An Interview with Bass Clarinet and Marimba duo Transient Canvas

By Laura King for NO EXIT
Transient Canvas
Transient Canvas, the Boston-based contemporary duo comprised of bass clarinetist Amy Advocat and marimbist Matt Sharrock, is on a foundational, multi-pronged mission to revolutionize the modern concert experience. Since 2011, the duo’s innovative performances have been praised coast to coast … as “superb” by the Boston Globe, “disarming” by Cleveland Classical, and with the San Francisco Chronicle lauding “the versatile imagination they both display and inspire in others.”

Recently, Matt dialogued with NO EXIT about the challenges and rewards of moving contemporary music online as live performance during corona containment:

Q. The last time we spoke you shared your incredibly busy schedule – teaching your instruments, producing a third album, playing 30-40 concerts a year, and running an annual composer fellowship program. And then came COVID19. In what ways did things change for you as a result?

Well… for one thing, we have gotten to spend a LOT more time with our cats—they have been suuuuper spoiled! But we’ve actually managed to stay surprisingly busy these last several months, as our teaching moved entirely online and a large portion of our college residencies did the same. (We’ve become a lot more tech-savvy as a result!) Our third album, Right Now, In a Second, will still be released October 16 on New Focus Recording (woo!) … plus, we have been able to pivot to virtual concerts for the season, like the one we will be performing this weekend.

Seriously—we have been incredibly lucky. In a way, being a small chamber group that specializes in new music has been an advantage. We do not have a lot of overhead, and, since Amy and I live together, we have been able to rehearse and record together throughout the pandemic. Many of our colleagues have not had the same good fortune, and we want to encourage everyone to donate to your local artist/musician relief fund! It is going to be a long time before concert halls are running at capacity again, and most freelance musicians (and even non-freelance musicians) have fallen through the cracks financially.

Q. You do lots of online activities and excel here. Describe your learning curve! What have you lost and what have you gained by jumping onto the various virtual performance platforms?

We’ve lost the immediacy and sense of connection provided by the concert stage. There simply isn’t anything like that very human connection— it’s what keeps us going, really. Now, live streaming comes kinda close to this experience, especially when our audience interacts with us through comments, but those always come at a 30-second delay. Still, we have found that these kinds of concerts still provide all of us (performers and audiences alike) with a taste of the connection we used to get.

We have also gained a wider audience, in a way. With all the traveling we have done over the years, we have amassed many followers who have only heard us play live once. Now these same people can tune in to our online shows, and they have been interacting in a way that simply wasn’t possible before. So, there is a bit of silver lining to the current situation.

Our learning curve has been steep… We had an advantage in that we’d been performing electroacoustic music for a number of years, so owned a good amount of audio gear, but it still took us awhile to figure out how to bypass the limitations of many streaming services to curate a nice- sounding performance. We are certainly not professional audio engineers, but hopefully our concerts are still enjoyable to listen to!

Q. You proclaim on your website that Transient Canvas “is on a mission to revolutionize the modern-day concert experience.” Has the Year of Living Distantly been your ally or a roadblock? Please explain!

Honestly, it has been a little of both. One of the ways that we seek to revolutionize the modern concert experience is simply by creating connections with our audience. We want to make our performances as accessible as possible, and we choose to do this by being friendly (gasp), and talking to our audience (double gasp), and even cracking some jokes every now and then (or every time we talk). We break the fourth wall—we encourage discussion—and this is all much harder while performing virtually.

And it’s also NOT harder. After all, comment sections on live streams are a great way to communicate with people. Plus, like I mentioned earlier, our audience is no longer limited by geography. So, people from all over the world can interact with each other while they are interacting with our performance. As my dad would say, “That’s not nothing!”

One thing that Amy and I try to hold on to is the sense of danger and excitement that is only possible in live performances. It is very tempting to make heavily edited, musically perfect videos. After all, no one wants wrong notes up forever on the internet. But, while we love the musical satisfaction of releasing idealized performances like our upcoming album, it is more important than ever to hold onto the magic of a live performance, warts and all. To that end, we only release unedited live performances on our virtual concerts. We might record the pieces earlier in the day for logistical reasons, but we never edit.

Q. So whatcha got planned for your upcoming virtual concert that will be hosted by NO EXIT?

We’re combining some new pieces and some old favorites, both electronic and acoustic, to address the musical “crossroads” we find ourselves in. We are very excited to give the web premiere of Teerath Majumder’s Crossroads, which is our first foray into live electronics in a virtual setting. Teerath is an amazing composer, and one of our 2020 Composer Fellows! We’ll also be performing some TC “classics” by Jen Wang, Marissa Hickman and Michelle McQuade Dewhirst, plus two fabulous pieces by Kitty Xiao and Yiyang Wang that were written for us as part of the 2020 RED NOTE New Music Festival at Illinois State University last February. This will be a very eclectic and provocative program!

Q. Transient Canvas works with many new composers every season because you are “very concerned with relevance.” What are some of the musical themes that people are taking on to reflect this extraordinarily bizarre and stressful epoch on earth?

Every composer is reacting to our current epoch a bit differently. The composers we are working with are avoiding writing “pandemic pieces,” or at least they are avoiding referencing the pandemic specifically. Perhaps we’ve seen a trend toward introspection and economy of material, if anything.

Q. Please talk about your relationship with electroacoustic music and some of the challenges inherent in creating and performing it well!

We are enthusiastic amateurs! But seriously—we started performing electroacoustic music because it opened a huge world of possibilities for us as a duo. Our two instruments can become part of a huge landscape of sonic color once electronics are added.

One amazing development over the past decade is the fact that a performer can treat electronics the same way a guitarist treats their instrument: they don’t have to know how to build it, they only need to know how to play it. That was not universally the case as recently as 2011, when we first formed our duo. At that time, to play electronic music, you had to create everything yourself (or at least that is how it appeared to us), unless you were performing a tape piece. Now the interface between performers and electronics is so intuitive that it is just a matter of practice and comfort.

One challenge to performing electroacoustic music is to remember to still listen to each other, as well as to the electronics! A lot of the music we play has a click track, and many musicians completely turn their ears off once a click is introduced. You cannot do that—you still must make music with one another. Otherwise, why perform live at all?

Q. Let’s end on a laugh, just because! What has been your funniest quarantine concert (or Zoom) experience?

This wasn’t a concert, but it was Zoom-related… Near the end of the spring semester, one of my conservatory students learned why they shouldn’t balance their iPhone on a windowsill during class. We all got a super exciting view of their screen plummeting down into the backyard and eventually into their dog’s mouth. That was an exhilarating moment in time for all involved.


From ClevelandClassical.com : No Exit launches new season online October 2

By Mike Telin
The show must go on! Although the 19th-century phrase was originally associated with circuses, its spirit lives on to this day as performing arts groups across Northeast Ohio and around the world figure out how to bring their shows to the public.

On Friday, October 2 at 7:00 pm, the area’s premier new music ensemble, No Exit, will present the debut performance of their 12th season online. The program will feature William Grant Still’s mystical Seven Traceries (solo piano), Villa-Lobos’ Deux Chôros (violin and piano), Harald Genzmar’s Sonata (solo flute), Adam Roberts’ Bell Threads (solo viola), and the world premiere of Downfall by No Exit percussionist Luke Rinderknecht. Listeners can access the free, pre-recorded concert and download the concert program by visiting the ensemble’s website or Facebook page.

“COVID-19 has forced us all to rethink how we live, work, and go about our lives,” No Exit artistic director Tim Beyer said during a recent telephone conversation. “At the moment, the members don’t feel comfortable playing together as a group, and since I am one to err on the side of safety, that’s where the idea for solo pieces came from.”

Although a program of mostly solo works is a little out of the ordinary, Beyer sees it as the perfect opportunity to showcase each of the ensemble’s musicians. “About mid-summer we commissioned some talented composers to write solo works for all of the members of the group. So as we move forward, we’ll have a healthy supply of new music to present.”

People who are familiar with No Exit concerts know that world premieres often take center stage, and this concert is no exception. “Luke’s piece, Downfall, is very cool. He takes all of these older pieces, like London Bridge Is Falling Down, that refer to the collapse of a bridge or a country or a culture, and creates a collage. He even blows through a conch shell seven times to represent the falling down of the walls of Jericho.”

About the ensemble’s decision to pre-record the concert, Beyer said, “We’ve tried to create something that will resemble what people enjoy about our live, in-person performances. But at the same time we’re trying to do things that are specific to the medium of broadcasting.”

To assure that video and sound quality are as good as possible, each member recorded their performance at home, and those recordings were then taken into post-production. “We’ll also be inserting a lot of other material. For instance, the musicians and composers will talk about their pieces, and those segments have been recorded separately. With so many people in different places, to try to do all of this in a live-stream would have been a recipe for disaster.”

Beyer said that No Exit’s 2020-21 season will encompass at least five concerts, including their annual collaboration with St. Paul-based Zeitgeist on November 13 at 7:00 pm.

The ensemble will also continue to present guest artists. Boston-based marimba and bass clarinet duo Transient Canvas will give a concert on Saturday, October 3 at 7:00 (visit No Exit’s website at the time of the performance).

The event begins their year-long collaboration with No Exit during which the duo and saxophonist Noa Even will work with Northeast Ohio’s student composers. “This is a tough time for college students — a lot of their opportunities have now vanished. So with all that is going to be happening, this will be a pretty full year for us.”

Originally published on ClevelandClassical.com (September 29, 2020). The original article can be found – Here


An Interview with Composer Adam Roberts

By Laura King for NO EXIT
Diodore Photo

No Exit’s Laura King recently had a chat with composer Adam Roberts. Adam is a very thoughtful and eloquent guy and the resulting interview is wonderful. No Exit will be performing Adam’s “Bell Threads” for solo viola during this Friday’s (10/2) online concert. See event listing for details.
An Interview with Adam Roberts – Composer, Educator

Adam Roberts is assistant professor of Composition and Music Theory at Kent State University. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in composition from the Eastman School of Music in 2003 and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2010. Adam also studied at the University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna from 2007-2008 on a Harvard University Sheldon Traveling Fellowship. Prior to joining the faculty at Kent State, Roberts taught at Harvard University, Northeastern University, Istanbul Technical University’s Center for Advanced Studies in Music, and the University of Georgia’s Hugh Hodgson School of Music.

Below, in a recent interview with NO EXIT, Adam gives us a glimpse into his full and colorful life as a world traveler, composer, music educator and mid-west family guy, while sharing his creative process:

Q. Adam, you are a new father of twins, which must provide all sorts of sonic inspiration! Can we start by talking about your own early relationship with music? What instruments did you play and when did you begin to compose?

Yes, being a father to twins does provide a great deal of sonic inspiration, and inspiration otherwise (also exhaustion!). I started playing the piano when I was about 7 years old. We had an old upright piano in the house, and my mother had taken lessons in high school and remembered certain pieces by heart—the Ab Schubert Impromptu, and the first Bach Invention, for example. I would hear her play through these and was intrigued, even riveted. I remember hearing her playing the first prelude from WTC 1 and having a vivid, almost psychedelic experience, like I was hearing rain fall upwards. So, my musical education began with my mother teaching me the first Bach Invention by rote—put your hand here and there—and I learned it and memorized it without being able to read music. Then I had to start over from the beginning with reading. Piano is really the only instrument I play. I was lucky that there was absolutely no pressure in the house to be a classical musician, and that my relationship with music has really come from my own attraction to it. Even when I started practicing a few hours a day later, I had no-one in the house keeping track of it, it really came from me. And I feel grateful to this day that that innate enthusiasm for music has remained intact.

I started composing when I was a teenager, and out of largely social motivations. I had been to the Brevard Music Center for piano when I was 13 and fell in love with it. It was the first time in my life that I had been surrounded by peers who loved music as much as I did and I wanted very much to go back the next summer, but I developed tendonitis in my right hand and had to take a break from the piano. I noticed they had a composition program, so I quickly wrote a piece for left hand piano, recorded it on a cassette tape and got in. I spent that summer composing, and I was hooked. I came back to Columbus, OH and found a composition teacher, Marshall Barnes, whom I studied with during high school. I was lucky to find Marshall. His wife Dorothy was an amazing wood- worker, and I would go over to their house and improvise on the piano, and we would drink tea and talk about art; in a way it was my first intellectual, artistic community.

Q. What would a short-hand map of your musical journey look like to this point? How have each of the colorful cultures that you have immersed yourself in after college shaped you as a composer and informed your process?

I do think of my life as being in these chapters, each characterized by a certain cultural color, even smells and tastes. I studied at Eastman and Harvard for school, each which provided a vastly different experience. Eastman had several famous American composers on the faculty at the time— Augusta Read Thomas, Christopher Rouse, Joseph Schwantner—all who wrote a colorful, extroverted kind of orchestral music that was performed frequently in the U.S. At Harvard, on the other hand, the focus was much more on European composers, such as Grisey, Lachenmann, Sciarrino, etc.

I also spent a very formative year studying with Chaya Czernowin in Vienna in 2007-8. When I finished my doctoral studies in 2010, I got a position at Istanbul Technical University, where I taught from 2011-2014. I had many amazing and challenging experiences in Istanbul, and eventually decided to move to NYC in early 2015, where I lived until 2018 as a freelancer, cobbling together a living and going to a million concerts and writing music—it was an intense and thrilling life.

I also taught for a year at the University of Georgia in 2016-17, and then moved to Ohio for the position at Kent State in 2018. So, it’s uncanny that after living in Rochester, Boston, Vienna, Istanbul, and NYC that I’ve landed back in Ohio, two hours from where I grew up. I do think my music has been shaped by these different environments, and in my work I’ve often felt that I am synthesizing seemingly irreconcilable influences from each of these chapters. To get more specific would take too long, so I’ll leave it there for now.

Q. From your experience, will you talk a little bit about the difference between identifying as a professional composer in the US and in Europe?

Throughout my life I’ve thought a lot about the difference between being a composer in Europe and America. There are pros and cons to both, I think. There is a lot to be jealous of when thinking about new music in Europe, and I think it really comes down to a general awareness of culture and deep history. Considering groups like Ensemble Intercontemporain, Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Modern— these are well funded groups with top players and large audiences—this can only happen when there is a deep respect for history and culture and support of it. When I lived in Vienna, I attended Wien Modern, a month-long new music festival with an overabundance of incredible concerts, and I would see my German teacher at the concerts. This teacher wasn’t a professor, she was a language teacher, and she was interested enough in the cultural offerings of her city that she would go to Wien Modern! It’s hard to imagine the same thing in the U.S., a middle school language teacher attending many nights of a new music festival.

On the other hand, if you want to partake in the musical apparatus in Europe, there does seem to be a specific set of cultural histories and expectations one needs to accommodate to be accepted there and championed by these ensembles and institutions. In the States, there is that wonderful DIY energy that has fueled so many of our most amazing composers, including Charles Ives and Morton Feldman… also jazz artists like Ornette Coleman. It is hard to imagine a Philip Glass happening in Germany, for example. And when you meet people in the States who have dedicated themselves to new music, you know you’re meeting folks who have a quasi-spiritual commitment to their craft and who have made sacrifices to pursue art and beauty. I have so much respect for groups like NO EXIT who get out there and just make it happen—because it comes from a truly idealistic and pure place.

Q. I’ve heard you describe composition as a lonely pursuit requiring a single-pointed focus. How do you manage to close the door and go to that still and alone space when you have a family with babies and full-time teaching responsibilities?

Yes, composition is a lonely pursuit, and let me emphasize that I think it really needs to be lonely, and that is a good thing! We are so bombarded by media and saturated with information, musical and otherwise, that I think it is even more important today for a composer to sit with their own loneliness and feel into their own experiences. By creating something individual and honest, a composer can offer an opportunity for communication and intimacy, experiences that are sorely lacking in our communal mind these days. So, I am hopeful that in this way a composer still has an important role to play in our culture.

But I haven’t answered your question, have I? It is challenging with the responsibilities you mention to shut the door and go to that place. On the other hand, I am thinking in the back of my mind about the music I am writing while I’m with my children, so that when I finally do have a chance to sit and compose, I’m excited to get down to it. But I have had to modify my process a bit and force myself to work in certain windows, otherwise pieces just won’t get finished.

Q. Once inspiration comes for a new piece of music, how do you start composing? Do you have any rigors or rituals associated with that creative activity? Are deadlines friend or foe?

My main rigor and ritual are simply getting to the desk and making time for composing. Then, I usually start by writing a snippet of music that I hear/feel vividly and work outward from there. I find in general that I can’t write something down unless I can feel it strongly and it excites me, or it feels urgent in some painful but important way. If I don’t feel convinced by an internal experience, I wait. I find it helpful to both think about the whole form and intention of the piece and zoom into specific material at the same time. Deadlines are truly a necessary evil; I probably would never finish a piece without a deadline.

Q. Your work “Bell Threads” for viola will be performed by James Rhodes in NO EXIT’s upcoming virtual concert. The program describes it as “visceral and intense.” Can you share the backstory with us?

I think that’s a perfect characterization of the music (and I would be pleased if someone described my work in general that way). Towards the end of my graduate studies, in 2009, I wrote “Bell Threads” for Garth Knox, who we had in residence at Harvard. At the time, my grandmother Roslyn was dying, and in a way the piece was written as an elegy for her. Without her support, my life would not have taken the shape that it did—of that I am certain. So, the piece is inward-looking and prayerful, expressed by the viola being muted throughout. Otherwise, metaphorically, there is an imaginary bell resonance ringing, and the violist, through a combination of ethereal harmonics, liminal trills, and singing lines, unfolds this resonance by playing different strands of it throughout the piece.

Q. How did you come to connect with NO EXIT, Adam?

When I moved back to NE Ohio, I soon became aware of NO EXIT as an important Cleveland-based New Music Ensemble, but I connected with NO EXIT on a personal level through a serendipitous encounter with the composer Hong-Da Chin at a concert by The Cleveland Orchestra. Hong-Da and I had already met at the Avaloch Music Institute, and he was in town for a performance with NO EXIT. I invited Hong-Da to share his music in the Kent State composition seminar, and Tim Beyer drove him there. That is how Tim and I met, and since then we’ve been collaborating to bring the ensemble to Kent State, and are developing a musical partnership that is wonderfully productive for all parties. I am very grateful for this connection!

Q. From your perspective as a new music composer and educator, where do you see that the new classical music scene stands, and do you have any predictions for the decade ahead?

The scene is so diverse (at least aesthetically), that is a difficult question to answer, and any specific answer is bound to be wrong! But personally, I think the push to come to consciousness around our need to diversify is having a profound effect on our culture and the new music scene. I expect that in the next decade we will become aware of many new voices and shades of styles that we haven’t been exposed to yet, and that’s very exciting! I also think there is important work to be done in reinvestigating music of the last hundred years and making certain that composers who did amazing work are heard and are part of the story we tell about new music. As just one example, Olly Wilson should be on every syllabus of 20th century music, in my opinion.


