2023 Spring Music Preview ~ Modern Composition

Once again, spring is turning out to be an incredible season for modern composition, as a wide variety of releases are sharing space in the garden.  We’re also fortunate to have a quartet of remarkable videos to whet our appetite for the spring slate.  From solo works to small orchestra, harp to trombone, these selections work as a new score to the Little Golden Book Animal Orchestra, highlighted in last year’s article Best Children’s Books on Music.  If this season’s seeds sprout early, we’ll be overjoyed.

Our cover image comes from Kalia Vendever‘s We Fell in Turn, which we first announced in early winter and is finally set for release on the last day of March. More details are found below!

Piano Plus

The third and final installment of Sarah Cahill‘s trilogy highlighting female composers is set for release on April 28, preceded by a four-hour concert.  The Future Is Female, Vol. 3, At Play brings the total number of composers to 30, and the full collection will look great as a boxed set should First Hand choose to offer it as such.  Alexandra Stréliski worked with the Karski Quartet on Néo Romance, but her vibrant piano remains the central instrument.  The striking video single Élégie is a farewell to a loved one, the mourning apparent in both the images and notes (Sony Masterworks/XXIM, March 31). 

Norwegian pianist Vetle Nærø looks back on childhood experiences of living in the moment, and hopes to recapture such feelings in song.  From Moments is peaceful and innocent, lightly graced by electronics (7K!, 21 April).  Gianluca Piacenza locates the introspective side of the season on My Secret Garden, which gazes inward and backward, the pianist continuing his relationship with the Petrof upright piano he acquired at age six (ExoPac Recordings, April 14).  Eydis Evensen has added voice and choir to her repertoire; The Light surrounds her piano with brass, strings, and an ever deepening connection to the land of her birth.  Lead single Tephra Horizon is filmed near Fagradalsfjall, the site of a recent eruption (Sony/XXIM, May 26).  Philip G. Anderson‘s Always Present may be as much for artists as it is for fans, exploring the “relationship with fear in the creative process.”  Laura Masotto, Shawn Williams and Trio Ramberget guest-star (May 5).

Multi-instrumentalist Josiah Steinbrick plays only piano on For Anyone That Knows You, while inviting Sam Gendel to contribute sax to three pieces.  Each subsequent release has demonstrated a change of timbre, but this is the artist’s most subdued set to date (Unseen Worlds, April 21).  The third EP in a trilogy, SkarWorX‘ SEED-X Vol 3 is a short suite for cello and processed piano; as prior videos have won awards, we’re looking forward to the visual element (Lamour, April 23).

Piano and Coffee Records continues its stellar run with Jaime del Adarve‘s Neu EP.  The music was originally composed to accompany a stage play, and reworked for this release; the sense of loss, followed by comfort, remains intact (March 24). Simeon Walker continues his Imprints series with a second installment of piano miniatures, closely miked to create a sense of intimacy (April 21).  Andrew Land‘s EP Without You Here sounds as wistful as its title, an echo of loss conveyed in the keys (Bigo & Twigetti, March 31).

If Rob Grant‘s Lost at Sea breaks big this season, it may be due to the family connection.  Grant happens to be the father of Lana Del Rey, who also sings on two of the tracks.  According to Del Ray, “he’s always been the star” (Universal Music, June 9).  It’s bold to open a piano album with a track titled Radiohead, but Angelica Olstad seems unconcerned.  American explores the experience of being biracial in the United States, the artist reclaiming her Chinese heritage through composition (Sonder House, May 5).  Julian Klaas makes the switch from electronic music to Wurlitzer piano on Impromptu, subdued tape loops and warbles the phantom limbs of his former existence (Squama, March 24).  Organist Anna Lapwood celebrates her recent signing to Sony Classical with Midnight Sessions at the Royal Albert Hall, a five-song EP of sci-fi themes, including selections from “Interstellar” and “How to Train Your Dragon” (April).

Strings and Things

Eluvium‘s (Whirring Marvels in) Consensus Reality has continued to raise expectations, with two tracks revealed each month until the full album is unveiled on May 12.  Even if this were only half an album, the set would already be a contender.  The emotion is high, the execution exquisite (Temporary Residence Ltd.).  Erland Cooper teams with Scottish Ensemble for Folded Landscapes, an impassioned suite on climate change.  Movement 5 – Part Two contains operatic vocals, setting the mind on the possibility of progress (Mercury KX, May 5).  Continuing the opera motif, it’s safe to say that Thomas Bangalter‘s ninety-minute orchestral Mythologies is one of the most anticipated releases of the season, if for no other reason than the fact that Bangalter is a member of Daft Punk.  It also happens to live up to its billing, over-the-top, yet elegant (Erato/Warner Classics, April 7).


Brazilian cellist Dom La Nena multitracks cello and voice until she sounds like a small ensemble.  Leon is the name of both her cello and her solo album (Sabiá Records, April 7).  Issei Herr recorded Distant Intervals in a bedroom closet (we suspect a walk-in closet, as otherwise a cello might not fit), adding up to a hundred layers of overdubs and samples to produce a richly layered work.  The album is an investigation of identity as it relates to time and imagination (NNA Tapes, April 7).

