project Room, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She can be heard on New Dynamic, Innova, Tzadik, and Meta Records. Michel has commissioned and premiered hundreds of new works and has worked with many notable composers of our day.

Michel holds degrees from the University of Colorado at Boulder, SUNY-Purchase College, and the City University of New York Graduate Center. She is a winner of the NFA Graduate Research Competition for her dissertation on the flute music of Salvatore Sciarrino, resulting in a presentation at the 2013 National Flute Association Convention in New Orleans. Her teachers include Robert Dick, Tara O'Connor, and Alexa Still. She currently teaches at St. Francis College, Sarah Lawrence College, and at her private studio in Brooklyn."

-Roberta Michel Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Jen Baker, trombonist/composer, has collaborated with artists all over the world in site-specific mixed media performance, concert halls, solo and chamber commissions. As an improviser she is featured on the soundtrack to Werner Herzog's Oscar-nominated Encounters at the End of the World. She has performed internationally in festivals and has toured with Arijit Singh, Karole Armitage, and Mansour, and new music ensembles S.E.M., TILT brass, and the mobile ensemble Asphalt Orchestra (founding member). Her forthcoming book, Hooked on Multiphonics aides composers and trombonists in understanding and executing the deep complexities of multiphonics."

-Jen Baker Website (

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"Originally from Long Island, trombonist William Lang is an active performer, improviser, and teacher based in New York City. He can be found playing in all settings and style, from the avant-garde and classical to Broadway and indie chamber pop. He has given his signature unaccompanied recitals throughout the United States, played concertos in both America and Europe, and has also recorded with such artists as Philip Glass, David Bryne, St. Vincent, and Jonsi (of Sigur Ros.) Intensely passionate for chamber music, he regularly performs alongside his groundbreaking ensembles loadbang (an original and unique group of musicians interested in cutting edge music) and the Guidonian Hand (a trombone quartet dedicated to breaking boundaries within the brass community.) The New York Times has called his playing "fiercely, virtuosic" and the Boston Globe has hailed him for his "superb performance" in past solo works."

-William Lang Website (

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"Thomas Verchot is a New York-based free-lance trumpeter. He has performed in New York with New York City Opera, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Musica Sacra, the Oratorio Society of New York, the Orchestra of St. Ignatius Loyola, the Orchestra of St. John the Divine, the Orchestra of St. Patrick's, Philharmonia Virtuosi, New York City Symphony, Di Capo Opera, and the Amor Artis Orchestra. He has worked as a substitute on numerous Broadway productions. In the New York region, he has been a member of the New Philharmonic of New Jersey, the New Jersey Ballet Orchesrtra, and has played with many groups such as the New Jersey Symphony, Springfield (MA) Symphony, Greenwich (CT) Symphony, Greater Bridgeport (CT) Symphony, the Ridgefield (CT) Symphony and the Spoleto Festival Orchestra (Charleston, SC).

Internationally, Thomas has been a member of the Orquestra Filaromonica del Bajio in Guanajuato, Mexico, and was principal trumpet for the Spoleto Festival Orchestra in Spoleto, Italy for 6 seasons. Mr. Verchot has played for many years with the Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble, and has been principal trumpet since 2008. He has been a member of Ostravska Banda since 2008."

-Ostrava Center for New Music (

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"Tim Leopold - Trumpet

A native of Kansas, trumpeter Tim Leopold is equally adept in the worlds of classical music, jazz, world music and popular idioms, and he is an active performer and freelance musician in New York City. Mr. Leopold is an active member of the Meridian Arts Ensemble, the Pittsburg Collective, Slee Sinfonietta, the TiLT Brass, Zosimos Ensemble, and has performed as a member of Joshua Roseman's Extended Constellations, Manhattan Brass and other ground-breaking, genre-straddling ensembles. He has played extensively in clubs as a leader of his own projects and as a sideman to others. A talented, experienced performer and educator, Mr. Leopold has taught trumpet, improvisation, and the art of music across the globe and extensively throughout the Americas. Mr. Leopold can be heard in numerous settings in and around New York City from Broadway's Chicago the Musical to Buffalo, New York's Slee Sinfonietta. Mr. Leopold is sponsored by Bach trumpets, a division of Conn-Selmer. Tim received a Bachelors Degree from the University of Kansas and a Masters from the University of Oregon."

-Miller Theater (

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track listing:

1 Orpheus Variations (after Stravinsky) (2015) For Cello And Seven Wind Instruments 31:29
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Orpheus Variations is a new composition by Alvin Lucier for solo cello and seven wind instruments. It is based on a particular sonority from the first movement of Igor Stravinsky's ballet score, Orpheus; a sonority that has haunted Lucier for decades.

Orpheus Variations is one of eight large-scale compositions made expressly for Charles Curtis by Alvin Lucier in the last 15 years. This performance was conducted by Petr Kotik, with Charles Curtis playing solo cello alongside members of the SEM Ensemble.

"Lucier speaks first of a sonority, and only then of a chord. He discusses the chord, its notes and their disposition, but what haunts him is a "particular sonority." A sonority is the product of physical action on physical materials: the instruments, the registers in which they are activated, the breath of the musicians, the waveforms thus produced, their merging and interfering, and finally the moment and place of these actions. An energy field, certain to vanish completely once the musicians put down their instruments. However concrete and real the actions and materials, the sonority they produce is a phantom." "-Important

Related Categories of Interest:

Compositional Forms
Large Ensembles
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Ambient & Minimal Music
New in Compositional Music

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