SYBARITE5 Releases New Album, Embarks on Tour

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SYBARITE5 Releases New Album, Embarks on Tour

On March 20, 2020, Sybarite5, the first string quintet ever to win the Concert Artists Guild International Competition, celebrates the release of its fourth album, Live from New York, It's Sybarite5 [BTSC-0131/1 CD], a recording featuring live performances from Chelsea's The Cell, a performance space the innovative string quintet has called its New York home for more than a decade. The quintet's second album on the Bright Shiny Things label features newly commissioned world premiere works by Brandon Ridenour, Ehsan Matoori, Steven Snowden, and Michael Dellaira; and string quintet premieres of works by William Brittelle, Marc Mellits, Aleksandra Vrebalov, and John Coltrane. Guest artists for the album include co-artistic director of Silkroad, Grammy® winning percussionist Shane Shanahan; renowned santoor player Ehsan Matoori; and acclaimed mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert. In addition to CD format, the album will be available as a high-resolution download (96kHz 24-bit FLAC), and in limited edition vinyl.

2020 also marks the beginning of Sybarite5's nationwide tour, with performances throughout the U.S., including New York, Boston, Texas, Arizona, Ohio, Louisiana, Indiana, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Kansas. The tour will highlight select works from the new album, along with music by Jessica Meyer, Kenji Bunch, Michael Gilbertson, and Astor Piazzolla. Also included will be arrangements of folk songs by the Armenian composer Komitas, as well as audience favorites such as Radiohead's "Weird Fishes" and "Videotape." Playlists for each tour date will vary and are announced from the stage.

Originally composed for string quartet and electronics, William Brittelle's Future Shock was reimagined by the composer for Sybarite5 in an all-acoustic setting, and features percussionist Shane Shanahan. One of two works on this album commissioned by Sybarite5 as a result of the American Composers Forum Award and competition, Brandon Ridenour's NuPac Kanon & Jig, draws its initial influences from Pachelbel and Tupac Shakur.

The work was inspired by a near-marriage experience, which the composer describes as "the biggest case of cold feet [that] sets you running hot out the door to a wild world of 'freedom' you're still craving. Your experiences out there are exciting but unstable. It can only sustain itself for so long before you ultimately crash." Marc Mellits's Groove Machine is the fourth movement from his String Quartet No. 2, "Revolution," originally composed for the Kronos Quartet. The composer spends time each year in Romania and has developed a love for its people, culture, food, and way of life. Groove Machine was inspired by machinery (a fascination for Mellits) that he found while on one of his visits. In Romania, writes Mellits, "I have found some of the most beautiful, old, and still working pieces of machinery that I have ever seen. The trains are particularly amazing, quite large and heavy, and almost entirely metal."

Sybarite5's double bassist Louis Levitt created the bass part for this work with the composer's blessing. Sybarite5 first encountered Iranian composer and master santoor (Persian dulcimer) player Ehsan Matoori at Yo-Yo Ma's Silkroad Global Musician's Workshop. The collaboration between the Mr. Matoori and Sybarite5 resulted in two works: Tehran When Lonely, a love letter/homage to the city of Tehran, and Naqsh-e Jahan, which is named after the main tourist spot of Isfahan, one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. Matoori, who was born and raised in Isfahan, notes, "Naqsh-e Jahan in Farsi means 'The image of the world.' The square is surrounded by structures of different purpose and architecture, and together with the main bazaar of Isfahan they comprise the huge complex to explore."

Michael Dellaira's music exploits the qualities of both speech and song, and encompasses genres from folk music to voice synthesis on computers. His song Star Globe is based on a poem by Nancy Manocherian, and was written for Sybarite5 and mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert in 2016. The second composer selected by Sybarite5 from the American Composers Forum competition is the Boston-based Steven Snowden. Snowden's Traveler No. 65 was inspired by the story of Ham, the chimpanzee who traveled to space in 1961.

The music utilizes an extended technique, which has the violinist and cellist placing a piece of aluminum foil on the bridge of their instruments, thus creating "a poignant, distorted sound." John Coltrane's iconic song "Alabama" was written in response to the Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963, which killed four, young African-American girls, and was inspired by the rhythmic speech patterns of Martin Luther King. It first appeared on his 1964 album Live at Birdland. Sybarite5 has performed their arrangement of this classic song in concert on numerous occasions.

Closing the album is Serbian-American composer Aleksandra Vrebalov's My Desert, My Rose, another Kronos Quartet commission, with a newly-arranged double bass part for Sybarite5 by Louis Levitt. The work was personally suggested to Levitt by Kronos violinist David Harrington, who thought it would be a natural fit for the quintet. Vrebalov writes, "My Desert, My Rose consists of a series of patterns open in length, meter, tempo, and dynamics, different for each performer. The unfolding of the piece is almost entirely left to each performer's sensibility and responsiveness to the parts of other members of the group." The album also includes a surprise bonus track.

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