The Dogs of Desire, Cyber Feeds, Re(new)al and Capital Region Composer Andrew McKenna Lee

DogsofDesire_ASOAmericanMusicFest17 Composers7:30 pm • Friday, June 2nd 2017
EMPAC at RPI • Troy, NY

The Dogs of Desire is the Albany Symphony Orchestra‘s groundbreaking, eighteen-member chamber ensemble. The ensemble performs all-new music from some of America’s most creative up-and-coming living composers. The Dogs are generally let out of the doghouse for the annual American Music Festival, and this year is no exception.

Friday night’s program features the following works, composers, and performers:

  • David Biedenbedner (b. 1984) — Feed, world premiere
  • Viet Cuong (b. 1990) — Re(new)al, world premiere
  • David Mallamud (b. 1974) — Spittoonia on the Erie, world premiere
  • Saad HaddadLuaishya, world premiere
  • Andrew McKenna LeeThe Black Pool, world premiere
  • Reena Esmail (b. 1983) — Vishwas
  • Gabriel Gould (b. 1974) — Puja

The Dogs of Desire’s instrumental core is joined by soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon, mezzo-soprano Lucy Deghrae, and Sandbox Percussion. And a Dogs’ favorite, David Mallamud returns with yet another terrific work… this time with a work that is “an absolutely historically accurate except where it’s not folk opera in one act.” This alone should give one paws … oh, I mean “pause.”

The following gives a slightly fuller glance of the range of what you might expect at Friday’s Dogs of Desire concert with a little something about the living composers that are involved in letting the Dogs out so they can do their most wonderful “thing.”

David Biedenbedner writes music for the concert stage, dance, and multimedia collaborations. His work is often influenced by his diverse musical experiences in rock and jazz bands as a bassist, in wind, jazz, and New Orleans-style brass bands as a euphonium, trombone and tuba player, and the study of Indian Carnatic music. His creative interests include working with everyone from classically trained musicians to improvisers, acoustic chamber music to large ensembles, and interactive electronic interfaces to live brain data.

Biedenbedner’s piece Feed, which was commissioned by the Albany Symphony for Dogs of Desire and is a wonderful addition to its repertoire. Creating texts based on social media feeds and the impact of our continual cyber connectivity, the work gives solid commentary. The composer shares the following in his program notes:

I find it paradoxical that the Internet has transformed my life in such profound and positive ways—I can connect with people, ideas, cultures, music, and art from around the world; I have instant access to an unprecedented amount of information; and, as a species, we can share and disseminate important, interesting, even live-saving, information, research, and technology instantly—and yet my interaction with this technology often leaves me feeling empty. The feeling is disorienting, even maddening, and I often wonder what I forfeit for this ‘progress’ “

Viet Cuong is a young American composer who has works commissioned from ensembles ranging from Sō Percussion, PRiSM Saxophone Quartet, JACK Quartet to the Jacksonville Symphony, and Anthony McGill. His music has been performed on six continents. Cuong’s piece Re(new)al was commissioned by GE Renewable Energy. While it’s reflective of GE’s work, it’s much more than that in its musical exploration and inventiveness. In his program notes, Cuong writes:

I have tremendous respect for GE’s renewable energy initiatives, and their commitment to rethinking how to most effectively harness the earth’s resources is remarkable. They are creating a new, better reality for us all. Re(new)al is a percussion quartet concerto that is similarly devoted to finding unexpected ways to breath new life into traditional ideas, and the quartet therefore performs on several “invented” instruments, including crystal glasses and compressed air cans. And while the piece also features more traditional instruments, such as snare drum and vibraphone, I looked for ways to alter their sounds or change the way of these standard instruments are played. For instance, a single snare drum is played by all four members of the quartet, and certain notes of the vibraphone are prepared with aluminum foil to create buzzy, nearly electronic sounds. The entire piece was conceived in this way, and it was a blast to discover all of these unique sounds with the members of [Sandbox Percussion].”

Re(new)al is truly engaging and an aural experience as well as a visual one; fascinatingly stunning and beautiful. Thank you GE Renewable Energy for your commission and assistance in bringing this work to life.

If you get a chance before Friday’s concert, take a listen via the SoundCloud track below, to WMHT’s Rob Brown talk with the gentlemen of Sandbox Percussion about working on Viet Cuong’s piece and the performance they will be doing Saturday afternoon (click here for details).

Saad Haddad composes for orchestral, chamber, vocal, and electroacoustic music and achieves a “remarkable fusion of idioms” (The New York Times), most notably in his work exploring the disparate qualities in here in Western art music and Middle Eastern musical tradition. He delves into that relationship by transferring performance techniques of traditional Arabic instruments to Western symphonic instruments, while extending their capabilities through the advancement of technology.

Reena Esmail is an Indian-American composer who enjoys working in the spaces between Western and Hindustani (North indian) classical music idioms. You’ll hear her wonderful work sprinkled throughout the festival and featured on Saturday evening’s main Festival Concert (click here for details).

Award-winning composer David Mallamud writes music that transports listeners to a dazzling Parisian music hall, a species-altering glam metal firestorm, a fantastical beach of Sneetches, or the hidden recesses of Nijinsky’s psyche—all with equally imaginative insight. Davd’s work can include music that ranging from pulsing pop and poignant ballads to what The New York Times calls “all-out, Alice Cooper-style rock rant.” Mallamud’s Spittonia on the Erie—an absolutely historically accurate except where it’s not folk opera in one act—is part of the ASO’s Water Music NY project, if you don’t catch here, you’ll be able to catch it at Lock 5 in July.

Gerrel Gould has had a fascination with world music, especially klezmer, Javanese gamelan, and Indian popular and classical music. Many of his compositions draw on elements from these and other traditions.

And finally, there is Andrew McKenna Lee who happens to reside in the Capital Region and teach at The College of Saint Rose. He’s been described as a “thoughtful and original composer” (Wondering Sound) whose received commissions from chamber ensembles such as the Brentano String Quartet, eighth blackbird, Kroumata to orchestras such as the New Jersey Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and now the Albany Symphony with Black Pool. Written for the Dogs of Desire, McKenna Lee shares that the work was “inspired by the ‘Et in Unum Dominum’ section of J.S. Bach’s B Minor Mass, which features s sopranos singing in semi-hocketing, imitative counterpoint with one another.” In his program notes, McKenna Lee writes:

The Black Pool is a “prog rock cantata” that tells the story of a girl who discovers her doppelganger lurking beneath the surface of a mysterious reflecting pool. After pondering her discovery, the “mirror of her shadows” lurking in the pool’s murky depths pulls her in and drowns her …  The idea of constructing a story about a girl and her mirror image is a direct consequence of the musical model provided [by Bach].”

Additionally, the work takes inspiration from Pink Floyd and contemporary progressive rock luminary Steve Wilson. To hear Andrew Mckenna Lee talk with WMHT’s Rob Brown about his piece for Dogs of Desire, Bach, and his late night recital on Saturday night, click the SoundCloud image below.

Indeed. There is a lot of interesting and great music happening this week, but if you have not heard the Dogs of Desire yet … most certainly check it out. If you are already familiar with the Dogs of Desire, I have but one question for you: have you purchased your Festival Pass yet?

This … is adventurous listening!


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