No Exit and Transient Canvas: Starting the Season with Two Programs in Two Days


We’re very excited to be presenting our first program of the season this Friday (10/2) at 7:00 pm! We have some really wonderful music in store for you and are looking forward to performing for you again after what feels like far too long.

But wait……… it gets better! On Saturday (10/3) at 7:00 pm No Exit is thrilled to present one of the most dynamic new music groups around today, the Boston-based marimba and bass clarinet duo Transient Canvas. As some of you may recall, Transient Canvas was scheduled to perform in Cleveland as part of No Exit’s last concert season, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic it had to be cancelled. Transient Canvas are renowned for their electrifying and virtuosic performances so don’t miss it!

This performance will mark the first event in what will be a yearlong collaboration with No Exit during which time Transient Canvas will work closely with Northeast Ohio student composers culminating in a concert of their music (January 29) written for the ensemble.

Transient Canvas’ Saturday concert will examine the crossroads of “live” and electronic performance. Be sure to join us both nights for two unforgettable evenings of online concerts. It’s going to be an amazing weekend of music!

Please see event listings for details. Both concerts are free and open to the public. Please visit noexitnewmusic.com on the night of the concerts and go to the ‘upcoming events’ section. Click on the concert listing to find the link which will allow you to view the events.


Get An Advanced Sneak Peek at the Program for No Exit’s Upcoming Virtual Season Opener

Tweed Photo

We are thrilled to be in the final stages of preparing our amazing concert of solos and duos at home, which premieres October 2nd at 7PM at noexitnewmusic.com and facebook.com/noexitnewmusic. As the date rapidly approached we thought it would be a nice treat to provide an advanced copy of our program. Hopefully all this information will remind everyone that no matter what, there is a vibrant year of new music ahead.



An Interview with No Exit’s violinist Cara Tweed

By Laura King
Tweed Photo
Cara Tweed, at age five, began studying violin at the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Sato Center for Suzuki Studies. She holds degrees in violin performance from The Cleveland Institute of Music and Cleveland State University. Cara was the principal second violinist of the Opera Cleveland Orchestra from 2004-2010. She has been faculty at Cleveland State University, The Aurora School of Music and The Music Settlement. Currently, Cara teaches at Laurel School in Shaker Heights, where she directs their Music Academy. An avid educator, she has maintained a private violin studio for over 15 years.

Below, Cara responds to questions about her impassioned multi-career:

Q. Legend has it, Cara, that your musical vocation was launched by Mickey Mouse and a tantrum. Please tell!

I actually don’t remember the “toy store incident” my parents like to speak about, but I do remember being very excited to receive the Mickey violin for my 4th birthday, or maybe it was Christmas. Unfortunately, it did not work! My parents were determined, though. We picked up some rosin at a local music store and I finally managed to get some sound out of the plastic strings!v

I am not sure where the urge to be a musician came from, but I do recall that it was always there. My parents both played some piano as kids, but didn’t consider themselves musicians per se. My mom enrolled me in a kids’ music class, but I hated it…I was only interested in “really” learning how to play an instrument. So I began Suzuki violin lessons at CIM shortly before my fifth birthday. Of course, I wanted to quit right away—I wanted to play songs immediately and did not like to practice. But that is typical of most kids. And sticking with it delivered the important life lesson that if there is something you really desire to do, for it to be enjoyable, you need to work really hard at it.

No Exit New Music · Timothy Beyer – Amputate IV for violin and electronics (2012)

Q. What influencers beside Micky would you credit for sparking the passion and dedication that have led you to become a professional musician and avid educator?

So many, really. All my teachers were important to my growth. I studied with David Updegraff during my most formative years—from the age of 12 to 20. He really shaped my technique. Paul Kantor was also a huge influence. I think that he taught me how to be my own teacher, which is so important, because deep down, technique is personal. Everyone must figure what works for their own body. Mr. Kantor also has an uncommon grasp of instructional psychology that helped shape me as a teacher. Specifically, the need to
personalize teaching to each student. It’s important to have a structure and lesson plans, but it is also important to skillfully tweak a program to motivate individuals. That can include repertoire, the sequence of teaching method and technique, but also the way you relate to them as little people. It is something that I think about with each of my students.

Q. At what point did you first encounter new music genres? How did that expression fit alongside the classical canon that you have always embraced?

Like most violinists, my backbone growing up and through college was certainly traditional classical music. But I was exposed to new works here and there. In high school, my theory teacher was a composer and composition teacher, so I often played new works written by her students. I suppose my official foray into new music occurred toward the end of college when I played a couple of concerts for the Cleveland Composers Guild. New music was always part of my interest, but not something I wanted to focus on exclusively. Coming out of school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I had established early on that I did not want to play full-time in an orchestra. I fell into teaching and discovered that I really loved working with students and guiding their musical development.

Around the same time, I began to play more and more chamber music, which I found to be a great complement to my role as an educator. As my interest in new music grew, Tim Beyer approached me about being a founding member of NO EXIT. Suddenly, I found myself with a multi-career.

From the start, NO EXIT was such a fascinating project! How exciting to be able to commission new works and define how the music would be performed…really put things together from the ground up. Tim’s vision was—and is—very comprehensive. The musical mission is certainly very sound, and there is also a visual aesthetic and a feeling that defines our concerts. We genuinely connect with our audiences, and over the years our unique presentation has grown a following for us. It is wonderful to connect with people in the intimate setting of a public space like an art gallery, and to be energized by their engagement. I definitely prefer our smaller venues versus a concert hall.

Q. Your violin performances are described as “dazzling,” “captivating,” and you have been reviewed to find “nuance and character in every turn of phrase.” How do you bring forward a listener experience like that from your instrument?

For me, the joy in playing the violin and making music is in phrasing and creating different tone colors. Which is why I love ensemble playing so much—I can really feel like my voice is there blending with others, but I am also at the same time in command of that voice, and it is my own. I decide the phrasing, where the music is going, what type of character, feel, mood I want to create in a piece. To me, the technique and all the rest is in service to that.

Also, NO EXIT plays many new compositions, and, in the case of a world-premiere where there is no other performance to listen to, we get to translate, individually and collectively, the composer’s intentions, oftentimes alongside the composer!

Q. What are the greatest joys and challenges you have encountered playing the violin?

I think for me, and probably for a lot of people, coming to grips with the physical nature of the instrument and limitations of the body—figuring out what you can do in a healthy manner—that has been my greatest challenge. I’ve been very lucky in recent years, but I did
have a shoulder and neck injury when I was 15 that forced me to take a break for several months. I learned then that technique must be determined not by what gets the best sound immediately but what can be sustained long term in a healthy manner.

My greatest joy as a violinist? I would say just making music with other people and sharing it with audiences.

Q. When did you discover your affinity for conducting? What special skills and abilities does one need to communicate a composer’s intention to performers?

Conducting for me was a natural evolution from teaching. I don’t identify as a conductor per se, but I do conduct, and I enjoy it. Currently, I conduct elementary choruses at Laurel, and it is a really joyous experience because it’s all about the kids and the music. I have encountered a lot of young conductors who were very focused on themselves and what they are doing. But when you are teaching children, your focus is naturally on them. So, I don’t worry about my technique so much, I’m just concerned that I am clear and helping them make music.

I do know that I am a very emotive conductor, as I tend to be a very emotive violin player. I feel the music and I move with the music—not better or worse than someone else’s method, just the way life made me. I have seen, though, that it helps kids when they see you are feeling their music, finding the joy within it. It helps them be less nervous. And that is a big issue for young children when they are performing.

Q. NO EXIT has 11 seasons under its belt and over 150 commissioned works. You were there at the start. Is it more or less fun?

It has been an extraordinary journey from conception until today. The momentum that carries us has been very satisfying. NO EXIT has evolved conceptually and gelled as a larger group over the last several years, as we have added new members. Performers love to play to packed rooms, and we consistently experience full concerts with very enthusiastic audiences. We always play a few pieces together as the full ensemble in each concert, and it is enjoyable to the audience and to us to also experience the different smaller ensembles that can come out of our whole.

I will say, too, that we truly value the collegiate relationships we have developed with our repeat composers. More and more, the commissions we get are written specifically for us— the composers understand who we are as a group, and so the result is something very exciting. So, really, the NO EXIT fun never stops!


An Interview with No Exit’s cellist Nicholas Diodore

By Laura King
Diodore Photo
Nicholas Diodore was born in Marion, Indiana to a musical family and his talent for cello was obvious at a young age. He received his early musical instruction from Geoffrey Lapin of the Indianapolis Symphony, and went to high school at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, where he excelled in chamber music and his studies of 20th century compositions. Nick also attended the Cleveland Institute of Music as a student of Alan Harris, Merry Peckham, and Richard Weiss, assistant principle cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra.

These days Nick expresses his artistic gifts as both a tradesman and a musician. He teaches cello at the Music Academy at Laurel School and maintains a private studio in Chargrin Falls. He is a founding member of NO EXIT and serves on the board of the Cleveland Cello Society.

Q. Nick, you grew up in a musical family and were recognized and awarded for your talents as a cellist early on. Can you share around your musical youth? What opportunities were you given, and when did your gifts begin to shine?

My mother was a public-school orchestra teacher in a rural Indiana. Her family owned Butler Music Company, our town’s music store. We spent so much time there around the pianos and parlor style organs, and all our family events, gatherings, and parties revolved around music. Anyway, she forced me to play the violin at some young age, maybe 5 years old or so. I did not like it at all and did everything I could to get out of practicing. My older brother also played the violin. He was very disciplined and seemed to understand technique much better than me.

When I was in fifth grade, my mother was the orchestra teacher. She did not want me to be ahead of anyone else on the violin, so she had me play cello in her class. Amazingly, the first time I played the cello I was instantly better than I ever was at the violin. The instrument made sense to me for some reason. I took private lessons, advanced quickly, and was able to join my first youth orchestra when I was in seventh grade.

Exposure to orchestra culture helped me realize the competitiveness that drives success in performance. At some point my brother won a scholarship to Interlochen Summer Camp. He came home and told me all about the Academy and I knew I had to go there. A year later, I did—my mother made it happen.

No Exit New Music · Kaija Saariaho – Spins And Spells (1997)

Q. You received an in-depth classical music education and excelled within it. When did you encounter contemporary music, and what about it seduced you to deep dive into this genre?

I encountered contemporary music at Interlochen. One of my friends was a composer and he wrote a piece for me, and I was so happy to be the first person to play it. My enthusiasm caught the attention of other composers, and I became a regular performer on composers’ forum concerts. I still love to be part of this creative process.

Q. A few years ago, Zach Lewis wrote a pre-review for the Plain Dealer of your NO EXIT solo concert and stated that you “aim to crush the cello pigeonhole” with your interpretations of modern music. Expound on that, please!

Honestly, I don’t really know what he meant when he said that. I had given several unaccompanied performances in NO EXIT concerts. and I wanted to put all those pieces together in one show. It was a huge undertaking. I think the main idea of the program was contrast, but there were common threads that bound genres. There were spectral pieces that shared an atmosphere with highly atonal pieces. Violent, aggressive pieces that shared motifs with gentle, quiet pieces. I really wanted to show the range of colors and emotions that unaccompanied cello music can portray.

Q. Along with Tim Beyer, Nick Underhill and Cara Tweed, you are a founding member of NO EXIT. How did you connect with this merry band, what was your early vision, and how would you assess the journey to date?

I met Tim through a mutual friend. Tim had discussed with Tom Bowling, our original violist, the possibility of putting together some kind of collective that could be a catalyst for new compositions. We started out as a piano quartet. Ten years later, we have expanded to seven core members and have now been responsible for over 150 commissioned new works. I think we are doing a great job!

Q. You perform with NO EXIT, a cello quartet (Pizzicato 4), and DadBand. You also teach. How do these combine to stimulate and fulfill you creatively?

I also enjoy woodworking and have a full-time job as a plumber. I love to work with my hands and make stuff and fix stuff. I am very attracted to the mechanical side of things. Playing with various groups keeps me engaged socially with like-minded people. Fulfillment has never been an issue for me. I give what I’m capable of giving, and that keeps me pretty happy.

Q. What do you need to become inspired to compose a new work? Please describe the steps in your creative process.

Of all my activities, composing requires morning hours set aside when my brain is sharpest.  At least with practicing the piano, you know what challenge comes next, but with composing, by definition, you never do. Coming up with a new idea is an important event that can happen at any time, so it is important to seize and capture those on Finale music software before they get away. Then they can be filled out and refined later in a more measured setting when time allows.

Q. You are known as a cellist of remarkable sensitivity, expressiveness, and exquisite virtuosity. How much of this would you attribute to genes and exposure, and how much is the product of hard work?

I was trained by my teacher Allen Harris at Cleveland Institute of Music to keep the composer’s intentions first and foremost in my mind—it is ingrained that a piece of music must never be about me, I am its interpreter.

I’m not sure how much caring about a thing can be attributed to genes, but my family is full of musicians and both my brother and I have succeeded in music, so maybe there is something there.

Still, I would never have stuck with the cello if I didn’t love it. And to achieve my musical facility and understanding of technique, of course I’ve practiced like crazy.


An Interview with No Exit’s pianist Nicholas Underhill

By Laura King
Transient Canvas
Pianist/composer Nicholas Underhill is one of the founding members of NO EXIT, which will begin their 12th season this fall. Nick is classically trained, holding a master’s degree in piano from the New England Conservatory of Music. He was introduced to contemporary new music at Hampshire College, where his gift and affinity for the genre was quickly recognized by teachers and composition students. Nick has performed solos recitals in Carnegie Recital Hall, Weill Recital Hall and Merkin Concert Hall, and in 1991 he was featured in Chicago’s prestigious Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts. He taught piano at Mount Union College and Hiram College, and has played with The Cleveland Ballet Orchestra, The Cleveland Chamber Symphony and The Cleveland Chamber Collective. His original works have been performed by the Cleveland Orchestra, and many other organizations and players. Nick’s collaborative recitals include programs with his wife, piccoloist Mary Kay Fink.

Nick talked recently to NO EXIT about his path to become a career pianist and new music champion. Here is his interview:

Q. Tell us about your early encounters with the piano, Nick. When did you start playing and how did the importance of music and performance evolve for you over time?

My relationship with the piano began in a recital of other students that I saw in first grade. These were the students of Mrs. Neukranz, who unbelievably taught class piano in my elementary school in Evanston, Ill during school hours. I heard the other students play and decided, “I can do that.” After a year of study with her, I had completed the first four books of the John W. Thompson series. Upon learning of this accomplishment, the local bully stopped beating me up and taught me how to play baseball.

Q. You hold a master’s degree in piano from the New England Conservatory of Music. Who were your most important teachers and influencers during and after your education?

I got a master’s degree at New England Conservatory studying with Katja Andy. Prior to that I had completed undergraduate piano studies at Smith College as a Hampshire student with Monica Jakuc and Konrad Wolff, as well as occasional study with Russell Sherman. After moving to New York City in 1980, I continued studies with Konrad Wolff and Edmund Battersby. 

Of those teachers, Monica Jakuc (not a big name, but one of the most refined and sensitive pianists I have ever heard) and Konrad Wolff had the most impact on me, partly because I was ready to take in their advice.

Q. When were you first exposed to the new classical music genre? Was it a slow growing friendship or love at first listen? Tell us about that trajectory.

I became a classical music snob at an early age listening to recordings of the Chopin Ballads, some of his most evocative works. I had heard the name Chopin incorrectly as “Showman”, but it didn’t matter, I was hooked. My sixth-grade classmate with his Massachusetts accent wanted to know if I could play “pawpulah music,” but I wasn’t interested.

My sister and other teenagers gradually expanded my influences to include the Beatles (as they first appeared on the national scene), Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, The Doors, and most importantly jazz, which occupies a lot of my interest today. I was in a practice room during the 70’s, and after that I was too busy to listen to anything with regularity.

I was exposed to a lot of 20th century classical music in College. Monica Jakuc saw my interest and talent in that genre and encouraged me to pursue it. Thankfully, unlike so many academics, she also led by example, performing works of John Cage, John Harbison, and others, as well as the traditional composers. I performed my fellow Hampshire College student and present-day successful composer Daniel Asia’s music on my degree recital at Hampshire.

As a graduate student in piano as New England Conservatory, I became one of the go-to pianists for the student composers. I hung out with those people much more than with other pianists. I developed a close and lasting friendship with fellow NEC composer Gary Philo and his wife, Amy Reich, among many others. The composition professor Tom McKinley heard me read a piece of mine in class and declared that he saw me making a living as both a pianist and composer. Eventually I followed his advice and became one of the composers, too.

Q. Which suits you best – pianist/composer or composer/pianist?

I was a pianist almost exclusively until about 1993, and now I seem to alternate between the two.

Q. You are reputed to be “a champion for new music for the piano” in major cities. How, beyond giving thrilling and provocative performances in renowned concert venues, did you acquire that accolade? How are you championing currently?

I have described above how I became a champion of new music until about 1980, when I moved to New York to pursue a career as a pianist. While there I performed music of various composers, including Columbia University students. In my Carnegie Recital Hall debut in 1985, I performed from memory the George Perle Short Sonata and the daunting 20-minute single movement Piano Sonata by Nicholas Thorne. Through Thorne’s influence, I performed his works at the American Academy in Rome.

After moving to Cleveland in 1990, I performed a lot of Cleveland Composers works, and later joined the Cleveland Composers Guild. I perform a lot of new works in my current ensembles — The Cleveland Chamber Collective and No Exit.

Q. What do you need to become inspired to compose a new work? Please describe the steps in your creative process.

Of all my activities, composing requires morning hours set aside when my brain is sharpest.  At least with practicing the piano, you know what challenge comes next, but with composing, by definition, you never do. Coming up with a new idea is an important event that can happen at any time, so it is important to seize and capture those on Finale music software before they get away. Then they can be filled out and refined later in a more measured setting when time allows.

Q. You are one of NO EXIT’s four founding members. Over 11 seasons, how has the organization’s intention to commission and perform new music evolved? What excitement is on the horizon?

Tim Beyer has nurtured the group and the contributing composers to an amazing level. We can all contribute ideas for repertoire, but as a practical matter, one person must be way ahead of the curve planning commissions and venues, and that person in our group is Tim. Since he doesn’t play in the group, he is focused single-mindedly on getting gigs and music for us to play. Many people have benefited from Tim’s consistent efforts.

We had an exciting concert planned for Spring with commissioned works by Ladislav Kubik, Chris Stark and Buck McDaniel, which we had world-premiered in 2019. That concert program was a great cross section of No Exit’s best music and best playing, but unfortunately it was cancelled due to COVID 19 — or let’s just say postponed….


