Roulette Hosts Ned Rothenberg Two-Night Chamber Music Retrospective, 11/9 & 10
Ned Rothenberg presents a two-night retrospective of his chamber music on November 9 & 10 at 8pm each night, along with new premier works. The evenings will feature several of his compositions from recent cd releases on Tzadik including the compositions Ghost Stories for pipa, cello and percussion (Nov. 9) and the first movement from his Quintet for Clarinet and Strings (both from cds of the same title). Other pieces from the Tzadik releases will include Arbor Vitae, for clarinet and shakuhachi, Cloud Hands for 2 shakuhachi, new solo works for woodwinds and a world premiere piece for String Quartet, Viewfinder (Nov. 10th). Performers will include Erik Friedlander, Min Xiao-Fen, Satoshi Takeishi, and the Mivos Quartet.
Composer/Performer Ned Rothenberg has been internationally acclaimed for both his solo and ensemble music, presented for the past 30 years in North and South America, Europe and Asia. He performs primarily on the alto saxophone, clarinet , bass clarinet, and the shakuhachi - an end blown Japanese bamboo flute.
Ghost Stories (Tzadik): Like virtually all of the new-music composers and performers associated with the original Knitting Factory in New York, woodwind/saxophone ace Ned Rothenberg has a formidable reputation as an innovator. Specifically, Rothenberg has been celebrated for his circular-breathing techniques, as well as his experiments with overtone manipulation and polyphony. He also shares the restless eclecticism of colleagues like John Zorn and Anthony Braxton, with a particular interest in the more painterly shades of contemporary Japanese classical music. What renders Rothenberg more approachable and, in the end, more significant than many of his peers is the serenity at the heart of his fiercest playing. Even when fronting the Double Band, his long-standing, free-blowing jazz-funk ensemble, Rothenberg infuses solos of breathtaking virtuosity with a rare, peaceful patience.
Ghost Stories, a collection of classically themed chamber pieces, may be his most perfectly realized release to date. Austere but not forbidding, all four of these works recall Rain Tree Sketch–era Toru Takemitsu in their moments of misty, gently disintegrating dissonance, yet they are never derivative. In “Arbor Vitae,” Rothenberg’s clarinet and Riley Lee’s shakuhachi flute alternate as still ocean and trade wind, blowing around and across and through each other. The title composition, for pipa (Chinese lute), cello and percussion, develops fitfully, with moments of politely plucked strings and tapped toms evolving into squalls of scraping bows and scurrying percussion. “Kagami,” for Rothenberg’s solo shakuhachi, remains centered in the preternatural stillness that instrument creates around itself, but shudders with unexpected bursts of tongue and breath.
About Quintet for Clarinet and Strings: Ned Rothenberg is best known as a composer, though that is only one of his talents; the others include being an accomplished and inventive clarinet player and saxophonist, a shakuhachi flutist, and an arranger. Quintet for Clarinet and Strings brings a number of these talents together in a startling, mature work that embodies many of his career-long traits while bringing others into view for the first time. Rothenberg performs and directs the ensemble, which also includes the MIVOS Quartet, a string group that is devoted to the work of contemporary composers. The work is divided into five movements. Across its nearly 50-minute time frame, Rothenberg and the MIVOS engage in polyphonic and microtonal woodwind techniques, as well as strictly classical conceptions influenced by ideas from Brahms and Mozart, while not following them at all. At 17 minutes, the opening section is the longest and is itself constructed of “mini movements.”
The opening is an elegant section where two distinct melodies assert themselves within the quartet, with the clarinet hovering between the second with counterpoint in both rhythm and harmony. Different time signatures are played by separate instruments inside the quartet, while the clarinet follows its own jazz-inspired rhythmic and timbral palette. The second and third movements dovetail, from tonal to timbral glissandi investigations -- some of which dovetail and take each other apart systematically. Here too, polyrhythmic elements are employed to distinguish the various sections of the quartet, giving members a voice, while melodic ideas are unresolved until late in the work. The third movement indulges Rothenberg’s deep fascination of improvisation where no direction of any kind is employed, and the musicians can borrow any ideas from the entire piece -- even if they’ve not been played yet -- and weave them into a sometimes dissonant but always economical and provocative whole.
The motif in “Setting Stones” is slow, largely assonant, and utterly lovely. Its harmonic palette is somewhat restrained, where strings and slap tongue on the clarinet complement one another beautifully, creating an almost pastoral feel. The “Finale” is humorous in that it feels like a chase between The Players: from violins to the clarinet, from viola to the cello, from the cello to the violins; and then these reverse themselves melodically, assuming different roles where all The Players are both the pursuers and the pursued. The sleight-of-hand phrasing by Rothenberg is actually light, pulling bits and pieces from his own melodies from throughout the work and using them in differing contexts until the work is satisfyingly exhausted. This is one of the more important works Rothenberg has issued so far, and after 26 albums, that’s saying plenty. - Thom Jurek, All Music Guide
Roulette – one of New York City’s premiere venues for experimental music for over 33 years - has reopened bigger and better than ever. Located in a newly renovated 1920s Art Deco concert hall in Downtown Brooklyn, the new Roulette features two levels of seating for up to 400 people (600 standing), an expanded multi-channel sound system, projection screen for film and multi-media events, state-of-the-art lighting system, modular stage, and a specially designed floor to accommodate dance. Teamed with bold new programming, the new Roulette promises to be one of the most exciting places in New York City - if not the country - to experience adventurous music and art.
Roulette is located at 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn (2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR). Cost: $15/$10 members/students/seniors. For more information, visit www.roulette.org.