Fall Music Preview ~ Modern Composition

The elegant hues of modern composition make the genre a perfect match for fall.  Orchestras bloom like full-spectrum trees; piano notes fall like individual leaves.  As ambassadors to the moss and dirt, these leaves nourish the next generation.  The songs and symphonies of centuries past continue to resound.

The harvest is rich this year.  For the past two years, composers have been putting pen to paper, hands to keys, hoping to introduce their works to the world; and now their time has come.  From solo artists to ensembles, these artists are dusting off their tuxes, waiting for the curtain to open.  We hope that you’ll enjoy this early taste of the season’s freshest crops, hand-selected for your listening pleasure!

Piano Plus

Moondog, Muhly, Glass and more are Mirrored by Vanessa Wagner on her album of exquisite piano pieces.  The new album continues the cover aesthetic of Study of the Invisible, featuring another sculpted piece by Laurent Pernot (InFiné, October 25).  In Our Softening sees Sophia Subbayya Vastek reclaiming a 1902 piano from the hall of a hate group, rescuing and repurposing it for kinder ends.  The album seems like a conversation between instrument and artist:  “What stories might your ivoriess tell?” (October 21).  Is the piano playing itself?  We Will Live On was recorded with Disklavier and digitally controlled by Deru.  The title is a hopeful answer to a slightly uncomfortable question; the music is a balm.  Fine art prints are also available (Friends of Friends, October 28).  Until now, the compositions on Peter Broderick‘s Piano Works Vol. 1 (Floating in Tucker’s Basement) were only available as sheet music; at long last, one may purchase the double album, available November 25 on Erased Tapes.

The Mullet Peninsula is the inspiration for Seamus O’Muineachain‘s Isthmus, which folds in recordings of the area and includes Akito Goto on cello.  To listen is to walk by the shore and to feel the sand beneath one’s feet (October 1).  Seldom does a debut album include so many collaborators, but Vince Joy has made a lot of friends over the years.  Together Apart features guest appearances by a dozen pianists, including Sophie Hutchings, Dmitry Evgrafov and Stefano Guzzetti, expanding on the artist’s work for TV and film (Manners McDade, October 7).  ‘Olafur Arnalds extends the success of some kind of peace with an album of piano reworks, inviting Dustin O’Halloran, Sophie Hutchings, Eydis Evensen and more along for the ride.  The first single “Woven Song” comes from Hania Rani (October 28).  It’s not all modern composition (some classical pieces are included), but Víkingur Ólafsson‘s From Afar connects past and present, grand piano and felt upright, classical and contemporary, and will be released on double disc October 7 (Deutsche Grammophon).


Henning Schmiedt offers an intimate suite of Piano Miniatures that take the artist back to his childhood; the musical confections resound with the joy of simple pleasures.  One piece (“Stille Nacht”) includes cello, while the rest are solo endeavors (flau, September 16).  Andert Tysma also invites a friend on the journey, as the tender piano tones of Children of Trinoom are joined on two tracks by pedal steel (Apollo, September 30).  On stilla svävaMats Persson and Kristine Scholz call new attention to the work of Kristofer Svensson. Square piano and clavichord, each tuned to just intonation, revive the spirit of instruments from the early 1800s (kuyin, October 28).  Widening the scope, Alberto Giurioli takes in the vastness of Life on a personal album that extends to the entire planet (September 16).  Chad Lawson‘s piano anchors a string quartet on this is what love is, the first single from breathe (Decca, September 23).

While only two tracks and eight minutes long, Beneath the Sky is worth listing, as the EP is a collaboration between Moshimoss & Levi Patel.  These two make lovely sounds together, and we’re hoping for a longer project to surface down the line (September 23).  Slightly longer, but just as beautiful, is Dario Crisman‘s EP The Nature of Thoughts, which continues the hot streak from Bigo & Twigetti (September 9).  Jakob Lindhagen joins forces with CEEYS and Vargkvint on the tender album Memory Constructions, appropriately released on Piano and Coffee Records.  The album ends on a gorgeous trio titled “Resurfaced,” “Rewritten” and “Remembered” (September 23). Now signed to Decca, Elliott Jacqués is readying Finding Beauty for release in September.  Marika Takeuchi composed Dreamer in the Dark during her recent pregnancy; the album is filled with warmth and expectation (Bigo & Twigetti, September 2).