From ClevelandClassical.com: Responding, or not, to the pandemic: conversations with eight composers

By Jarrett Hoffman
During the COVID-19 pandemic, performers and presenters have grappled with cancellations by giving virtual performances and releasing videos from the past.

Composers have been flying a little more under the radar — and in a way, that’s natural. “Sheltering in place isn’t that much different than being on deadline for a piece,” Oberlin Conservatory professor Stephen Hartke wrote by email. Cleveland Institute of Music professor Keith Fitch agreed: “A quarantined composer is not so different from a non-quarantined composer.”

Hartke and Fitch are two of the eight composers — including professors, freelancers, and young professionals — who agreed to share their thoughts for this article. After establishing that all things considered, they’re healthy and well, we delved into how — or whether — the pandemic has impacted their writing.

One category that emerged is composers who aren’t letting current events affect their music, whether they’re pressing forward with projects they began before the coronavirus hit, or starting new pieces.

“I’m in the zone,” Lorain County Community College professor Jeffrey Mumford said by telephone. “I’m just focusing on getting the work out as best I can.”

That includes two ongoing projects — a solo violin piece and a cello concerto — as well as a “bucket-list” piece for him: a double concerto for violin, cello, and orchestra. The soloists will be Lauren Cauley and Mariel Roberts, who visited LCCC’s Signature Series last fall.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and they’re such amazing players and nice people,” Mumford said. “I find that the older I get, the more I want to work with good players, but also nice players.”

Fitch noted that with one exception — the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 — his music “isn’t really affected by external events.” In fact, the piece he’s currently writing happens to be celebratory. “I’m enjoying going into a more positive space when I work on it,” he said.

Although social distancing in some ways fits composing well, University of Akron professor James Wilding said that it’s important for him to interact with his musicians ahead of the writing process to get to know who they are, what they like, and how they sound.

With that in mind, he recently returned to a project for players he already knows well — a trio for himself at the piano and two of his colleagues from the university, oboist Jack Harel and bassoonist Cynthia Cioffari. “The occasion is the celebration of Jack’s upcoming promotion to Full Professor of Practice, a title shared by Cynthia and myself,” Wilding said. “So it’s our chance to welcome him into our little club, as it were.”

Since he’s familiar with Harel and Cioffari as players and people, he’s been able now to devote himself to the solitary matters of his craft. “I bathed my ears in music for oboe, bassoon, and piano,” he said, and began to create “the next addition to this ensemble’s beautiful tradition.”

Theo Chandler, an Oberlin graduate currently pursuing his Doctorate of Musical Arts at the Rice University Shepherd School of Music, has seen all of his commissions for the next few months postponed. Armed with extra time, he started to write a new piece — a clarinet quintet — for no commission money. That’s in addition to revising old works, a task many others also plan on clearing from their to-do lists.

Another category: composers who are noticing that their projects mirror the world a little differently given the state of affairs. Hartke is writing a sextet called Desperate Measures, meant to be performed at a summer festival that he knows might not take place. “It’s coming to be a reflection on these unsettled and unsettling times.”

He’s also working with stage director David Schweitzer on an opera libretto adapted from Eugene Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros, in which people suddenly begin turning into those horned animals. “We’ve been at work on this for a long time, but there is something about the play that has become even more apropos,” Hartke said.

Cleveland Composers Guild member and former CIM professor Margaret Brouwer continues to work on a commission from three musicians in the American Wild Ensemble. Fear is a central element of the piece, which evokes “animals near the shores of the Great Lakes who are afraid, whose homes and lives are in jeopardy,” Brouwer said.

Now, fear from the human world is also entering the piece. “It is interesting to think of our plight being similar to what the animals have been experiencing for some time,” Brouwer said. “Perhaps the greatest part of the fear — for us and for the animals — is not knowing when or if the threat will strike.”

Tim Beyer, artistic director of the new music ensemble No Exit, doesn’t plan on shaking up the direction of his composing, but he acknowledged that the pandemic will have some effect on it, perhaps subconsciously.

“This is probably true of most people as well, but for me, where I am in the moment — whether because of external circumstances like what’s going on now, or internal things — certainly affects how I conceive of composing. Having said that, I’m not planning on writing a piece about being locked in the house.”

Beyer plans to get back to working on a piece based on Franz Kafka’s short story A Hunger Artist. “I have a very solid idea of what I want it to do, but I’m sure isolation and anxiety will find their way into it in some way.”

Natsumi Osborn, a third-year Oberlin student who is also composer-in-residence at the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra, found herself suddenly uprooted in mid-March, when she was required to pack up her things and leave campus. She’s currently at home in Houston, where she attended high school.

At first — with the move, settling in, and the overall sense of uncertainty — she took some time away from music. Last week, classes resumed remotely, and with that return to structure, she’s found the time and the mental space to compose, which has been “quite welcoming,” she said.

Osborn is conflicted over how to write music in the context of the pandemic. “On one hand, knowing that we are in the middle of a historic moment makes me think about all the composers who wrote profound music responding to markers of history,” she said. “I almost feel a certain expectation to be writing directly in response to what is going on.” At the same time, she finds that difficult to do because she’s still processing what’s happening in the world on a day-to-day basis.

“Music for me is a way to process narratives and emotion in hindsight rather than in-the-moment, as sort of a final closure,” she said. “So writing about the pandemic right now just doesn’t feel intuitive.”

Continuing previous projects has brought comfort and a sense of stability. “I have been working on a song cycle based on poetry by my great-grandmother, which has been an exciting family research-based project.”

Being removed from the mindset of constant work at college, and taking long walks in nature during her self-quarantine in Houston, Osborn has felt her mind clearing, and her concentration on the present moment sharpening.

“It has allowed me to compose with more focus — being in tune with what I really want to hear in my music — rather than being constantly focused on a deadline, writing as part of the flurry that is college life, or writing solely to meet all of the subconscious expectations I tend to set up for myself.” For her, that’s been “a small silver lining of the pandemic.”

A few composers offered their perspectives about the future. Fitch finds that it helps to look forward to next season — what his CIM New Music Ensemble will perform, and which guest composers he might invite to campus. “This WILL be behind us someday, and we can get back to live music-making,” he wrote.

Said Mumford, “I think when this thing passes, people will be tripping over themselves to get out of their houses and re-engage with the world. And what we do as artists will play a major role because civilization depends on it. We need this for our souls.”

Originally published on ClevelandClassical.com (April 8, 2020). The original article can be found – Here


An Interview with Marimbist Matt Sharock of Transient Canvas

By Laura King
Transient Canvas
Transient Canvas, the Boston-based contemporary duo comprised of bass clarinetist Amy Advocat and marimbist Matt Sharrock, is on a self-professed multi-pronged mission to revolutionize the modern concert experience. Since 2011, the duo’s innovative performances have been praised coast to coast … as “superb” by the Boston Globe ,“disarming” by Cleveland Classical, and with the San Francisco Chronicle lauding “the versatile imagination they both display and inspire in others.”

Below, in a recent interview, Matt shares around past and present endeavors and raises our anticipation for Transient Canvas’s March 20 concert in Cleveland as the special guest of NO EXIT.

Q. Matt, you and Amy been performing together for almost a decade. How did you Transient Canvas come to be—can you tell us a little bit about your personal paths and that intersection?

Sure! Amy and I met during a summer telemarketing job for the Handel & Haydn Society, of all places. I’d just finished my masters in Marimba Performance at Boston Conservatory, and Amy was trying to make some extra money to buy a car. That’s one of the great things about Boston—there are amazing musicians everywhere you look!

Anyway, I was fresh out of conservatory and trying to find my musical niche, so I asked Amy during a coffee break if she’d like to read some clarinet/marimba duos together. At this point, Amy was already a well-established orchestral freelancer and new music specialist in the city, so I assumed she wouldn’t be interested. Fortunately, I was wrong about that, and we had our first rehearsal in August of 2011. We instantly clicked and began producing our own concerts. We asked our friends to write for us initially, and in our first three years we premiered over 40 pieces and developed a loyal audience base. After that, we started touring—Atlanta and San Francisco (for the first New Music Gathering) to start—and our organization hasn’t stopped growing since.

We started this group as a fun side project. When you’re a freelance musician, it’s really important that you have some kind of creative outlet that you truly own, otherwise it’s easy to let the gigging life grind you down.

It’s still amazing to us that, almost 10 years later, that Transient Canvas has grown into the organization it is today, with two albums (plus a third on the way), 30-40 concerts a year nationally and internationally, and an annual Composer Fellowship program that lets us work with brilliant young composers from all over the world.

Q. How would you describe Transient Canvas’s unique sound world? Who are your muses and influencers these days as a duo?

Hmmmm… That’s a hard question. Our sound world is… “woody?” The bass clarinet and marimba actually blend extremely well. We have the same range, and the unique overtone structures of our instruments are surprisingly similar. The bass clarinet has a remarkably diverse array of sounds at its disposal, from multi-phonics to slap tongues, and the marimba also offers quite a bit of extra color if you’re willing to get creative. For the past few years, we’ve also added electronics to about half of our shows, so our sound world has become extremely malleable.

In terms of muses, we are constantly inspired by the wide range of composers we work with every year. We really strive to provide a blank canvas for composers to work with, and every season we are blown away by new ways composers thrive under the limitations of our instrumentation.

Q. Your website says that Transient Canvas is on a mission to revolutionize the modern concert experience. Where do you put your creative energies to try to accomplish this?

We focus our energies in a few different places. Most importantly, we are super concerned with accessibility. We want our audiences to feel at ease at our concerts and even have a little fun (perish the thought)! That doesn’t mean that the music we program is particularly accessible, but WE are accessible. We crack jokes, talk to the audience, stay on stage the whole time, and do whatever we can to break the separation and elitism inherent to the usual “classical music concert” model. If an audience feels comfortable and is having a good time, then they are always more open to receive some of the more challenging pieces that we perform.

We are also very concerned with relevance. We are so dedicated to working with new composers every season because we want to present music written by people who are going through the same s*** that our audience is going through. We also spend a lot of time and energy designing programs that contain a broad range of modern styles while communicating a relevant theme. Our two main programs this season, Wired and Origami, each address issues of contemporary life through the lease of modern music. For next season, we have several large projects in the works, including Synesthesia, a program that pairs live interactive video with five of our longer pieces to create the sensation of sitting in a living painting.

Q. Transient Canvas will soon world premiere Exposure, a new chamber opera by Bea Goodwin and Daniel Felsenfeld. Tell us a little bit about this dramatic project. Will it be leading you in a new direction?

We’ll actually be premiering Exposure just two days before our NO EXIT concert down in Columbus (thanks to the generous support of the ever-altruistic Johnstone Fund for New Music). This project has been in the works for several years. It all began with a phone call to composer Danny Felsenfeld, brainstorming a chance to collaborate. What began as an idea for a short piece for TC + soprano morphed into an hour-long chamber opera based on the Thomas Hardy novel The Well-Beloved. The opera turns the Hardy novel on its head and examines the complex relationships and blurred lines that artists experience with exposure, artistic validation and exploitation (both sexual and otherwise). Librettist Bea Goodwin has done a remarkable job placing this material firmly in the #metoo era. The opera is profoundly uncomfortable, and for that very reason it is also extremely relevant.

New direction? Well…. we’re definitely not going to morph into an opera company any time soon, but we are definitely planning on larger collaborations with a wide variety of other artists and musicians as we enter our tenth season.

Q. Your concert in Cleveland is built around Mari Epstein’s Origami (2012). What about this work inspired you to create a unified concert program?

Marti’s music is desolately beautiful, timeless and utterly unique. Narrative momentum is set aside in favor of blended colors and contrasting shades, inviting the listener to live inside her work. For me, her music evokes the remarkable sensation of watching a painting being painted from the viewpoint of the canvas, feeling each new brush stroke as it is applied, observing subtle changes in shade and texture as familiar shapes are revisited over and over again with slight variations.

Marti’s music invites the listener to form their own personal connections with abstract art. I built a program around her, filling it with music that invites the audience to form their own personal narratives. Some of the pieces have one-word titles like Rebounds and Monochrome. Were the pieces inspired by those words, or were those words applied to the pieces once they were complete? Some of the pieces capture environmental soundscapes, such as the whirring of an MRI machine or the melting of a glacier in the arctic. One of my best friends is a brilliant composer (and a former student of Marti’s) who once gave a paper that basically purported that music on its own is utterly meaningless—that all meaning derived from listening to music comes purely from the life experiences of the listener. For that reason, music is extremely powerful; it unlocks our imaginations and lights fires in parts of our brains that can’t be accessed by other means. Music is both everything and nothing. In this program, I’d like to test that theory 🙂

Q. You are incredibly busy professionals … traveling and performing as Transient Canvas, playing with other ensembles, developing innovative programs, commissioning new works, teaching your instruments and composition, and still finding the time to record for yourselves and others. How do these areas of interest interplay to elevate and fulfill you?

All of these areas work together to make us the people that we are. Musicians are omnivores, and we need a broad diet in order to stay healthy. By playing in ensembles like Boston Modern Orchestra Project and the New Hampshire Music Festival Orchestra, our ears are exposed to the rich timbral possibilities of a full orchestra. By teaching, we become better players. By working with composers, we gain deeper insight into the creative process, and so on and so on. We’re very lucky to be able to live the rich artistic lives that we live. Plus… being busy pays the bills. 😉

Q. You’re Boston-based. How did you connect with NO EXIT to bring about this guest performance? Will there be collaborative concerts in your future?

It all comes down to Andy Rindfleisch. He introduced us to Tim when we performed as part of the Re: Sound Festival in June 2018. Then, Andy brought us back in the Fall to premiere his large-scale American Monster, which combined the forces of TC, Zeitgeist, Ars Futura and NO EXIT. We all hit it off, and after a remarkable evening that culminated in an absolutely indescribable Chinese dinner, we knew that we needed to work together more!

We also love Cleveland. I’m from Marion, Ohio, and finished my undergrad at Baldwin Wallace back in 2009. I feel very connected to this city. My formative years were spent going to the Cleveland Orchestra after eating at Tommy’s in Coventry😊 and we come back either to perform or just to visit whenever we can. We knew that we would be performing in Columbus this spring, and we reached out to Tim to see if NO EXIT would be willing to host us in Cleveland.

If it’s not giving too much away for next season, let’s just say that this is the start of a beautiful friendship. 🙂


An Interview with Composer Buck McDaniel

By Laura King
Buck McDaniel
Buck McDaniel is a recent transplant from Cleveland to New York, where, in addition to engaging his various muses to write compelling new music, he is the organist and choirmaster at historic St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Kisco.

Buck talked recently to NO EXIT about his life’s path and processes in this interview:

Q. Let’s start with a broad brush, Buck—please give us an overview of your journey as a musician. When did music become a passion for you, and how did your relationship with performance and composition evolve?

Although I was raised in a small Mississippi town, from a young age my mother frequently exposed me to the opera, ballet, and classical music. I was lucky to live near two very dedicated music teachers, Ronnie & Loucinda Herrington, who vigorously encouraged my compositional interests after we inherited a piano. Far removed from the cultural centers of the northern cities, I read the New York Times Arts section daily. This introduced me to a lot of contemporary music, and curiously also to the Church. I read a review of Nico Muhly’s Bright Mass with Canons, written for John Scott and the Choir of St. Thomas Church 5th Avenue, found a recording, and immediately got completely obsessed. Nico gave me the opportunity to arrange the work for a performance at the Tanglewood Festival in 2014.

Q. With no experience except listening, I imagine that playing the organ in a glorious church would be very visceral. Can you describe it for us?

I frequently describe the organ, like opera, as a sort of Gesamtkunstwerk. The artists that contribute to the final product include the composer, the interpreter, the organ builder, and the building’s architect. If all four of these people make good work, then you get beautiful art. Playing the organ often feels like you’re “playing the building”, which is why it’s so rewarding to perform in (and write for) architecturally stunning spaces.

Q. From Columbia, Mississippi to Cleveland, to Harlem … How do you anticipate that this recent change of location to one of New York’s most vibrant and colorful neighborhoods will affect your musical life and works?

I’ve spent a lot of time in the City, both as a child and soon after I left Mississippi. My life in New York closely resembles my life in Cleveland: writing music, playing concerts, attending concerts, going to restaurants, smoking cigarettes, etc etc.

Q. You were commissioned to compose a new work for NO EXIT ensemble, and your work was world premiered as part of their Cleveland Composers Series in 2019. You’ve explained that Light Down was inspired by a 19th century folk murder ballad titled Loving Henry. How did a gruesome love story become the seed you chose for your inspiration?

The composer Tim Beyer, NO EXIT’s artistic director and co-founder, is known to have a deliciously macabre taste in art. Last season being the ensemble’s 10th anniversary, I wanted to write a piece dedicated to NO EXIT that really appealed to Tim’s sensibilities. The folk material implicates certain sounds from the ensemble (a knife’s blade, shoveling a shallow grave, etc). Several hocket sections in the strings frame the work, mimicking folk musicians’ habit of smiling during performances of these gruesome songs.

Q. Your compositions have been described as founded in a minimalist aesthetic, plus “other things.” Can you talk a little bit about that? How would you describe your style?

Yes, it is true that I often write pattern-based “minimalist” music. And the music I write is heavily influenced by the music I like.

Q. In your role as a church organist, there are times when you are playing for the congregation to set a certain mood or inspire them (preludes/postludes, etc), and when you want to encourage them to sing. Can you share around how you design and perform a church program?

I’m not sure I identify with the label “church organist”: my professional career has relied heavily on my identity as a composer. Though I serve as Organist & Choirmaster to an historic New York parish, Olivier Messiaen did the same thing in Paris and was never labeled “church organist”. With that said, liturgical music is essentially incidental music to a play you’ve seen before. We all know the plot (he’s gonna die). Musically, you can draw on the entire canon of music history to portray that day’s story. One week it’s this creamy choral motet in Latin by Palestrina, and another week it’s a spiky organ explosion by Messiaen.

Q. Can’t let you get away without asking you this question … what is your favorite hymnal and hymn?

The Roman Gradual and Tota pulchra es.


From ClevelandClassical.com: No Exit: and Zeitgeist at the Bop Stop (Jan.17)

By Timothy Robson
noexit at SPACES
Despite predictions of snowy weather, there was a full house and enthusiastic audience at the Bop Stop on Friday evening, January 17, for the latest concert by the Cleveland-based new music group No Exit, collaborating with their Twin Cities counterpart Zeitgeist. The program was concise and wildly varied, with several first performances. Each work contained imaginative soundscapes and alluring musical ideas.