Bowed strings set the mood on August Dreams, the seasonally misplaced yet lovely new set from Richard Carr | Caleb Burhans | Clarice Jensen.  Here the ear trumps the eye, as the album is improvised yet sounds composed: electronic treatments offer a unifying gloss (April 21).  On Panorama, violinist Olivia De Prato plays works by Missy Mazzoli and more, with occasional electronics.  The themes include dislocation and return (New Focus, April 14).


Kalia Vendever‘s solo debut is a bit different from her collaborative efforts.  The relaxing, jazz-tinged We Fell in Turn combines two unexpected forces: trombone and Hawai’ian mythology.  Fans may also order a dyed bandana! (AKP Recordings, March 31).  Experimental harpist Sarah Pagé also has a special offer for her fans: a package of fine art prints from Elena Miroshnichenko.  Voda explores humankind’s relationship with the water, and manages to sound oceanic despite being a string-based work (Backward Music, June 2).

Robert Honstein pays tribute to the films of Studio Ghibli on Lost and Found, an intricate suite that features percussion trio Tigue, cello and percussion duo New Morse Code and percussionist Michael Compitello, yet never sounds crowded or rushed.  The atmosphere is akin to a magical anime (New Focus, March 24).  A duo of duos (cello and kora, accordion and sax), Sissoko Segal Parisien Peirani join forces on Les Égarés, which sounds like a folk party in a gypsy camp, with cover art to match (No Format!, March 31).  Critically acclaimed film The Wonder was released last year, but Matthew Herbert‘s score is being released this year.  Largely responsible for the mood of the movie, the evocative music stands on its own (Accidental Records, March 31).


Beautifully Blended

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from aus, but the artist returns with energy and color on Everis.  Eleven guest stars include Henning Schmiedt on piano and Danny Norbury on cello.  The entire project is washed in electronics, making this a lively affair, perfect for the season of bloom (flau, April 26).  Anna Meredith‘s music is performed by Ligeti Quartet on strings and electronics, led by the happily swirling video for “Tuggemo.”  Nuc‘s rhythm and beats suggest a potential crossover hit (Mercury KX, April 14).

Here’s a new twist on an old phrase: it has a piano, and you can dance to it: Grandbrothers‘ album Late Reflections was recorded after hours in a cathedral, and brings a new angle to the definition of holiness (City Slang US, April 14).  GoGo Penguin‘s Everything Is Going to Be Okay is already sounding like a winner, with two singles to date.  We’re enamored with Friday Film Special, a tribute to DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… (Sony/XXIM, April 14).  Post-rockers Anoice return with the EP unerasable fire, which shifts to modern composition, with moments of swirling bliss.  Calu and Films guest-star on vocals (Ricco, April 7).

yaz lancaster‘s AmethYst is a multidisciplinary collection of collaborations, some verging on the electronic, others experimental, paired with videos and a Palestinian sound installation.  It’s one of the season’s most complex releases, and one of its most timely (people | places | records, April 7).  Another unique release comes from A Far Cry and Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol, who present a sort of Turkish rock opera in A Gentleman of Istanbul.  Oud and ney feature strongly as the storyline spans centuries (Crier Records, April 7).  Alex Paxton‘s Happy Music for Orchestra is exactly what it sounds like, a set of fun pieces delivered with a sense of childlike joy ~ which is no surprise as the album is partially inspired by teaching music to preschoolers (Delphian, April 28).


William Ryan Fritch presents Cohesion, the second installment of the trilogy that began with this winter’s Polarity.  The new chapter is inspired by the artist’s work on the film “Newtok” (Lost Tribe Sound, May 5, pictured right).  Valerio Camparini F‘s Sud e Magia began its life as the soundtrack to the movie Sow the Wind, and has continued to evolve since then.  The influences include Greek mythology and ancient ritual, and the music has a keen cinematic quality, even without the images (Eiga, April 14).  Soundwalk Collective‘s soundtrack to the Oscar-nominated All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, an expose about the opioid crisis and those responsible, will see physical release on May 25 on Analogue Foundation.

NMC Recordings has annouced three releases for spring.  Bracing Change 2 combines string quartet works composed by Mark-Anthony Turnage, Paul Newland, and Helen Grime (April 7), while Emily Howard‘s Torus incorporates mathematical principles and is described fittingly as “vivid orchestral geometries” (April 28).  Mary Bellamy‘s avant-garde Behind the transparent surface delves into sharp percussion and atonal strings, and could have landed in Experimental, but we prefer to keep things neat (April 28).  And Esecutori di Metallo su Carta is unveiling a “greatest hits” of sorts, with one song from each of its releases, plus a bonus track.  19+1 features innovative interpretations of classical pieces, video game scores and more (19’40”, March 20).

Richard Allen

One comment

  1. Pingback: A Closer Listen’s 2023 Spring Music Preview ~ Modern Composition  – Avant Music News

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