Few folks are inspired by textiles, but Monica Pearce is the exception, and on Textile Fantasies, she goes all in.  The heavily rhythmic album highlights piano and percussion, with guest appearances by harpsichord, dual toy piano and more Centrediscs, October 14).  Francesco Fusaro / Froz pays homage to ambient composers and electronic producers on the five-track Clavicentrico, exploring the timbres available to solo piano (September 16).  Ed Carlsen‘s Gravity completes a triptych on the theme of home.  On Eloquence is available now, the rest on September 30 (XXIM/Sony).

Strings & Things

Jessica Moss‘ Galaxy Heart is conceived as a companion to last year’s Phosphenes.  The violinist continues to explore the depths of isolation and the dark nights of the soul, but this time she’s not alone; guest starts from Dirty Three and GY!BE deepen the timbre (Constellation, October 7).  Lost Tribe Sound went on a short break earlier this year, and we’re glad they didn’t take too much time off!  The label returns with Aaron Martin‘s OST to The End of Medicine, a dramatic cello set that stands well on its own, while enhancing the documentary’s sense of foreboding over microscopic organisms become impervious to modern vaccines (September 23).


While some people may have forgotten that Nirvana employed a cellist, on High and LowLori Goldston will help people remember.  The album touches on multiple genres, including rock and drone (SofaBurn, October 7).  Alex Roth & Alice Purton‘s Inpouring EP is the inaugural release on the artist-led Zyla label.  The score for a dance performance by Kasia Witek is now an audio-visual event, complete with NFTs.  If the cello layers sound a bit dark, credit Purton’s earlier work with The Haxan Cloak and Mica Levi.

Benjin‘s ninth album, Music for Cello and Nykelharpa, melds folk songs and a Bach sonata to a series of original compositions (Canigou, September 30).  Cellist Claire Bryant debuts with Whole Heart, with guest appearances on viola and violin.  Seven composers are included, of special note Andrea Casarrubios, whose “Seven” honors the practice of hitting pots and pans at 7 p.m. during COVID as health care workers changed shifts (Bright Shiny Things, September 9).  Cellist Marina Hasselberg leads an ensemble on her debut album, Red, straddling genres through the work of four composers, blending improvisation and modern composition (Redshift Music, October 21).  Saxophone, cello, accordion, violin and oboe make Cuadernos de viaje Nº 2 a colorful affair; the ensemble’s name, Tortuga Alada, means “the winged turtle” (Dur et Doux, September 30).

Czech-Philippine guitarist, violinist and double-bassist Alex Velasco was born in Australia, moved to Berlin, and saved funds to record her new album by packing boxes at Amazon: an international story for modern times.  Imbued is filled with experience and emotion, and should broaden her base even wider (October 10).  Innerwoud‘s double bass sounds a lot like a cello, fooling the ears.  The layered, expansive Furie is released September 23 on Consouling Sounds.  Two tracks, two composers, four strings.  Violinist Maya Bennardo‘s delves into tone and interval while using silence as an equal partner (Kuyin, September 17).


Harpist Lara Somogvi has titled her new album !, the expressive punctuation possibly referring to the fact that all the sounds on the album ~ even those that sound electronic ~ stem from a single instrument.  Acceptances is the first single (Mercury KX, September).  The six-strong Copenhagen Clarinet Choir (CCC for short!) interweaves engaging melodies and counter-melodies on Organism, which curves like a mountain road, but finds its way to its destination without a single wrong turn (År & Dag, September 1).  Sea Island & Ferry will release As If on September 30, combining the two EPs of the As If project on one piece of vinyl.  The quartet is in fine form throughout, their music imitating the lilt and tides that accompany their name.

Tess Tyler‘s Fractals Vol. 1 and 2 is incredibly challenging to classify.  The first volume contains electronics and a touch of post-rock, while the second is reinterpreted by Spindle Ensemble in a chamber setting.  Whatever one might call the music, the listening experience is sublime (Manners McDade, September 9).  On a related imprint, Angus MacRae stretches from periods of solo piano to those of full ensemble on the luscious Vivarium (Nations of the Sea, September 30).


Peter Knight composes an elegy for a loved one on the meditative and mournful Shadow Phase.  The album draws equally from the fields of ambience and drone, with tape loops extending the melancholic mood (Room40, October 7).  Percussion and piano quartet Yarn/Wire tackles the complex music of Andrew McIntosh on Little Jimmy, incorporating field recordings as they investigate humanity’s relationship with nature (Kairos, September 9).