No Exit opened the program with five movements from Jonathan Posthuma’s ongoing series Paul Klee: Painted Songs, based on the visual works of the Swiss-born German artist. “Carnival in the Mountains” is overt sound-painting, a phantasmagoria of a tango along with other palm court dance music, but with menacing undertones. “She Bellows, We Play” is a duo for flute and clarinet, with each playing sinuously chromatic lines, sometimes taking the lead, other times following.

“Destroyed Place,” a study in silences broken by passages for flute and alto flute, was effectively performed by Sean Gabriel. Interpolations on a gong, played with both mallets and wire brushes, simulate wind blowing through a silent, empty space.

The most effective of this set was the fifth movement, “Dream City,” which hints at Olivier Messiaen’s chamber writing in Quartet for the End of Time. Posthuma’s harmonies overlap and evolve sensuously, growing ever more ecstatic as the music progresses. I was left wanting a longer movement with even more development.

The Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988) also composed surrealist poetry in French. His 1965 Xnoybis II, played with extreme virtuosity by violist James Rhodes, is only a few minutes in duration. It is a study of a single note, D-sharp, with variations of pitch, duration, and dynamic. The viola was tuned so that several strings were playing slightly altered versions of the D-sharp. Despite consisting of only one note, the piece was not at all boring. The techniques foreshadowed Scelsi’s fellow Italian Luciano Berio’s series of Sequenzas which have similar virtuosic ambitions.

Inspired by a Rodin bronze sculpture depicting a fierce angel protecting a dying soldier, Michael Rene Torres composed The Call to Arms for No Exit, who gave it an emotional and technically adept performance. Its sonorities are often jagged — with repeated notes in and out of phase — and violently dissonant, but alternating with moments of aching beauty and lyricism. Torres played the alto saxophone in the ensemble, which also included violinist Cara Tweed, clarinetist Gunnar Owen Hirthe, and cellist Nicholas Diodore.

The second half opened with a joint performance of From Unknown Silences (1996) by Pauline Oliveros, the Grand Earth Mother of American avant-garde music. The ensemble was spread throughout the expanse of the Bop Stop, and it wasn’t clear what performing instructions the composer gave to the performers. The program notes referred to “continuous variation” framed by silence framed by sound. Close listening and watching indicated the performers used their instruments in every way except traditional performance. The clarinet player behind me ended this realization of From Unknown Silences with an accurate representation of a fart.

By contrast, Zeitgeist clarinetist Pat O’Keefe’s reworking of Silvestre Revueltas’ Sensemaya into his own Sensemaya/Sense of Mind was a model of tonality. O’Keefe’s highly imaginative and entertaining Afro-Cuban mashup involved piano and two percussionists, with the composer on bass clarinet. Revueltas’ music is still apparent, but here it is more minimalist, with a scarier and more vicious edge. This was one of the highlights of the concert.

Tiffany Skidmore’s The Psyche and Cupid Miniatures I-IV are extremely brief excerpts — all less than a minute — from her opera-in-progress. Piano, bass clarinet, and percussion each make their contributions, but the excerpts seemed more like sound clips or studies in sonority intended for further elaboration.

Zeitgeist included two works originally composed for their annual series of Halloween concerts in St. Paul. Both Daniel Nass’s Shadows of Shadows Passing and Doug Opel’s Midnight Mary are collections of the musical passages and effects that fill modern horror movie scores — entertaining, but musically slight. Of the two, Midnight Mary was more intriguing for its programmatic exploration of the obsessive 19th-century fear of being buried alive. There were eerie scratches, a triangle sounding like a jangling bell, and unsettling passages for two miniature music boxes integrated into the texture, along with the swooping sounds of a souped-up Theremin, that early “hands-off” electronic instrument.

The program closed with Buck McDaniel’s Scherzo in Four Movements, which served as something of a musical farewell to Cleveland as McDaniel moves to New York to further his musical career. In his pre-performance remarks, the composer noted that the classical symphonic scherzo is a kind of musical joke, but not necessarily a funny one. One of the movements lampoons the English Renaissance composer Orlando Gibbons’s setting of the word “motion” as “mo-see-on.”

McDaniel’s minimalist writing is highly influenced by the works of Steve Reich, but with far greater harmonic variety and motion. McDaniel also gives a tip of the hat to his composition teacher by reworking part of an Andrew Rindfleisch work with different harmony and development. Zeitgeist gave the Scherzo a joyous, expert performance, enthusiastically received.

Originally published on ClevelandClassical.com (January 20, 2020). The full article can be found – Here


From ClevelandClassical.com: No Exit: and Zeitgeist present “Here and There 2020”

By Mike Telin
noexit at SPACES
There is something odd about only looking at audio speakers during a concert of experimental electronic music. How do you humanize such an experience? The thoughtful musicians of No Exit delightfully answered this question in an engaging and interactive concert at Appletree Books on Friday, October 18.

Composers have always turned to works of art, literature, folklore, and music by other composers as sources of inspiration. This week, St. Paul-based Zeitgeist and Cleveland-based No Exit will present “Here and There 2020” featuring music inspired by the art of Auguste Rodin and Paul Klee, the myth of Cupid and Psyche, a poem by Nicolás Guillén, the music of Steve Reich and Andrew Rindfleisch, as well as by stories of a young woman who was buried alive, and of a haunted hotel. The free concerts take place at Kent State on Thursday, January 16 at 7:30 pm, the Bop Stop on Friday, January 17 at 8:00 pm, and Heights Arts on Saturday, January 18 at 7:00 pm.

This week’s concerts also mark the continuation of a collaboration that began over a decade and a half ago — before Tim Beyer had even thought about starting his own ensemble. “I first met Zeitgeist when they came to Cleveland State when I was a student,” Beyer said during a recent telephone call. “Every summer they hold a workshop for composers they want to work with, and about ten or eleven years ago they chose me.”

Over time Beyer developed both professional and personal relationships with the members of Zeitgeist and was taken by the passion they had for presenting music to their community that might not get heard elsewhere. “They were always about the bigger new music picture, and had the right idea about how to do things. And when we started No Exit, they were a model that I looked at.”

In a separate telephone conversation, Zeitgeist percussionist Heather Barringer said that she had always expected Beyer to have a great career in Cleveland’s new music scene. “I knew he would be important as a composer, but I’m not sure that I expected him to develop an ensemble.”

Although Barringer did not know that Beyer had modeled No Exit’s guiding principles on those of Zeitgeist, it did not surprise her to hear it. “He always had such a commitment to working with Cleveland composers and to presenting concerts in Cleveland,” she said. “That’s why he was my first call when we wanted to develop a touring partnership. We were looking for some particular things: we wanted there to be a growing audience for new music and we didn’t want our sites to be on either coast. We are committed to making sure that music and art happen throughout the country, and we want people to know that all these communities are thriving and producing composers who deserve to be noticed.”

As with all great collaborations, both ensembles have artistically benefited from the partnership — Zeitgeist regularly commissions and performs music by Cleveland composers, just as No Exit does with Minnesota composers. “No Exit comes here every year,” Barringer said. “Our audiences look forward to that concert. And we’ve expanded so that it happens in Duluth as well as St. Paul.”

I asked Barringer to tell me about the works Zeitgeist will perform.

Cleveland composer Buck McDaniel’s Scherzo in Four Movements hints at the music of Steve Reich and Andrew Rindfleisch. “It is so delightful. It’s well composed, virtuosic, and challenging to play. And it’s a little bit tongue-in-cheek — playful is the word I would use.”

Sensemayá/Sense of Mind is by Silvestre Revueltas, inspired by a poem by Nicolás Guillén, and arranged by Zeitgeist member Pat O’Keefe. “It’s not a direct transcription, it’s more of a reimagining of the themes and things that happen in the piece.”

Midnight Mary is by St. Paul-based composer Doug Opel. “It’s based on a ghost tale about a young woman who was supposedly buried alive, which gave rise to the practice of undertakers installing bells in coffins, so that if it happened to you, you could ring the bell. This was a big thing in Victorian times — they were obsessed with being buried alive. The second movement is about the decaying of the body and all the bacteria and insects that attack it. The piece was written for a Halloween festival — but Halloween is all year long.”

Midnight Mary required Barringer to learn to play the Theremin. “I have a souped-up one by Moog. It has a digital out-read so you can select and program different scales and adjust what waveform you’re using — all sorts of things. It does take some doing to learn to play it.”

The Psyche and Cupid Miniatures I – IV is by Tiffany Skidmore. “Tiffany is a Minnesota composer, and these are four miniatures that are packed with information. They all exist as chamber works, but they are also embedded in an opera that she is presenting this coming February. Just like when Stockhausen was composing, every work that he wrote existed in many different forms and served his operas.”

Daniel Ness’ Shadows of Shadows Passing is also based on spooky things. “About an hour and a half away from St. Paul in the town of Sauk Centre is the haunted Palmer Hotel. It’s also where the author Sinclair Lewis lived for a while. It’s a regular hotel — people stay there — but I think it’s every Tuesday that if you want to get up at 2:00 am and go downstairs, you can get a haunted tour. The Twin Cities Paranormal Society has been there a number of times investigating and gathering information about it. Dan did that and even slept in room 11 — known for being occupied by a spirit named Annie.”

No Exit will be presenting St. Paul-based composer Jonathan Posthuma’s Paul Klee: Painted Songs, an ongoing series of chamber works inspired by the artist’s paintings. The concerts will include “High Spirits” and the world premieres of “Carnival in the Mountains,” “She Bellows,” “We Play, Destroyed Place,” and “Dream City.”

Also receiving its world premiere performance will be The Call to Arms by Columbus-based composer Michael Rene Torres, inspired by the Rodin sculpture of the same name. The set will be rounded out with Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi’s Xnoybis II.

To conclude the program, No Exit and Zeitgeist will come together for Pauline Oliveros’ From Unknown Silences.

Originally published on ClevelandClassical.com (January 14, 2020). The full article can be found – Here


An Interview with Composer and Saxophonist Michael Rene Torres

By Laura King
noexit at SPACES
Q. How old were you when you began to make music, Michael, and what drew you to the

I was in choir in elementary school, and enjoyed it, but I really became interested in music in middle school when I started clarinet in beginning band. I was 11 years old. I switched to the saxophone 4 months later and have been a saxophonist for the past 25 years and still love it.

Q. Who and/or what encouraged and inspired you during your education and early career?

I had many mentors all throughout my education; also peers who inspired me. Music is a
communal activity. It’s all about relationships and that’s easy to forget when we’re in the practice room. For instance, it’s an absolute joy to work with the musicians of NO EXIT on my music and watch as their individual personalities speak through the music.

Q. You describe yourself as a saxophonist, composer, educator and curator on your website. Which is most YOU? How do these areas of interest/focus interplay to challenge, define and fulfill you?

I tend to think that all my interests are related – it's all just creativity and energy. Teaching makes me a better performer and performing informs my teaching. My composing makes me a more creative saxophonist and my performing enhances my composing, and both of those influence how I curate concerts and experiences. I like to think of myself as an artist instead of any one singular thing. It also makes my life really fun and interesting, jumping from project to project.

Q. How do you balance practicing technique and finding new inspiration through listening to and creating new music? Please talk a little bit about your compositional process!

I’m always listening. The sounds of everyday life are really inspiring to me because theses sounds tell stories; they tell our stories. I capture field recordings on my phone all the time of random sounds we make and don't think twice about, like the sound of a coffee grinder. It’s not one sound, but a collection of sounds that change and over time and have a start, middle, and end…sort of like form in music. I'm also easily inspired by the visual and literary arts. In terms of process, I usually just let the music decide where it wants to go. I absolutely do research on instrumentation and orchestration, but when I start writing, the process is more creative than technical and moves very quickly with lots improvisation. Editing, of course, takes me forever…

Q. In NO EXIT’s upcoming concert series, your commissioned work The Call to Arms will be world-premiered by the ensemble.  Can you provide us with some background to this particular piece?

The Call to Arms for Clarinet, Saxophone, Violin, and Cello was really inspired by the French sculptor, Rodin. There was a traveling exhibit of some of his bronze work that I visited when it stopped in Columbus. My piece basically tries to reflect the incredibly powerful sculpture of the same name by Rodin (https://www.instagram.com/p/B17KI2UgeEz/) and explores the introspective battle that the sculpture represents. I chose the instruments because I wanted to write a quasi string quartet with the clarinet serving as 2nd violin and the saxophone as the viola. I am really fond of resonance, timbral exploration, and using composite rhythms to create texture and I use these tools in the work. It’s dramatic and energetic and has been a lot of fun to prepare with the musicians!

Q. How did you first connect with NO EXIT? From your position, how do you see them impacting the new classical music scene with a multitude of commissions and world- class, free-and-friendly performances?

This is my third time working with NO EXIT. I wrote an unaccompanied solo work for NO EXIT’s clarinetist, Gunnar (who I went to school with) and he decided to program it on a NO EXIT show. Gunnar gave an amazing performance of my piece and I got to meet the other musicians and hear them perform. It was just a great experience. After that, I had some nice conversations with Tim, NO EXIT’s artistic director, which lead to two commissions, including my recent piece, The Call to Arms. Every experience with NO EXIT has been wonderful…great musicians and great people. I really think this kind of chamber ensemble is the future of classical music. It’s able to present interesting and intimate experiences featuring music that ignites the imaginations in new ways and by giving voice to the composers who are writing music about what it’s like to be alive in today’s complicated world. It’s really genuine.


An Interview with Heather Barringer, percussionist with St.Paul based ensemble Zeitgeist

By Laura King
noexit at SPACES
Heather Barringer is a percussionist and executive director for the celebrated new music quartet Zeitgeist. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin, River Falls with a bachelor’s in Music Education in 1987 and studied at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory from 1988-90. In addition to performing and recording with Zeitgeist—she’s been a member since 1990—she is a percussionist in Crash, which is Mary Ellen Childs’ ensemble, and has worked with many Twin Cities organizations, including Nautilus Music-Theater, Ten Thousand Things Theater, Minnesota Dance Theater, and Aby Wolf.

Below, Heather responds to questions about her musical career and current pursuits in a recent interview with NO EXIT:

Q. Can we start by talking about your early relationship with music, Heather? What would a shorthand map of your journey to become a new chamber music professional look like?

I grew up in rural Wisconsin, which is where I still live. My parents weren’t musically inclined, though my mother believed I needed a music education. My parents bought a piano and had me start piano lessons with a woman that taught down the road. My early musical life included music encountered through music lessons and my mother’s record collection of country music (real country music, by the way) and rock n roll. When 10, I began learning a band instrument, just like so many young musicians in the Midwest. I loved performing and had a natural affinity for mallet percussion instruments, but I always felt there was a little something missing from my musical experiences. Once at university, I discovered new music through a contemporary ensemble and realized I had found my musical home.

Q. What drew you to percussion? That category is a big umbrella. What are some of the conventional and more unusual instruments you have played? Which are your favorites, bringing you the most joy?

I think the “big umbrella’ of percussion is exactly what drew me to the art of “what happens if I hit this?”. I found hitting things fascinating from a pretty early age. My father is a metalworker and his shop is on the rural farm where I grew up. Some of my earliest sonic memories are of the solitude of nature and the clangorous sounds of metal striking anvils, power grinders, and welding. At the age of six or seven I would climb into where he stored all his steel and hit everything with metal rods. That’s still probably my favorite instruments. One of the wonderful challenges of being a percussionist is adapting to the next sound source that will fit under my umbrella.

Q. Your love of musical exploration and creation blossomed quite early through youthful experiences. And at what point did you really identify with the new chamber music genre? Who have been your muses and influencers along the path?

I saw myself as a new music chamber musician in college. University of Wisconsin-River Falls had a really thriving new music program, one that is continued by my colleague, Patti Cudd, to this day. Both of us played in composer Conrad De Jong’s new music ensemble. After that, I studied with percussionist Al Otte at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

Q. You have been with Zeitgeist for almost 30 years—that’s amazing! Who are the current members in the quartet?

Indeed, 30 years is a long time. I’ve gotten to work with so many amazing musicians in that time, and I’m so very proud of the work that Zeitgeist has created in my tenure. Our current members are myself and Patti Cudd, percussion; Pat O’Keefe, woodwinds, and Nikki Melville, piano.

Q. When and with what aim did Zeitgeist and NO EXIT begin to collaborate with bi-annual concert series you’ve called Here and There? What do you most enjoy about this partnership

Before Here and There, Zeitgeist performed in Cleveland many times through our relationship with Andrew Rindfleisch. It wasn’t long before we became aware of Tim Beyer’s NO EXIT ensemble and discovered that we shared some common goals. Both of us want to strengthen and shine light on the creative capital in our respective communities. We began by performing our repertoire in each city and soon expanded to commissioning work as well. Our touring partnership enables us to provide opportunities for Ohio and Minnesota composers and increase awareness in both communities of the tremendous work being done.

Q. Zeitgeist and NO EXIT share a dedication to commissioning emerging and established composers for new works that you then perform as world premieres. Why is this important and a point of passion for both organizations?

For Zeitgeist, commissioning and performing new work is central to our mission. We work within the American experimental art tradition, and our job is to work with composers and audiences to create and strengthen new musical thought.

Q. From your seasoned perspective, where do you see the new classical music scene stands now in general? Do you have any predictions for the decade ahead?

In so far as where new music is now, I see musicians continuing to do what we do: reaching forward to discover new ways of expression, looking back to find the wisdom of our elders and ancestors, all the while responding to the social climate and concerns of our day.

An abundance of art right now directly addresses or responds to the social crisis and divide that we are experiencing in this country and worldwide. If our nation and world can move to greater reconciliation, I think the music being produced will change as well in terms of its inspiration and intent.


Stream No Exit at 7:30 on Friday, November 15th Live from Kent State University

noexit at SPACESThis Friday, No Exit performs our String Quartet series at Kent State University as part of their “Vanguard Guest Artists”, concerts celebrating America’s most exciting interpreters of new music. As Kent State will be streaming the event live (Friday, November 15 at 7:30) on their website (https://www.kent.edu/music/live-streaming), every intrepid listener, no matter where they might be, can join us in celebrating some amazing chamber music.

Stream it Here (https://www.kent.edu/music/live-streaming)

Hope you can join us!


An Interview with Nabil Abad

By Laura King
noexit at SPACES
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Nabil Abad is a composer of larger ensemble and chamber music. He is a recent graduate of Baldwin Wallace Conservatory, where Clint Needham and Jonathan Sokol were his principal teachers in composition.

Nabil enjoyed uncommon success as a student. In 2018, his Seven Miniatures for strings was awarded 2nd place in the Cleveland Composers Guild’s Collegiate Competition, and, in 2019, the Alabama Orchestral Association chose his orchestral piece Discord to be performed by its Festival Orchestra as the winner of its annual composition contest. Nabil also received his first professional commission this year…the world premiere of his Wearing Away for string quartet will be performed by NO EXIT and special guest Mari Sato during the ensemble’s November concert series.

Below, Nabil shares the experiences and insights of a young composer on a tall trajectory:

Q. Nabil, what an exciting year you’ve had to date, a likely culmination of hard work plus raw talent. How did you first connect with music, and what moved you to become a composer?

My earliest experience with music was playing saxophone in band in middle school and high school. I began composing in high school, but I didn’t decide that it was going to be my main focus until I was at Baldwin Wallace. When I began pursuing my music degree, I wanted to keep my options open, so I started out by studying saxophone and composition. By the end of my first year, I realized I had a much higher aptitude for composing than performing, so I went with my strength.

Q. What was it like for you to win a composition contest as a student, and be invited to work closely with an orchestra for the world-premiere performance of your piece? What were some of the things that you learned from this experience?

It was an incredible opportunity to work with that ensemble and serve as composer-in-residence for their festival last February. I learned a lot—including important skills for the professional world. Two examples were rehearsal techniques when working with an orchestra, and public speaking, as I needed to talk about my work during the concert.

Q. How would you describe your unique sound world? Who and what are your influencers and how does your inspiration arise?

It is quite hard for me to describe the sound world of my music. Some musical features I like to explore in my music are complex rhythmic structures, dissonant harmonies, and the ideas of density and disorder. I get inspired by ideas that I think would be interesting to represent musically, and then see how they play out. I have also drawn inspiration from a variety of different sources, including visual art and literature.

Q. Please describe your working process. How does it vary when you write for orchestra versus a chamber group?

When composing, I usually like to start out by making some sort of plan for the large-scale form of the work and goals for things I would like to accomplish in writing the piece. In writing chamber music, I tend to think about the relationships between the members of the ensemble and how their parts interact. When writing for orchestra, I think of how to express grander gestures by using the combined power of larger groupings of instruments.

Q. What are your goals as a recent grad and young professional? Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I hope I will continue to receive more commissions! Ten years from now, I imagine that I will be out of school with my doctorate in composition. After that, I want to start a teaching career.

Q. Clearly, Nabil, you’re passionate about you do. What meaning and value do you feel that creating new music has in the world today?

I believe that the creation of new music is and always will be a very important pursuit. And that composers will continue to develop and improve techniques to create deeper artistic expression through music. If you look back through history, composers of each generation have built off of what came before them and pushed the boundaries of what music could do…evolving a wider and more complex range of sounds to represent the range of human emotion.

Q. How did you connect with NO EXIT to receive this commission? Were you given any parameters for the work by your benefactor? What does their support mean to you as you start on your path as a professional?

As a native of Cleveland, I have been attending NO EXIT’s concerts for a few years now. There, I was able to meet and build relationships with some of the members of the ensemble. After they became familiar with my music, they let me know they were interested in working with me.

I greatly appreciated the freedom that that NO EXIT gave me with this commission. The only parameters I was given was that the work would be for string quartet, and a window of time for the length of the piece.

As a composer still in the very early stages of a career, it makes me so happy that an amazing ensemble like NO EXIT would want to collaborate. I really cannot adequately express how much this support from NO EXIT means to me!


No Exit in motion at the University of Duluth

Every year No Exit travels to the twin cities to join St.Paul based new music ensemble Zeitgeist for two weekends of amazing collaborative music making between the twin cities and our home in Cleveland. Our trip to Minnesota occurred in September, and thanks to composer Philip Blackburn, who graciously audio and video recorded the concert, we are able to share two works we performed during our residency at the University of Duluth. First is a work written by Czech composer Ladislav Kubik as a commission for No Exit completed shortly before his untimely passing in 2017. The second work is duo for clarinet and piano by Minnesota based composer and environmental sound artist Philip Blackburn.

We cannot wait to have Zeitgeist join us again in Cleveland on January 16th at Kent State, 17th at The Bop Stop and 18th at Heights Arts.


From ClevelandClassical.com: No Exit: No Exit: Electronica at Appletree Books (Oct. 18)

By David Kulma
noexit at SPACES
There is something odd about only looking at audio speakers during a concert of experimental electronic music. How do you humanize such an experience? The thoughtful musicians of No Exit delightfully answered this question in an engaging and interactive concert at Appletree Books on Friday, October 18.

Over ten years, Artistic Director Timothy Beyer and friends have slowly cultivated an adventurous audience. The fact that they filled the seats on Friday with people who want to explore avant-garde music making, and who participate in the conversation between pieces even at a concert without an ensemble present, shows how successful No Exit has been in filling a musical need in Cleveland.

One helpful through-line for this “disembodied” performance was that each composer took the spoken word as their starting point, and then built audio collages from that.

Berio’s 1958 Thema (Omaggio a Joyce) creates music out of mezzo-soprano Cathy Berbarian’s reading of a section from James Joyce’s Ulysses. Berio took apart that recorded speech and focused on individual phonemes, which on Friday flew across the sound space mixed with high-pitched chirping, resonant jumbles, and bouncing splices. Every so often a single word appears out of the mass, like “listen,” and then the first syllable is stretched into an extended, serpentine sibilant.

Associate Director James Praznik spoke about his 2015 work Exo-Narrative No. 1: “Thanks for the Memories,” describing a moment when his first listener changed the direction of the piece. The crazed opening had an aggressive sadness the composer hadn’t considered, so he decided to fill out the 4-½ minutes by emphasizing loneliness. The result is the aural equivalent of the “shaky cam” technique in recent violent action movies. Sliding siren-like sounds and sudden high-volume spasms were mixed with words that were difficult to comprehend. Amidst some calmer shimmering and framing breaths, the overall emotion was captivatingly disturbed.

Greg D’Alessio’s untitled work specifically written for this concert was based on his 2018 piece for No Exit: Many Doors. Mixing recorded sounds of ensemble members’ instruments with audio from productions of Jean-Paul Sartre’s eponymous play in both French and English, the composer described it afterwards as an “existential, hellish dance party.” Framed by repetitions of a woman saying “toujours,” the music builds clear drum grooves as melodic chunks and instrumental solos dance with excerpts from the play. The result is an oddball comedy mixed with angst in the best Sartrean tradition.

Beyer’s Dissent is a political work from 2006 that asks the question: “What shall be the end of these things?” Built from old preaching records made by some of America’s most notorious bigots and religious charlatans, Beyer’s piece piles up layer upon layer of fanatical pronouncements starting with the most innocuous and ending with horrid, paranoid diatribes. Low sweeps and voluminous knife swipes further place the excerpts in ironic quotation marks. The metallic screeching derived from these ramblings made clear Beyer’s own feelings about his noxious muses in this work.

The evening ended with a preview of an upcoming Praznik work for the No Exit ensemble. Built from many layers and constantly moving from calm to explosive extremes, the piece whetted the audience’s appetite with an exciting, vertigo-inducing chunk from its electronic backdrop.

Originally published on ClevelandClassical.com (October 23, 2019). The full article can be found – Here


An Interview with Mari Sato

By Laura King
noexit at SPACES
Mari Sato, an acclaimed violinist based in Cleveland, has enjoyed a rich and varied career as a chamber musician. For twenty-four years, she was the second violinist of the award-winning Cavani String Quartet, giving concerts on major series that included Carnegie Hall, Corcoran Gallery of Art, the French Festival de L’Epau, and the Honolulu Chamber Music Society, among others. She served on the faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music 1995-2018, and she is currently coaching chamber music at the Oberlin Conservatory.

Below, Mari provides more intimate background to her career path and her music during a recent interview for NO EXIT:

Q. To begin at the beginning, Mari, I’m interested to know a little bit about your long relationship with the violin. When did you start playing the instrument, and how has its meaning and importance evolved for you over time?

I was four years old when I began my studies on the violin through the Suzuki Method. In the beginning, playing music was something I did with my family. Later it became a way to connect with friends by playing together in ensembles. It has always been an important part of my life. Learning and performing music with others continues to be my ideal way to relate to others, share powerful emotional experiences, and bring people together.

Q. What has your musical path looked like from a personal point of view? And who were the muses and influencers who appeared to guide you along the way?

I was a late bloomer in music. I did not decide to devote myself to the art until my senior year of high school. Many people along the way helped me catch up. I am still catching up! I was incredibly fortunate to join the Cavani Quartet right out of college. My first ‘musical family’ gave me 24 years of beautiful memories studying and performing a diverse repertoire, but especially the Beethoven and Bartók quartets. Those experiences shaped me in fundamental ways. Team coaching with Peter Salaff at the Cleveland Institute of Music also had a deep impact on me. Teaching with kindness and striving for the character and meaning in the music are strong values that remain with me.

Q. What would you describe your personal style of play? What have been your greatest challenges with the instrument? What about playing brings you the greatest joy?

I’d say that I strive to be an inquisitive and collaborative musician. It gives me great joy to work with others to bring the music off the page and move others in performance. Sometimes the process of figuring out how to achieve that can be very challenging when a musical language is new. But often that hard work leads to a breakthrough in understanding that is personally rewarding.

Q. Please describe the process you undertake when you collaborate with a composer to practice and perform a new composition—for example, Nabil Abad’s new work for the STRINGS! concert.

When learning a new work, whether it is by a known older composer or a new one, I usually start with the score and then the individual part. Recordings when available are so helpful. Hearing how others have brought a piece to life is invaluable.

In the case of Nabil Abad’s commissioned quartet, we did not have the luxury of being able to hear others perform the piece—we will play the world premiere of it. Because I was not familiar with Mr. Abad’s compositional style, I listened to his wind ensemble piece Discord, and some songs through SoundCloud, to get a sense for his “sound world.” Program notes by the composer are, of course, very helpful to understand the inspiration behind a work. And before performance time, we will certainly have communicated with him directly with any questions that arise about the interpretation of his music.

Q. You’ll be playing with NO EXIT in intimate venues and in a concert hall. How do these venues differ experientially for the musicians and the audiences?

I enjoy playing in both the traditional concert hall, as well as intimate venues like SPACES and other galleries. When performing in a concert hall, it is easier for me to use the acoustical space like another instrument, as I listen for the sound coming back to me. In an intimate smaller space, that is harder to do. However, the audience reaction to the music is more immediate and that fun interaction makes the experience of performing more “live.”

Q. Can you offer a little insight into why string quartets so specially regarded in classical music, new and old?

From my completely biased perspective, some of the greatest music ever written was for the medium of the string quartet. The combination of two violins, one viola, and one cello is a unique sound that lends itself to explorations in color, conversation, and emotion. Thanks to the legacy of Haydn, Beethoven, and Bartók, the string quartet repertoire continues to grow.

Q. How did you end up connecting with NO EXIT for this concert? Can you please speak a little to the ensemble’s role in the regional new music scene?

I have known NO EXIT’s string musicians—James, Cara, and Nick—for years, given that the music world, and especially the string world in Cleveland, is quite small. I have been a fan of NO EXIT’s vision since it was founded in 2009. It is very important to support the creation and performance of new music. It keeps “classical music” alive and relevant.

NO EXIT has captured the avant-garde niche, which serves to challenge all of us, performers and audience members alike. By their mission and activities, they entice us to be open to new ideas, new sounds…and to test our perceptions of beauty and order. I have learned so much from my experience collaborating with these wonderful artists. Thank you to artistic director Tim, James, Cara, Nick, and percussionist Luke for inviting me to join them for this NO EXIT concert!


From ClevelandClassical.com: No Exit at SPACES (Sept. 6)

By Nicholas Stevens
noexit at SPACES
Any concert program that begins with music of mutual hostility and ends with a lament may seem too reminiscent of the news cycle in 2019. Add to that a composition about species diversity, and the picture darkens further. However, No Exit’s season opener at SPACES felt more like a refuge from the fights and frights of everyday life, or at least a guide to bearing them with grace and vulnerability. In a program of diverse music, Cleveland’s contemporary-classical powerhouse proved itself capable of anything, and unafraid to take risks.

The concert on Friday, September 6 found audience members seated near the entrance and the musicians set up where a hallway opens into a larger gallery space — unusual for this venue but necessary due to an installation, and mostly unproblematic for sight and sound. Artistic director Timothy Beyer greeted listeners with characteristic good cheer. No Exit proves itself in performance, with no excessive solemnity required.

Pianist Nick Underhill wrote Passing Lane, here given its world premiere with the composer at the keyboard and James Rhodes on viola, as a “road rage toccata,” premised on a destructive interaction between duet partners. From the start, the two strayed into one another’s musical territory, with results that suggested fury without veering into gratuitous pounding. Rhodes sounded unhinged in the aggressive moments, but sweet during a “rest stop.” Underhill likewise careened most of the time, but also waxed contemplative. The ending, too good to spoil, involves a pencil and the viola’s strings.

Adonai Henderson, a composer studying at Cleveland State University, drew inspiration from Africa and its diasporic legacies in writing ngoma, a solo percussion piece busy enough to simulate a whole ensemble. Luke Rinderknecht tapped and hammered at a set of conga drums, thwacking rims for emphasis. It’s a testament to both Henderson’s and Rinderknecht’s sharp senses of pacing that the interlocking patterns of the opening led to the explosive climax with simmering inexorability.

A symbolic “cage” of music stands surrounded clarinetist Gunnar Owen Hirthe in Philip Blackburn’s Air, forcing him to rotate from one to the next. The avian metaphor emerges from Baroque movement types, such as those named in the piece’s three movements: Air, Canary, and Ground. The first featured Hirthe alone, musically leaping but calm. Later, Underhill entered with left-hand rumbling that grew into sharp stabs. In the final movement, high pitches for the clarinet became overwhelming to hear — a consequence both of Blackburn’s edgy, maximum-volume writing and the acoustic of the hallway space.

Sean Parks, another Cleveland State composition student, contributed Species Plantarum, Liber II, named for a 1753 botanical treatise. The first movement, inspired by a Tanzanian herb, moves in blips and oozes. The second, titled after a woody shrub, conjures the plant’s texture through the rasp of brushes on a snare drum. The third began with a lovely duet for violinist Cara Tweed and cellist Nick Diodore, interrupted by insistent cries from Sean Gabriel’s piccolo. The piece’s most ear-catching textures come in the fourth, which incorporates switched-on vibraphone, alto flute, and cello, with some well-timed tongue slaps for clarinet. The fifth and longest movement echoed the literal opening-out of the performance space into the gallery behind.

The concert ended with two pieces featuring percussionist Chester Englander, whose expertise lies with the cimbalom. Englander’s soft skitters and sudden accents conversed with Diodore’s swirling figures in Kati Agócs’s Saint Elizabeth Bells. A tribute to the composer’s father inspired by the church bells he heard on his deathbed, the piece cites familiar hourly chimes only once, but to wrenching effect.

Englander returned for a solo encore, the final movement of György Kurtág’s Splinters. Blossoming into knotty chords, Englander’s stutters and strokes showcased the almost magical capabilities of the seldom-heard instrument, which, in a city as influenced by Eastern European cultures as Cleveland, could well find more of a foothold here. Let’s hope so.

Originally published on ClevelandClassical.com (September 23, 2019). The full article can be found – Here


From ClevelandClassical.com: Road rage as inspiration: chatting with No Exit’s Nicholas Underhill

By Jarrett Hoffman
noexit at SPACES
How most of us react to overly aggressive drivers: clench our teeth, sweat, maybe give a honk, and fume. How pianist-composer Nicholas Underhill reacted: write a piece of music.

Passing Lane is a duo for piano and viola, but it’s also “a cinematic Road Rage Toccata,” as Underhill writes in his notes. He and his No Exit colleague James Rhodes will premiere the work when the ensemble opens its eleventh season with free concerts on September 6 at 8:00 pm at SPACES, September 7 at 7:00 pm at Heights Arts, and September 13 at 8:00 pm at Cleveland State University’s Drinko Recital Hall.

The programs will also include premieres by Cleveland State composition students Adonai Henderson and Sean Parks, works by Kati Agócs and Philip Blackburn, and a performance by cimbalom virtuoso Chester Englander, the start of a two-season partnership with No Exit that will include a commissioning and recording project.

During our conversation, Underhill was contemplative and curious, not angry, about those who tailgate and weave back and forth to get ahead on the road.

“If you want to get deep about it,” he said, “it sort of evokes the self-involved nature of people. They’re in their own cars with their own music blasting, they’re not paying much attention to other people, and they’re having their own experiences as they drive. There seems to be a death wish there too, but you can’t psychoanalyze them — you can’t even see who they are, the way they drive.”

Passing Lane is an “adversarial” piece between two drivers — two instruments. “The violist smacks the bow on the piano strings, and later on I take a pencil and hit the viola strings,” Underhill said. “It doesn’t actually damage the instruments but creates a contentious atmosphere.”

In one moment, the music gets quiet and serene. Here, Underhill imagines that the drivers have pulled over to indulge in a “Heart Attack Mac” and an energy drink — “something that would keep you on edge and able to drive at 90 miles an hour,” the composer said. That’s not to say he doesn’t like fast food. “I’m attracted to it, but I try to resist it,” he said, laughing.

The tone of the piece is absolutely meant to be light, both for performers and listeners. “No one’s going to yell at me if I mess up my own piece, and James seems to have a very fun attitude towards it as well,” Underhill said. “A lot of times, you feel like you have to give a really serious performance. Maybe it’s a premiere, and you could affect that composer’s career. It’s nice to have an interlude from that — and for the audience too. Some of the pieces we play are so heady, and this one’s clearly not.”

noexit at SPACES
Underhill actually wrote Passing Lane in 2015 for himself and Tom Bowling, then the violist in No Exit. “I thought he would have the sense of humor required to do something like this,” the composer said. But Bowling left the group and moved to Texas, and convenient performance opportunities failed to present themselves until now. Either way, Underhill said the piece fits Rhodes (pictured right) even better. “He’s the most benign and affable personality, but adventurous too. It’s perfect for him and me.”

Coming back to Passing Lane four years after writing it, the composer said it’s like a new work for him. “There’s the same feeling as when you’ve gotten a tough piece from another composer — it’s like, ‘Why did that rascal write that?’”

The other works on these programs deserve some digital ink as well. Kati Agócs’ 2012 Saint Elizabeth Bells (which will feature Chester Englander) was written in memory of her father, who in semi-consciousness may have heard the bells of Saint Elizabeth Cathedral in Budapest during his last days in a nearby hospital. She writes:

Every phrase of the work’s nine-minute trajectory comes out of the natural intervals of the bell sounds as I mis-remember (and imagine) them, with the purest version — and the part that I composed first — heard near the end.