Paris’ Umlaut Records is prepping five extremely different records for early fall.  Experimental string trio Eponj produces Unbelievable Weather with viola, cello, double bass and voice (September 2).  Then there’s The Strange Adventures of Jesper Klint, the jazz trio Oùat bringing the compositions of Henrik Wallin to light (September 11).  Next up, the jazz quartet Die Hochstapler, makes a lovely racket on Beauty Lies and Within (September 15); and finally they will be joined by the drone-like cymbals and brushes of percussionist Hannes Linges on Nachthund (October 7).  The label crosses genres, but we felt it was only right to list these all in one place.

The original soundtrack for Surge highlights sound design along with plot movement.  Tujiko Nuriko & Paul Davies contribute tracks solo and in tandem, decorating the thriller with patches of drone and orchestral swirl (SN Variations, October 14).  The Discomfort of Evening is also a score, but this one accompanies a book rather than a film.  Sixteen acoustic instruments dance under the direction of Michiel de Malsche; the tone is somber, the resonance deep (September 19).


New Focus Recordings has announced its early autumn slate, which we’ll quote here:  new works by Sarah Bernstein for her creative improvisation string quartet Veer Quartet, September 2), chamber and electro-acoustic duos by Mikel Kuehn  (Entanglements, September 16), works for voice and ensemble by Michael Hersch (the script of storms, September 23), and works for flute, solo and with piano from Jennifer Grim (Through Broken Time, September 23).  A big thank you to New Focus for hyperlinking everything in advance!

Brian Harnetty‘s Words and Silences is another ambitious project, in the vein of Shawnee, Ohio.  This time the composer tackles the life of monk Thomas Merton, including field recordings and interviews from his archives, weaving the sounds into a radio play on two discs (one being the instrumental version) plus a chapbook (Winesap Records, October 7).  The St. Lawrence River is the subject of Flore Laurentienne‘s elegant Volume II.  Clarinet, synth and strings help to convey the flow of water, the tides and the beauty of the shores (RVNG, October 21). Nonsemble offers a tribute to giant prehistoric birds for string quartet and electronics.  Piano and drums increase the dramatic presentation.  Archaeopteryx is released on October 25.  Straddling modern composition and post-rock, La Chiesi de Fiore releases the Amorevolezza EP on October 2.  Eagle-eared listeners will intuit the link to Notre Dame de la Colline (Wild Bless You ! Records, October 2).


Fully Orchestrated

Christopher Tin‘s The Lost Birds is a perfect album to play while watching migrations and murmurations.  But it’s also an elegy for the species we’ve lost, which means it pairs well with Archaeopteryx above.  Joining forces with Voces8 and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Tin pens a requiem for the ages (Decca Classics, 23 September).  Bekah Simms‘ Bestiaries is music of disquiet, written for large ensemble.  In the title piece, periods of crashing instability are matched by the purity of soprano.  Released three days before Halloween, the album is an intelligent alternative to the season’s traditional fare (Centrediscs, October 28, pictured left). Danny Mulhern teams with the London Contemporary Orchestra to record Singing Through Others, a vibrant set that is billed as a “meditation on relationships.”  With influences ranging from poetry to jazz, it’s certain to be one of the season’s highlights (September 16).


Aki Yli-Salomäki demonstrates his diversity on Valunta, combining works for wind and string quartet, ensemble and electronics, and orchestra.  The pieces were recorded in a two-day stretch at the Karjalohja Church in Finland, while the Lohja City Orchestra was conducted by Jukka Untamala (September 23). John Luther Adams scored the hour-long Sila: The Breath of the World for five ensembles of 16 musicians on strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion and voice, performed in any combination.  The soon-to-be-published rendition includes the JACK Quartet, chamber choir The Crossing, and musicians from the University of Michigan (Cantaloupe Music, September 23).  New music from Hildur Guðnadóttir can be heard on the soundtrack to TÁR, along with works from the classical canon.  The movie stars Cate Blanchett as composer-conductor Lydia Tár (Deutsche Grammophon, October 21).

Richard Allen

One comment

  1. Pingback: Fall Music Preview ~ Modern Composition – Avant Music News

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