Among his many endeavors, Philip Blackburn is known as a composer and environmental sound artist: his works have been heard in harbors, forests, and drifting out of storm sewers, as well as in more traditional settings. Air, written in 1984 as his first paid commission, is packed with counterpoint. He writes that listeners may count up to 87 canons in the clarinet line alone, adding:

The musical gestures may well relate to my speech patterns as well as the fact that, during the composition process, I had to rotate my body very slowly in front of the fireplace to keep warm in my mother’s chilly house that winter.

Adonai Henderson’s ngoma evokes the rhythms of African and African Diasporic cultures, and is meant to give the illusion of a small percussion ensemble, while Sean Parks’ Species Plantarum, Liber II takes inspiration from the composer’s interest in plants — the movement titles are taken from the binomial Latin names of members of his own tropical and subtropical collection.

Article originally published on clevelandclassical.com on September 3, 2019.
The full article can be found – Here


Catch Nicholas Diodore and Chester Englander Live on WCLV 104.9 September 5th

noexit at SPACES
For an exciting sneak peek of what we have in store for our fall concert series, be sure to tune in to WCLV 104.9 to hear No Exit’s cellist Nicholas Diodore and special guest cimbalomist Chester Englander perform Kati Agócs’ “Saint Elizabeth Bells” live in the Ideastream studio.

To hear this piece and a host of new and exciting works from composers around the country and right here in Cleveland, join us on September 6th at SPACES, September 7th at Heights Arts or September 13th at Cleveland State University. Come share an evening of great new music with us to start our 11th season with a bang!

And for those who missed it as it happened over the air (or for those who just want to hear such a beautiful work again and again), go to https://www.facebook.com/WCLV1049/ for the archived recording.


An Interview with Philip Blackburn

By Laura King
noexit at SPACES
Philip Blackburn is a Cambridge, UK-born composer and environmental sound artist. His works have been heard in ships’ harbors, state fairs, forests, and wafting out of storm sewers, as well as in galleries and on concert stages. A renaissance man for the modern age, he is also a filmmaker, writer, teacher, designer and record producer. Since 1991, Philip has been director of the innova Recordings label, a premium label for American new music. Air: Air, Canary, New Ground, his 1985 composition for piano and clarinet written at the age of 22, will be featured in NO EXIT’s September concert series.

Below, Philip discusses with NO EXIT how his experimental music soundscape compositions are a synthesis of his life and work:

Q. Philip, to start, would you give us a brief overview of the evolution of your relationship with composition?

I wrote my first composition for trombone (an instrument for which I had no talent) at 16 because I had to. It occurred to me that if I played my own piece, no one could complain about it. I came from a creative family where my father is a novelist and my brother a jazz musician, so it seemed quite natural for me to make something that didn’t exist before and explore as my muse directed. I went to Clare College in Cambridge as a Choral Scholar and continued my low-key creative endeavors. Having been exposed to the amazing musical universe of Harry Partch and his homemade instruments and theories, I knew there was a world beyond the conventions that were being inculcated in me. Like him, I went outside. Outside the mainstream and literally outdoors to nature; the field that would come to be called Biomusic. Like Pauline Oliveros, I consider listening to be a creative social act so a composer is, in this sense, setting up occasions for listening just as much as putting forth sonic structures. Once the emphasis shifts to the experience of music rather than its internal relationships on a page, it can open doors.

My works are often site specific so the process starts with a deep dive into the stories, materials, and memories of a place. These have included a TB sanatorium, a shipping port, a network of storm drains, or the proportions of a new building. Each comes with its own set of conditions that I can have fun remixing. Having worked in such uniquely loaded settings, the notion of a piece intended for a standard indoor concert stage is oddly daunting.

Q. Could you describe what you reach for in your compositions, i.e., your intention that informs your process?

I take the task of listening – and paying attention to my responses – seriously. I am fortunate that my everyday and professional life is structured in a way to prioritize experiencing the environment in musical terms. Working at the American Composers Forum I’ve been involved with more than 650 albums of other peoples’ works, helping to bring each to its fullest realization. Publishing can be just as creative an act as the sounds that went into the pieces. The cover art, the descriptions, how they are put into the public domain – all affect the way they are received and experienced.

As a public artist that specializes in sound, my work must first fully engage me … but it should also have some chance of making a difference in the lives of complete strangers. I’ve had experiences viewing art, reading a book, or listening to music that totally changed my life. I want that result. At least for a while. After listening to my work, and exiting the concert hall, are you more aware of the birds in the trees, the feel of the wind, an acoustic reflection from a wall, the oncoming traffic? Did it change your thinking? Provide new problems to consider? This is a tall order. In the glut of music and noise that is out there these days, that most people have learned to tune out, it is easy for a musical effort to have no impact at all.

It struck me, walking through a rainforest, that the creatures that live there are able to survive because of their acoustic niche in the ecosystem. If your voice as a bird, a frog, or mammal is not heard, your species dies out. A living sonic ecosystem is orchestration perfected over evolutionary timescales. That’s hard to beat in a textbook about instruments.

Q. How does creating new music soundscapes that intrigue and inform your listeners affect you internally?

I am always learning from my work—about self, about what not to do. Composing for me is about the process of discovery and unearthing possibilities, the same way we make sense of our complex world at every moment; not merely starting with a fully-formed idea and spewing it out. As such, composing is what we all do as a daily practice; it’s all part of the art of noticing.

Education typically shows us models of what has gone before, why they are good, and how you depart from them at your peril. I believe the opposite. Education is about freeing you from those models and throwing you back to your own inner resources. For that you need a technique that subverts your own preferences, throws in some randomness, makes you go beyond your usual habits, and allows you see your materials afresh. Composition, perhaps, as meditation.

From my perspective, existing musics are best treated as examples of what not to do. They are personally challenging in that way. Why repeat something that has already been done by someone else? Especially when you want your original work to be unique and make a difference.

Although it can be disorienting to start in this way, I find the more I let go, the more a work is true, is of me. And I often say at the end of this process, when I am the first person to know the outcome, “Wow. Really? That was inside of me, waiting to come out?”

This is how you find your own voice—the more you release, go beyond your typical habits and tastes, the more you are left with nothing but your voice. There is a deep congruence about my works but on the surface, every piece is unlike any other.

People often confuse convention with discipline. Most of my works are quite unconventional but highly disciplined. I love to hear from people who say they never heard anything like it before but were totally transported.

Q. You recently received a commission from NO EXIT. What can you tell us about that work in progress?

I’ve done so many site-specific community-based pieces that I began by contemplating my personal connection with Ohio. And I found that one of my relatives, Charles Cheney, moved to Mt. Pleasant (now Mt. Healthy) near Cincinnati in the 1830s with a mission to plant 3000 mulberry trees that would feed silkworms for the family silk manufacturing business in Connecticut. This was a misguided endeavor as the climate wasn’t suitable and all the trees soon died. But while there he was a prominent Abolitionist and secret conductor on the underground railroad (aided by the fact that he was also president of the overground railroad company and could thus ensure safe passage up the line for the escaping slaves). So I wondered about the sound of the saplings and even recorded the actual sound inside a mulberry tree trunk in my back yard.

What were the sound signs of the underground railway? Night time clues: Owls, crickets, rubbing stones, coded knocks… tapping on the window of a safe house in the dark of night. I read that Harriet Tubman would go around singing the spiritual “Promised Land” and change the tempo according to whether it was safe to move or not. Well, I can do that too, right down to the granular waveform level as a harmonic drone…

My research then led me to the Old Testament (and the current title for the piece): “The sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees.” That is what God reportedly told David to wait for in order to vanquish the Philistines. Waiting for a change in wind conditions is normal procedure in military affairs so didn’t really require divine guidance. And the translation is wrong anyway since they confused the word for mulberry with that for quaking aspen, native to that area. But it’s still a nice title.

So, this would be a timely piece, about migrants, escape from captivity, and the ever- relevant journey to freedom. It will have local interest, it is personal, and adaptable to a wider story. I wonder how it will turn out.

And I have to say that I am very excited about composing an ensemble piece for NO EXIT, and returning to the concert hall after many years in the wilderness. I’m quite interested to see how my life’s journey will be reflected in this new work and what kind of journeys it might take other people on.


An Interview with Kati Agócs

By Laura King
noexit at SPACES
As a contemporary composer, Kati Agócs is renowned for her highly individualized works that are evanescent, lyrical and viscerally direct. NO EXIT is delighted to be performing one of Kati’s most exquisite pieces, Saint Elizabeth Bells, in its September concert series, featuring special guest artist Chester Englander on cimbalom. Below Kati provides the backstory for her composition in a conversation with NO EXIT:

Q. Kati, reviewers have often described your works as challenging without being elusive, and in emotional and transmundane terms. Have these qualities always defined your compositions? Who and what were your early influences?

Very early on as a composer I was influenced by the Second Viennese School—Arnold Schoenberg’s “Book of the Hanging Gardens,” in particular and Webern, Berg and Milton Babbit, who was my composition teacher. I began my creative education as a visual artist and a performing vocalist. While at Juilliard, I was a professional soprano at various churches in New York City. Certainly, my performance background informs my work; my first compositions were vocal pieces, and sacred music has always been a major focus. My visual arts background brings an interest in proportion and in the balance and progression of timbral densities. Literary sources often come into play for me as well.

I begin every piece with a strong, distinct sound world. Every medium is very different – – be it orchestral, chamber, or vocal. It’s very different with every piece. I always feel like I’m starting from scratch.

Q. Once your inspiration comes for a new work, how do you start composing?

I write at the piano. Playing things through in real time helps me understand the flow and the formal trajectory of a new piece. I’ll improvise an entire form. I often write for specific players or collaborate directly with players. When I began to work on Saint Elizabeth Bells for cimbalom and cello, I wrote the ending first—the sound of the tolling church bells as my father would have heard them in an adjacent hospital during his final hours, in a semi-conscious state. Then I went to a cimbalom-player friend to experience what I’d written and refine it on the instrument. The sound of the cimbalom is rich in timbre but also very pure—it was originally a folk instrument — and that special, fragile quality influenced the sound of the piece overall. The cello is an equal partner in the piece. I knew I wanted the cello line to be lyrical—something very human, something one could sing.

Q. A commission provided the circumstances for you to create such a beautiful piece of music, didn’t it? How did it unfold?

Saint Elizabeth Bells was commissioned by the New York-based cellist André Emelianoff. He encouraged me to explore my Hungarian roots by writing a piece that included the cimbalom, the concert hammered dulcimer, in its scoring. Those roots originate with my father, Sandór Agócs, who was born into a family of watermelon farmers. The first of his family to be educated, he worked for the Hungarian Radio in Budapest in the early 1950s and fled Hungary as a political refuge after the 1956 uprising, eventually returning home in the 1990’s. He died in 2011. I wrote the score in 2012, a very poignant time for me, and it was premiered by Paul Katz and Nicholas Tolle on the New England Conservatory’s First Monday series in 2013. It is about ten minutes long.

Q. Saint Elizabeth Bells is a deeply personal piece of music. Please share more of the backstory with us!

The muse for this composition were the bell sounds of the Saint Elizabeth Cathedral in central Budapest, which is named for Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, a Catholic saint who served the sick. There is a hospital beside the cathedral called Saint Elizabeth Hospital, where my father spent his last days. As he lay dying in his bed, his room facing the cathedral, he would have been washed over and over by drifting and resonating bell sounds celebrating Easter, perhaps evoking memories just beyond his reach.
Every phrase of the work’s trajectory comes out of the natural intervals of the bells as I mis-remember and imagine them. And the purest version—the part I composed first— comes at the end. The piece is not mournful, instead it has a shimmering, delicate quality. It’s meditative, coloristic, and non-linear in the way that dreams are … and the harmonies are spectral, floating over the melodies and expanding the chords upwards into waves of atmospheric overtones. I was trying to intuit through the closeness of our relationship what my dad’s experience was, so in a way there is a mystery within Saint Elizabeth Bells.

Q. My last question for you, Kati—how did you connect with NO EXIT?

They just found me! I believe that Tim heard a recording of the piece online and got in touch. And I’m so excited that Chester Englander will be playing the cimbalom part! He’s is a brilliant musician and known around the world for his artistry on a very difficult instrument that is rarely heard in the U.S. I’ll be present for the concert on September 13th at Cleveland State University’s Drinko Recital Hall. I can’t wait to meet everyone! Oh—and NO EXIT will be making the first professional recording of Saint Elizabeth Bells as part of their cimbalom collaboration with Chester. All very exciting!

Want to know a little more about Kati? Here’s a short bio from her website:

Born in 1975 in Canada of Hungarian and American parents, Kati Agócs earned doctoral and Masters degrees from the Juilliard School, where her principal teacher was Milton Babbitt, and has served on the composition faculty at the New England Conservatory in Boston since 2008. She is also an alumna of the Aspen Music School, Tanglewood Music Festival, Sarah Lawrence College, and Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific (United World Colleges). She has written on recent American and Hungarian music for Tempo and wrote a candid inside glimpse into the new-music scene in Hungary for The Musical Times. She had previously spearheaded an exchange program between the Juilliard School and the Liszt Academy in Budapest. As a result of these activities, the progressive Vienna-based publication Bécsi Napló credited her with raising the visibility of Hungarian composers abroad. Kati Agócs is a citizen of the United States, Canada, and Hungary (EU). Her works are published by Kati Agócs Music and are distributed internationally by Theodore Front Musical Literature.

Kati is currently curating a concert series called A Stone’s Throw for Metropolis Ensemble in New York which, alongside her own work, features performances of work by Hungarian composers who would not otherwise be heard in the U.S.


From ClevelandClassical.com: No Exit presents Rob Kovacs in 88bit at Appletree Books (July 19)

By David Kulma
noexit at SPACES
No Exit’s summer offerings took a surprising, yet delightful turn on Friday, July 19 — to classic video game music. Rob Kovacs is from the generation of musicians who grew up playing video games on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the late 80s. Last year, he began an ambitious project dedicated to arranging this music for solo piano. 88bit, Kovacs’s alter ego, now has about an hour’s worth of music from eight games in his memorized repertoire. He played with passion and panache on his electronic keyboard at the intermission-less concert in the cozy atmosphere of Appletree Books in Cleveland Heights.

Vintage game music presents some obvious difficulties for human performance. The composing possibilities of the 8-bit NES allowed composers to write three simultaneous musical lines at any given time. While they often feature the familiar texture of a melody and a bass line, the options regularly exceed easy distribution between two hands and go at speeds that make human musicians seem slothful. In addition, the length of time a game player would spend in a particular environment was unknowable, so the composers chose to create catchy loops that continued until the player moved to a new stage. Taking these loops and stringing them together without musical understanding could easily lead to endless vamping.

Kovacs easily surmounted these issues, creating cohesive wholes. He possesses bountiful virtuosity as well as a good compositional handle on how the disparate musics of each game could flow into a standalone musical narrative. At times, Kovacs created veritable single-movement sonatas out of this spiraling, jumpy computer music. The best example was his take on Yoshio Hirai’s music for StarTropics, an action/adventure game released in 1990. The various themes were given functional names (“Title Screen,” “Danger,” “Victory!”) as well as poetic ones that fit the game’s story (“The Test of Island Courage — Dungeon”). The music flowed so well in Kovacs’ hands that when the “Boss Battle” theme came around, I was overtaken by the anxiety I remember as a kid playing similar games fighting evil overlords.

Sean Gabriel at Appletree Books

Like StarTropics, most of the concert was filled with music from games unfamiliar to me, but were enjoyable discoveries. The Adventures of Lolo resembled the Joplinesque main Mario theme — with a Latin feel — while Marble Madness was a fantastical set of etudes akin to Debussy had he been more ruthlessly minimalist. Kovacs’ highly pianistic arranging choices used textures similar to Mendelssohn and Brahms where the middle voice is a hand-switching menagerie, and thickening octave doublings that made this deep-cut concert easily digestible for a classical aficionado.

The two lengthiest selections were from two well-known games, while avoiding the obvious choice of Super Mario Bros. Nobuo Uematsu’s beautiful music for the original Final Fantasy (1987) is the most obviously pianistic of NES music with a famous “Prelude” featuring atmospheric, spindly arpeggios, while Takashi Tateishi’s energetic music for Mega Man 2 (1988) was full of rock bombast at high speeds.

Kovacs hopes to arrange all of the music ever released on the NES, and based on his obvious hard work and clear passion, his 88bit project is a worthwhile and impressive feat of musical skill and imagination.

Article originally published on clevelandclassical.com on July 29, 2019.
The full article can be found – Here


An Interview with Rob Kovacs 88bit

By Laura King
noexit at SPACES
NO EXIT is pleased to be presenting Rob Kovacs – 88bit in concert on July 19, 2019 at Appletree Books, when Kovacs will perform his astonishing piano arrangements of the early electronic music that enlivened classic Nintendo (NES) video games—including Mega Man 2, Final Fantasy, Castlevania II, Marble Madness, and more.

Below, Rob discussed the experiences that shaped his musical disposition and some of the proficiency, dexterity and compositional challenges inherent in working with classic video game music.

Q. You’ve mentioned that 88bit is the product of your two passions – retro video games and music. What experiences did you have with these growing up that pointed you towards your current path?

Both are part of my earliest memories. I have older siblings; my sister would play songs on the piano and I’d dance around, and my brother would jam out to prog rock on the drums. I started tinkering around on the piano and drums as early as three, making up my own little melodies or “songs.” I composed my first real piano song at age 10.

We also had 10 arcade games that my Dad received in a trade—games like Centipede, Donkey Kong Jr., and Super Pacman, which was my favorite. There was a setting that allowed you to open the game up to playback all the different sound effects and songs. I loved just standing there and going through all the different sounds the game could make.

We had an Atari too, which was neat, but when I got a Nintendo (NES) for Christmas, it was the best day of my life. That’s when my love for video games truly took over.

Q. The music you are playing was composed originally for computers, not humans, so it includes some definite challenges for a two-handed pianist. Can you describe some of those and how you overcame them?

The biggest challenge is just finding a way to play all the notes. The NES sound chip was limited to essentially four voices, one of which could only produce noise, and the other three could produce pitches. So, at maximum, you would rarely be able to hear more than three notes at a time. To overcome this, composers treated each voice uniquely and crammed a lot of notes in each voice to imply harmony.

In general, early video game music was high energy and fast and usually composed by having a melody line, a bass line, and a contrapuntal or accompaniment line. To get that third line, I usually need to break it up between hands. The right hand plays the melody and some of the middle voice, and left hand plays the bass and the other parts of the middle voice. This is both technically and mentally really challenging, but not unlike a Bach fugue.

Another major challenge is very fast repeated notes, which the piano does not do well compared to other instruments. Depending on the quality of the piano itself, certain speeds are not possible; 16th notes at around 140bpm or higher really push the limits of the instrument and the pianist! To get these very fast repeated notes, I use a slightly different fingering of 4-3-2, 4-3-2 similar to a Flamenco guitar player.

Another fun challenge is encountered when the middle voice is used as an echo, or delay. This effect is created when the middle voice plays the same notes as the melody but an 8th note behind and at a quieter volume. I play this effect in the “Prelude” for Final Fantasy, and I’ve never seen it in traditional classical music.

OK, I keep thinking of more challenges, ha… The “Intermediate Race” in Marble Madness uses quarter tones. There is a melody that is in between the key of E minor and D# minor. It’s quick and subtle and has a unique sound that isn’t quite right in either of those keys. So, to get the desired effect of being out of tune, I play this melody in D# minor, and at the same, play a very short note a half step up. So, for the whole melody I’m playing two notes simultaneously—one long and one short … similar to a grace note, except a grace note is played at the same time as the main melodic note rather than slightly before.

Q. What are your favorite pieces to play and why?
The Marble Madness soundtrack is one of my favorites. Each level is so unique and just works so well for the piano. The soundtrack blends elements of classical, rock and jazz, and there’s really nothing in the piano repertoire that sounds quite like it.

I also love playing the Mega Man 2 soundtrack. It’s much more technically challenging than some of the other soundtracks but it rocks—and it is just so high energy.

Q. Could you share the history of the evolution of video game music from computer to the concert hall, and when you plugged in to it?
Honestly, I don’t know the history super well, but performing video game music has certainly grown in the past 15 years. I believe the first official video game music concert was in 1987 in Tokyo. The first video game music cover band that I ever heard of was formed in 1998 and called The Advantage. They are a 4-piece band focusing on NES soundtracks and playing all the parts.

My high school rock band, Open Blind, performed an arrangement of the Super Mario Bros. soundtrack, which was definitely our biggest hit, ha!
Now there are lots of bands, groups and even orchestras that perform video game music. There’s the Zelda Orchestra that performs music from the Zelda franchise. And there’s Distant Worlds, performing music from the Final Fantasy franchise. I had the privilege of performing with them when they came to Cleveland last year.

Martin Leung is probably the most famous VGM (video game music) pianist. He performs concerts and live streams very excellent and classical-style version of video game music.

Q. How have your audiences responded to your concerts? Who is coming to listen, and who gets the most excited?

They respond well! I get people of all ages—very exciting to me—because part of my goal is to expose this early video game music to people who might never have played them. I get people who are in their 30’s-40’s who grew up with some of this, and love the nostalgia aspect. I also get people older than that who’ve never heard the music and regardless, really connection with it and tell me how impressive and unique it sounds!

Q. How does the music of the new games compare to the early NES soundtracks?

Well, first thing, they don’t have the limitations the early systems did. Now you can just compose and record any music and put it in a game. A lot of it is more orchestral and bigger, sometimes taking a back seat as environment sounds are playing a bigger role, or there can be dramatic speech involved, and in that case, the music is like a movie score.
There’s lots of great music though, especially from some newer games like Undertale, Celeste, Xenoblade 2, and the Halo series to name just a few.

Q. Have you beaten all the games you include on your program?

Yes, haha! Before I arrange or perform a soundtrack, I need to understand the game and how the music fits into it, because that effects how I arrange it, order the songs, and add in sound effects. Some games, like Arkanoid, are extremely challenging, and so I use a device called “Game Genie” which allows the user to put in codes to help, such as infinite lives or continues. Otherwise I’d be spending WAY too much time trying to master these games which, given today’s standards, might be considered unfairly difficult.

Q. Are you still a gamer?

I haven’t bought a new system since the Super Nintendo (SNES). I’ve only played a few new games in the past decade or so. Mainly because they are just so time consuming and addicting. They’re truly amazing. I do still collect and play NES and SNES games.


From ClevelandClassical.com : No Exit: Gabriel & Pongracz at Appletree Books (June 21)

By Rory O’Donoghue
noexit at SPACES
Cleveland’s preeminent new and avant-garde music ensemble, No Exit, returned to Appletree Books in Cleveland Heights for another intimate evening of chamber music on Friday, June 21. Flutist Sean Gabriel performed three solo works and was joined by percussionist Andrew Pongracz for two pieces for flute and marimba.

First up was Victoria Bond’s Shenblu, a portmanteau title that evokes both the Shenandoah River and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Flute Talk magazine observes that Shenblu is built is on a pentatonic scale, and that its success “depends upon the flutist’s ability to present the changing moods from languid and expressive to intensely driving, primitive and guttural, in a multi-metered dance-like section.” Although its palette of articulation was a bit bland, Gabriel teased out these sectional nuances with a keen sense of style.

“I’ll start again,” Gabriel said with a grin after a passing ambulance disrupted the beginning of his next selection, Betsy Jolas’ Episode 1. In the oldest piece on the program, Jolas instructs the performer to follow three different methods of measuring space and time throughout the work: metronomically with a tempo marking, sections to be completed within a certain timespan, and phrases that require precisely one breath. Gabriel went to great lengths to tease out Jolas’ quizzical musical content, at times melodic and at others abruptly punctuated. He handled the tricky music with a broad sense of line.

Sean Gabriel at Appletree Books

Gabriel invited Pongracz to the stage for Peter Tanner’s Diversions for Flute and Marimba, a lively six-movement work from a rather obscure composer. “He’s still alive — well, we can’t prove he’s dead,” Pongracz said beforehand. “We don’t know much about him.” The two explored Tanner’s movements with flair and wit, sparkling in the more virtuosic sections. The tenor voice of the marimba added much-needed depth to the evening’s aural spectrum. Pongracz lent fiery technique to the March and the Finale, rocketing through difficult passages.

Gabriel went solo again with Augusta Read Thomas’ Karumi, which he said means “lightness of touch” in Japanese. The piece featured long melodic lines with interjecting articulations in a manner that recalled the Jolas. Pongracz joined the flutist for the closer, Howard J. Buss’ Stellar Visions, which explores many different sonic realms with enjoyable momentum. The two managed the wonderful juxtaposition between the puckish, skittering marimba and long, rhapsodic flute, and blended seamlessly in a number of entrances and exits. The piece worked up into a fun groove, a fresh-sounding ending to a varied evening.

Article originally published on clevelandclassical.com on July 1, 2019.
The full article can be found – Here


From ClevelandClassical.com : Re:Sound Festival of New and Experimental Music — concerts one & six

By Mike Telin
noexit at SPACES
It’s hard to believe that it was only a year and a half ago that area audiences were introduced to the Cleveland Uncommon Sound Project (CUSP). With all of the high-quality programs they have produced since that time, the organization already feels like a trusted friend. Founded by saxophonist Noa Even and cellist Sophie Benn, CUSP’s engaging programming brings together the new music enthusiast and the new music curious. One way that is accomplished is through the annual Re:Sound Festival of New and Experimental Music, which ran from June 6 through June 9 and included six concerts featuring fourteen soloists and ensembles from across the United States at venues around the city. I attended the opening and closing events.

The Festival kicked off on Thursday, June 6, at the funky Negative Space Gallery. First up was Cleveland-based duo Miralia/Stranahan — Lisa Miralia, electronics, and Paul Stranahan, percussion — whose improvisation drew on influences from avant-garde, experimental noise, metal, and ambient musics. Although the duo produced a colorful palette of sound, the twenty-minute improvisation had a predictable structure: beginning softly with tiny bells and ringing bowls underpinned by atmospheric electronics, it grew in volume until it reached an ear-shattering level when Stranahan brought a drum set and gongs into the mix. Then, the sound reversed course and gradually became quiet — a nice way to begin the Festival.

The music went acoustic with a technically superb and musically brilliant performance by Chicago-based saxophone quartet ~Nois (Brandon Quarles, Hunter Bockes, Jordan Lulloff, and János Csontos). The ensemble produced a richly hued blend, its musical prowess evident from the first bars of Gemma Peacocke’s haunting and rhythmically puckish Dwalm. David Reminick’s Consort for four de-tuned soprano saxophones is defined by quiet, short, articulated passages and sudden bursts of sound. The players were perfectly in sync as they tossed the musical line from one to the other. Their set concluded with an outstanding performance of Pauline Oliveros’ text score Thirteen Changes. ~Nois clearly had both a musical and theatrical plan for each of the composer’s lines of poetic prose, evocative images, and mysterious statements. No. 12, “Elephants Mating in a Secret Grove,” was especially vivid.

The final act of the evening was saajtak, a Detroit-based art-rock quartet comprised of vocalist Alex Koi, electronic artist Simon Alexander-Adams, percussionist Jonathan Taylor, and bassist Ben Willis. While it would have been nice to hear them in a room that provided a bit more auditory clarity, their engaging, musically diverse set included everything from pop to popera to progressive rock to Latin-tinged jazz. It’s well worth checking them out in the future.

No Exit, one of Cleveland’s premier new music ensembles, was first up on Sunday, June 9 at the Bop Stop. Their set included two world premieres by participants in CUSP’s CoLab project, a months-long collaboration with area high school composers that provided them the opportunity to workshop their pieces with No Exit musicians.

The Canary and The Crane by Emma Eddy, a freshman at Avon High School, creates a melodic array of birdsongs that seamlessly move from one motif to another. Violinist Cara Tweed, clarinetist Gunnar Owen Hirthe, and flutist Sean Gabriel brought these colorful sounds to vivid life.

Luke Rinderknecht - Emanuel Wallace

The second premiere, Mya Vandegrift’s Non-Alcoholic Beverages, is evocative of Monet’s Water Lilies. Tweed, Gabriel (now on alto flute), and percussionist Luke Rinderknecht, who produced perfect intonation on wine glasses, gave a committed performance of the well-structured, atmospheric work.

Sean Gabriel - Emanuel Wallace

The ensemble vibrantly performed Yoon-Ji Lee’s In Dark Sunshine, written in both traditional and graphic notation. A faculty member at Berklee, Lee constructs an array of musical imagery through fast, driving percussive passages juxtaposed with gentle, soft sound clouds. Tweed, Hirthe, and Rinderknecht negotiated the many complex rhythms with ease, and the decaying sound of a cymbal and a long violin slide brought the piece and the set to an artful conclusion.

Pianist Ju-Ping Song presented two works based on fallibility and trauma. Amy Beth Kirsten’s h.o.p.e. — inspired by The Big Hope Show, an exhibition by artists who have survived enormous personal trauma — finds the pianist doing double-duty, simultaneously playing grand and toy pianos. The unison passages are reminiscent of a Medieval chant that occasionally plays with off-kilter rhythms. The work also asks the pianist to produce Sprechstimme-like sounds — all of which are repeated and repeated again.

Canadian composer and turntablist Nicole Lizée’s Lynch Études explore her preoccupation with the fallibility of media in excerpts from David Lynch’s films. While the music provides a captivating backdrop to the humorously edited and repetitive film excerpts, that humor diminished over its roughly twenty minutes. Still, the piece provided Ju-Ping Song the opportunity to demonstrate her formidable technique and keen musical sensibilities.

The program described ParkJones, a collaboration between composers Joo Won Park and Molly Jones, as “a platform for both to expand their electroacoustic improvisations.” The duo were inventive with their fast paced electronics while each utilized a seemingly endless bag of tricks. Jones added a blow-horn, saxophone, and bells, and each wailed away on recorders — it was all sensory overload at its best and brought the afternoon and the Festival to a fine conclusion.

Photos by Emanuel Wallace.

Article originally published on clevelandclassical.com on June 14, 2019.
The full article can be found – Here


Ladislav Kubík’s Rich Musical Legacy Celebrated by No Exit

noexit at SPACES

Music is an evolving artform. Every artist and listener spends a lifetime choosing which traditions are most integral to their understanding of the human condition and infusing that into their personal taste and style; ensuring the beauty they personally recognize in art will live on in the zeitgeist for another generation. Ladislav Kubík, without a doubt, understood the deepest parts of the human condition. His work speaks among the most heartfelt expressive outlets of the 20th century, and his influence as a teacher is so much a part of contemporary music it is not a stretch to say every No Exit concert to date featured some of his students.

It is not a stretch to include Ladislav Kubík in the same breath as the greatest of his contemporaries. He, and many of the greats, can boast both massive large ensemble works and intimate solo pieces embodying equally epic narratives. But while a composer such as Krzysztof Penderecki valued constant and radical change as the cornerstone of his creative journey, Ladislav spent his lifetime honing musical language into a style of storytelling on par with the likes of the great Czech author Franz Kafka.

On our concerts we will be presenting a loving overview of Ladislav’s chamber music through the years. This program will feature his last completed work, commissioned by No Exit; in anticipation of that event LINKED HERE is a recording of Lament of a Warrior’s Wife, one of the earliest pieces of Ladislav’s for soprano, viola, bass clarinet, piano, percussion (two players), and tape. Enjoy this recording and then join No Exit this week to engage in a celebration of Ladislav’s complete creative evolution.


From ClevelandClassical.com : No Exit remembers composer Ladislav Kubik

By Jarrett Hoffman
noexit at SPACES
How should we remember someone after they pass away?

Czech-American composer Ladislav Kubik died in 2017, and many of the obituaries written for him described an impressive career — from his Guggenheim fellowship to first prizes in several major competitions and a 26-year teaching post at Florida State University.

One short article included below went in a different direction. You got the sense from reading it that this writer really knew Kubik, and that his loss was personal.

The writer was Tim Beyer, director of No Exit. And that new music ensemble will give the premiere of Kubik’s 2017 Nocturnes in three free concerts next week devoted to the composer’s works. Nocturnes, a No Exit commission, turned out to be Kubik’s last completed piece.

The performances take place on Monday, April 15 at 8:00 pm in Drinko Hall at Cleveland State University, Friday, April 19 at 7:00 pm at Heights Arts, and Saturday, April 20 at 8:00 pm at SPACES.

Years ago, as a composition student at Cleveland State, Beyer made a trip to Prague to study with Kubik at his Czech-American Summer Music Institute. That came on the recommendation of Greg D’Alessio and Andrew Rindfleisch, Beyer’s two teachers, who had also attended the festival.

“He was just an amazing man on all levels,” Beyer said of Kubik. “He was a teacher’s teacher, and as a composer, you can hear for yourself. But as a person, he was extraordinary, a very kind man. You meet those people who are almost more of a force of nature than a real person — that was Ladislav. He had such a good way about him, and he was very gregarious and charismatic. With that, his music, and what he did as a teacher, he was just larger than life.”

When No Exit commissioned Nocturnes, the plan was to have Kubik visit Cleveland to be here in person for a retrospective of his works. “He sent me a handwritten copy of the piece, and by the time I got it and tried to get in touch with him, he had passed,” Beyer said.

No Exit will surround that world premiere with Kubik’s 1979 Duo Concertante for violin and piano, 1978 Sonata for viola, 1995 Elegy in Two Movements for cello, and 2003 Trio “Metamorphoses” for clarinet, cello, and piano.

“We wanted to present as much of a span of his career as we could,” Beyer said. “Any composer who’s been at it for a while wasn’t doing the same thing in 1978 as they were in 2017.”

But first, it was a struggle even to get any of Kubik’s music following his passing. “I spent seven months digging under every rock, and couldn’t find anything,” Beyer said. “There are copyright disputes with his publisher, and even the Czech government has been involved.”

Then Kubik’s copyist, and his son, Petr, came to the rescue. “They were able to get us most of the music,” Beyer said. “At one point, Petr actually went through his father’s things to see what he could find. It was a very intense process.”

Beyer said that both Petr and Magdalena, the composer’s daughter, will be in town for the second and third concerts of the series.

Article originally published on clevelandclassical.com on April 9, 2019.
The full article can be found – Here


From ClevelandClassical.com – NEOSonicFest: a look back at the beginning, and a peek at what’s on tap in 2019

By Jarrett Hoffman
noexit at SPACES
When a festival runs for long enough, it becomes interesting to look back and remember that it wasn’t always a staple of the local culture. At one time, it was entirely new.

“Last weekend,” Daniel Hathaway wrote in April of 2014, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony “burst suddenly into bloom like a crocus after a long winter with the first of two concerts anchoring its promising new enterprise, NEOSonicFest…”

Back then, music director Steven Smith had been thinking for years about how to keep the name and activities of the Cleveland Chamber Symphony alive, as Mike Telin reported in our very first preview of NEOSonicFest. The retirement of the orchestra’s founder, Edwin London, and the end of its residency at Cleveland State University had slowed the group’s momentum.

“We thought the idea of concentrating our activities into a specific period of time would give a greater focus on what CCS does,” Smith told us in March of 2014. But not only looking out for itself, the orchestra also saw an opportunity to raise awareness of the region’s thriving new music scene.

About this time every year since, locals have kept their eyes and ears open to see just what’s been cooked up by CCS, Smith, and a selection of other local contemporary acts brought in to perform at the festival.

So — what’s in store for the sixth iteration of NEOSonicFest?

The concerts kick off on Friday, March 29 at 9:00 pm with an electro-acoustic triple bill at Mahall’s Main Stage in Lakewood. The headliner is Buck McDaniel’s and Jacob Kirkwood’s live electro-acoustic score for Fire on the Water, a recent production by Cleveland Public Theater for the 50th anniversary of the burning of the Cuyahoga River. Oboist Devin Hinzo, violinist Ariel Karaś, and percussionist Mell Csicsila will join McDaniel and Kirkwood to perform the concert version of the piece.

A one-woman choir might sound like an oxymoron, but for those more technologically adventurous, like Christa “UNO Lady” Ebert, it just means grabbing a microphone, a small mixer, and a loop pedal. Harpist/composer Stephan Haluska opens the evening with his own electro-acoustic compositions blending traditional and non-traditional harp playing through extended techniques, preparation, tools, electronics, and effects pedals. Get your $7 tickets here.

Next, on Saturday, March 30 at 7:00 pm at Heights Arts in Cleveland Heights, is Patti Cudd in a presentation by No Exit. The longtime member of Minnesota-based new music ensemble Zeitgeist will present works from her 3-disc album EOS (2017), mostly made up of commissions for solo percussion and electronics. Those include Cleveland-area composer Colin Holter’s Suburb. Tickets are suggested, but they’re free.

Fans of video game music know that the recordings available on streaming services are not great, to put it mildly in some cases, and that live performances are hard to come by. Here to the rescue is Rob Kovacs, aka 88bit. The Cleveland native comes to the Bop Stop on Monday, April 1 at 7:00 pm to perform piano covers of Nintendo classics like Castlevania and Mega Man 2 as well as lesser-known titles, as he stretches the limits of traditional piano playing. Again, tickets are suggested but free.

Following in their own long tradition, Steven Smith and the Cleveland Chamber Symphony will present the “Young and Emerging Composers Concert” on Wednesday, April 3 at 7:00 pm in Gamble Auditorium at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea.

This year’s event features works by Chris Neiner (Cleveland Institute of Music), Steve Chauvette (Baldwin Wallace University), Zachariah Thomas (Bowling Green State University), Robert Hosier (Cleveland State University), Andrew Wegerski (University of Akron), Scott Little (Kent State University), Samuel Ryan Silverman (Cuyahoga Community College), and Andrew Dana (Oberlin College).

Tickets are free but required. And anyone interested in glimpsing part of the process is welcome to attend an open rehearsal on Sunday, March 31 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, also at Gamble Auditorium.


More young talent will be featured when the CIM New Music Ensemble heads to Lab Studios on Friday, April 5 at 7:30 pm. The program includes music by Andrew Norman, Stravinsky, and Berio, as well as film and visuals by Kasumi (above), and is co-produced by CIM, NEOSonicFest, and Fresh Perspectives.

The influence of the latter series can be seen in the evening-long food and beverage service and the after-hours dance party, curated by Jest Media, to celebrate the last event of the series’ inaugural season. Doors open at 6:30 pm, music begins at 7:00, and the CIM ensemble goes on at 7:30. Tickets to the concert are free, and a $5 donation (or $10 after 9:00 pm) gets you to the dance floor.

Smith and CCS will tie the bow on their 2019 NEOSonicFest on Sunday, April 7 at 5:00 pm in the Silver Hall series at the Maltz Performing Arts Center. You’ll hear works by Keith Fitch, Julia Perry, and George Walker, a longtime friend of CCS who died last year at age 96.


You’ll also see dance. Verb Ballets will premiere choreography by Michael Escovedo to a work by Margi Griebling-Haigh of the Cleveland Composers Guild, and the Cleveland School of the Arts dance department will come together in a separate collaboration with composer Gabriel Novak, a former Young and Emerging Composer winner. Tickets are free but required.

That concert marks the official end of the festival, but there’s a cherry on top: a “NEOSonicFest Extension” on Sunday, April 14 at 4:00 pm at Waterloo Arts. Flutist Sean Gabriel, percussionists Mell Csicsila and Andrew Pongracz, and pianist Randall Fusco of the Cleveland Chamber Symphony will perform locally composed works by Howard Buss, Jeffrey Quick, Lou Harrison, Daniel Dorff, and Steve Stanziano. Free tickets are suggested.

It should be a fun, exciting, and surprising ride. Let’s go.

Article originally published on clevelandclassical.com on March 25, 2019.
The full article can be found – Here


Virtuoso Percussionist Patti Cudd Comes To Cleveland For Three Unforgettable Solo Concerts

noexit at heights arts
Among the colleagues and friends No Exit has become acquainted with in the new music community, one of our most precious is the relationship we share with the members of our sister ensemble from St.Paul, Zeitgeist. Each member of that ensemble is a virtuoso performer in their own right, and in that spirit No Exit is bringing Patti Cudd, one of Zeitgeist’s amazing percussionists, to Cleveland for solo recitals on March 28th, 29th and 30th.

Patti is bringing pieces from her new album “EOS”, a three CD set of works for solo percussion and electronics; 16 of which were commissioned by and written specifically for her. While in Cleveland, Patti will be presenting six of these original works spanning the true diversity and capabilities of modern percussion repertoire.

When a performer presents a true labor of love to an audience, the result is an emotional and cognitive experience which is both engrossing and unquestionably invigorating. Patti truly loves these pieces, having lived with some of the works since her days as a student, and the results will be nothing short of spectacular.

Join No Exit in welcoming Patti’s world class musicianship to Cleveland at Appletree Books on March 28 (7PM), The Bop Stop on March 29 (8PM) and as part of NEOSonicFest at Heights Arts on March 30 (7PM).


From ClevelandClassical.com – No Exit premieres by Cleveland composers at SPACES (Feb. 16)

By Nicholas Stevens
noexit at SPACES
In a Northeast Ohio music world recently energized amid multiple anniversary seasons, ensembles have faced the challenge of honoring their histories while plunging headlong into the future. Leave it to No Exit new music ensemble, ten years young this season, to prove itself among the most forward-thinking of all. In a concert of world premieres on Saturday, February 16, the chamber collective played a program defined more by promise than by pomp.

The performance took place at SPACES, inside Johnny Coleman’s installation Crossing the Water: Requiem for Lee Howard Dobbins, named for an enslaved child lost to illness in Oberlin over a century ago. Coleman’s vision of a better fate for young Dobbins made for a haunting and radiant setting. However, Danny Volk’s nearby The News Gallery seemed a more apt answer to the No Exit performance. It confronts visitors with rejected proposals for SPACES exhibitions, reproduced on newsprint as a reminder of the contemporary art world’s galling ratio of talent to opportunity. Walking in past images of planned yet unrealized art, listeners could reflect on the importance of No Exit’s mission.

Keith Fitch’s Ruthless Voicings opened with shining, bell-like chords from Luke Rinderknecht’s vibraphone. Melodies drifted in, but as would happen often, Gunnar Owen Hirthe’s bass clarinet disrupted the tranquil texture. Hirthe’s room-rattling digressions made for some of the most forceful moments in Fitch’s beautifully conceived chamber work. At the other end of the volume spectrum, the rattling of suspended reeds amounted to a ghostly refrain.

The elegant graphic score for Chris Auerbach-Brown’s Silver Mountain appeared in the program books, and as a poster in the room. While the visual aid may have helped some follow the piece’s varied repetitions, it could hardly account for the drama of the performance. Violinist Cara Tweed, violist James Rhodes, and cellist Nicholas Diodore read the same solo from the same part, yielding melodies of distinct pitch and character. Some memorable features appeared to arise from improvisation, rather than the score.

No Exit artistic director Timothy Beyer’s She Was My Only Child shares its name and mood with a painting by Louise Pershing, which depicts a black-clad figure leaving a blood-red church as a small, ghostly form lingers behind. Bringing all of the players together to cap the concert, the piece also tied the program to the setting in a subtle but effective fashion. Flutist Sean Gabriel pulled a sort of teakettle wail from the headjoint of his instrument as textures shifted, and the excellent upper strings — violinist Cara Tweed and violist James Rhodes — created the sonic equivalent of a halo, or perhaps a more threatening aura. Later, Hirthe generated tones that sounded like the authentic vocalizations of a spirit, gurgling unintelligibly from the other side.

Sean Gabriel, playing alto flute as he would for most of the evening, stood for his solo role in Buck McDaniel’s rollicking Light Down. The carrier of the tune that inspired the composition, a grisly murder ballad called “Loving Henry,” Gabriel offered an extended stretch of murmuring melody over the disconcerting hum of a gong roll. McDaniels’ piece offered rhythmic intensity and eerie stillness alike, juxtaposing sudden violence with loving utterances.

Fresh from intermission, the ensemble made an ironclad case for Nasim Khorassani’s Sketches. Each of its seven movements corresponds with a photograph of an everyday surface. The ensemble delivered an impressive array of contrasting soundscapes in a few fleeting minutes, creating textures that pulsed, shuffled, wavered, and soared. The elements that all movements share — like the recurring bowed cymbal tone — proved still more intriguing. Proficient in the art of scoring for small ensemble, Khorassani also has a gift for the concise yet profound.

The program concluded with a work by the teacher of several composers on the program, Cleveland State University’s Greg D’Alessio. Many Doors calls back to the Jean-Paul Sartre play that lent No Exit its name, and puns on the relationship. A piece of variable movement order and duration, the work appeared as Many Doors/ No Exit this evening. Words fail to describe the seamless flow of the music from one solo passage to another, and from acoustic sound to electronics and back. Hirthe, Tweed, Diodore, and Gabriel each had a moment in the spotlight, playing over such varied material as simulated birdsong and Nine Inch Nails-style industrial beats. Even Sartre’s voice entered the fray, speaking of unresolvable contradiction.

Article originally published on ClevelandClassical.com on February 20, 2019.
The full article can be found – Here


From ClevelandClassical.com – No Exit: 5 composers, 5 premieres, part 2

By Jarrett Hoffman
noexit at SPACES
If you ask a bunch of composers how they dreamed up their latest pieces, they’ll all have something completely different to say.

That’s what I learned this past week, when I spent time on the phone with five of them to ask about their new chamber works being premiered by No Exit this weekend.

That new music ensemble, directed by Tim Beyer, will give free performances of these pieces at Heights Arts (Friday, February 15 at 7:00 pm), SPACES gallery (Saturday, February 16 at 8:00 pm), and WOLFS gallery (Friday, March 1 at 7:00 pm) in this second installment of the group’s Cleveland Composers Series.

“It’s the basis of life,” Christopher Auerbach-Brown said of the water cycle, which inspired his new work Silver Mountain. Auerbach-Brown is the Director of Public Programs at the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park. “There’s a section where things bubble and start getting exciting, and there’s a gesture that’s called the geyser where it kind of goes fwoosh!” The geyser “comes up through a mountain,” hence the title, and is followed by rain.

If that description sounds like something you could see, it’s because it is, thanks to the composer’s graphic score. “It affords me the opportunity to make a visual connection to the music, and forces the visual references into the music itself,” he said. “Plus there’s no one way to play the piece. It’s kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure rather than reading a book from beginning to end. The choices are my suggestions — I’m still kind of controlling the music, but controlling it a lot less.”

Before making a digital copy, Auerbach-Brown hand-wrote the score in ink on onion skin. “Part of that process involves measuring everything in advance — the sizes of measures, where they’re going to go on the page, and how their position reflects the piece from a visual standpoint,” he said.

Buck McDaniel, the 2018-19 Kulas Composer Fellow for Cleveland Public Theater, has been “sort of obsessed” with Missouri State University’s Max Hunter Folk Song Collection since he was a kid. “It’s great because it’ll have pretty accurate transcriptions, plus field recordings and the texts,” he said. “The nature of a lot of folk songs is that there will be ten versions of the same material, and here you can see the different traditions. It’s some very good ethnomusicology taking place.”

That Collection is where he discovered Loving Henry, a folk song about a woman who stabs and kills a man after he turns her down for another woman. (He seems to let her down pretty easy in this version, though in others, under titles like Young Hunting and Earl Richard, he tells her that a finer woman “than ten of you” is waiting for him. Bad choice.)

Working with a 1958 recording by Joan O’Bryant, McDaniel inserted an arrangement of the song into his new piece Light Down. The folk material “sort of sneaks up on you in some delicious ways,” he said.

He also had in mind what kinds of pieces No Exit likes to play — “I wanted it to be fun,” he said — as well as his experiences with Tim Beyer. “Every time you see him, he’s always telling you some terribly macabre story. He used to collect antique medical instruments, and I’m sure he still does. So I wanted to do something that would please Tim’s own sensibilities, and sort of be this abstract, dark meditation on Americana.”

The composer joked about naming the piece. “Loving Henry was originally going to be the title, but I didn’t want it sound like it was about a former lover of mine named Henry or something. My title actually comes from the first line of the song, where this female lover says, ‘Light down, light down, loving Henry,’ essentially asking him to stay with her in bed,” McDaniel said. “So it’s not about a power outage.”


Of all five pieces on the program, the most mysterious in concept might be Nasim Khorassani’s Sketches, which is based on seven visual textures. The Cleveland State University graduate, now pursuing her PhD in composition at the University of California, San Diego, explained that she started graphically sketching her music last year. “This time I had the timbre of the sound in my head, but instead of sketching it, I found it on the textures of walls and floors around my office area.”

She took photos of these textures, which gave her “more timbral information,” she said, in addition to informing the structure of the piece: at first mirroring photos that become progressively more rough in texture, then later more metallic. Khorassani noted, however, that she didn’t exclusively follow what she saw. “Sometimes I wanted to make changes musically.”

The composer said that her recent interest in combining visuals with her writing might be connected to her background in graphics, which she studied before composition. But she also just likes how photos and drawings give her something concrete to refer to. “They have a lot of information in a glance,” she said. “Instead of memorizing things, I have something saved that I can go back and review.”

Another fascinating concept surrounds Greg D’Alessio’s electroacoustic Many Doors. It’s made up of several short sections, mostly highlighting solo instruments, and the idea is that if any one of those sections were extracted to be played alone, it wouldn’t be the same, quite literally.

An example is The Secret Life of Birds, which was premiered by No Exit flutist Sean Gabriel back in 2016. That became one of this work’s episodes, but the version that will be heard as part of Many Doors has been abridged and altered.

“It’s like a mothership and these little pods that come out of it,” said D’Alessio, who teaches composition at Cleveland State. “Or like a network of related pieces that sort of feed into each other. That was the idea from the beginning, and for one reason or another it didn’t happen a few years ago, so I just did one of the solo pieces. But now I have a composite piece, and then conceivably will do another whole set of solo pieces so that you could recombine bits and pieces for whatever forces you have. It’s not like the usual concrete, freestanding piece that is just that thing and only that thing.”

D’Alessio imagines the project ideally in an electronic format. “Maybe there would be links, and you would be listening to the piece and say, ‘I want to hear more of the cello thing,’ and you could deviate into the cello space and then come back. But that’s down the road someplace, maybe.”

Many Doors honors the 10th anniversary of No Exit in a few ways, including its title, a play on the ensemble’s own name. “And I don’t know whether this stuff would stay if I made a concrete version of the piece, but for these performances I worked in some of the French production of Sartre’s No Exit from the ‘50s, and a little bit more of the playwright himself (pictured below).”


For some composers, a title comes at the very end of the writing process, almost out of desperation. But for Restless Voicings by Keith Fitch, he said, “I had that title for the last ten years, and I was waiting for the right piece. When Tim asked me to do something for No Exit’s 10th-anniversary season, I thought, this was the time to write that piece, whatever it was going to end up being.”

Fitch, who teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Music, actually keeps a list of possible titles in his studio. “I have my list that goes back to college, and now I look at them and think, oh my god, some of those are terrible!”

It’s just part of how he works. “I almost always have one or two options for a title as I’m beginning a piece,” he said. “Because for me, it’s one of the first windows into the piece. We go to a concert and we see a title, and whether it’s poetic or evocative or compelling, that’s our first entrée into the piece — assuming it’s not something abstract, like String Quartet No. 4. So it’s hard for me personally to write a piece without having an idea of what that first encounter with it will be. But I have students and lots of composer friends who just struggle and struggle and struggle with titles. They write the piece and then they never know what they’re going to call it. I’m just very different that way.”

This title popped into Fitch’s head over a decade ago — not when he was up late at night philosophizing about the universe, as we might imagine composers do, but simply when he misheard something during a car ride.

“I was teaching at Bard, and Joan Tower and her husband Jeff were driving me to the train station to go back to New York. Jeff was taking jazz piano lessons at the time. He was talking about his lesson that day, and he said, ‘Rootless voicings,’ which is basically when you’re harmonizing the melody, but there’s no root of the chord — like Bill Evans’ voicings. But I misheard it as ‘Ruthless Voicings’ and I thought, ‘That’s a great title for a piece. Now I just have to figure out what the piece is going to be.’”

Article originally published on clevelandclassical.com on February 12, 2019.
The full article can be found – Here


Composer Greg D’Alessio Creates Epic Work for No Exit

noexit at heights arts
In 2016 Cleveland composer Greg D’Alessio composed “The Secret Life of Birds” for No Exit and flutist Sean Gabriel. It was an engaging and evocative work dripping with avian color, and truly crafted by a master. Here is the recording of the premiere performance by Sean Gabriel from September of 2016.

Though the piece seemed complete as a flute solo, Greg made it clear it was part of a much larger and more involved work. Now on Part 2 of No Exit’s Cleveland Composers series, Greg’s entire epic work “Many Doors” will have its premiere along with imaginative world premieres by Keith Fitch, Nasim Khorassani, Chris Auerbach Brown, and Buck McDaniel. It will be a night of musical expression not to be missed.


From HeightsObsever.org – Bridging mediums to further the arts

By Laura King
noexit at SPACES
The new-music ensemble No Exit will perform at Heights Arts, 2175 Lee Road, on Friday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. In recent years, No Exit has appeared frequently at the gallery, so it can be easy to forget that two decades ago, neither organization existed at all.

In 1999, participants in a Cleveland Heights civic visioning process identified the potential of the arts to positively impact the community. Soon after, the nonprofit Heights Arts was formed by a group of residents intent on tapping that resource. Two decades later, strategic collaborations, such as the one between Heights Arts and the No Exit, have enhanced the regional arts scene and invigorated the community.

When Heights Arts executive director Rachel Bernstein, a classical cellist and teacher, succeeded founding director Peggy Spaeth in 2013, she envisioned that the newly expanded gallery space could become a known destination for both visual art and music. Bernstein recognized that having a grand piano permanently on-site would help that cause, and the gallery soon acquired one with the assistance of a generous benefactor and No Exit pianist Nicholas Underhill. With the piano as a practical and symbolic bridge between the visual arts and music, a close working relationship blossomed between Heights Arts and No Exit, grounded in a shared philosophy of making art accessible to everyone.

“Our collaboration with No Exit and its musicians has grown over the past years into a friendship between like-minded people with very similar missions,” said Bernstein. “We all together strive to make the arts freely accessible to the community and to offer high-quality programming featuring local artists. No Exit helps us fulfill a mission to bring different types of music to the public—in this case, challenging the status quo about what classical music is. Our partnering is perfect, as a No Exit concert at Height Arts draws in new audiences and provides a stimulating, satisfying experience for all.”

No Exit Artistic Director Timothy Beyer affirms the benefits of the symbiotic relationship: “Partnerships like the one that has developed between No Exit and Heights Arts are foundational for a vital arts community to really thrive. In a typical classical music concert hall, there is always a barrier of space, of formality, of distance. The casual and intimate setting of Heights Arts does away with that stuffiness and allows listeners to connect fully. They experience the musicians and the avant-garde musical performance viscerally and on a very personal level. As a result, with each concert we hold at Heights Arts, our audience keeps growing, diversifying and becoming more engaged. We are extremely grateful that we share with Heights Arts a philosophy and dedication to making high-quality meaningful art accessible to the general public.”

No Exit’s Feb. 15 concert at Heights Arts is titled Cleveland Composers Series II, and will feature five world-premiere works by local composers Keith Fitch, Buck McDaniel, Christopher Auerbach-Brown, Nasim Khourassani, and Greg D’Alessio. All compositions are new and were commissioned by No Exit.

As with all No Exit performances, the concert is free, friendly, and open to the public.

Article originally published on heightsobserver.org on February 1, 2019.
The full article can be found – Here


From ClevelandClassical.com – No Exit with Patchwork at SPACES

By Nicholas Stevens
noexit at SPACES
Music fans tend to look back fondly on the moments when love took root. Rarer, and less often commented on, are the occasions when a concert or first listen sticks in the mind because it rekindles, rather than sparks, a passion for a particular style, genre, or format. For lovers of fresh, provocative, enchanting new chamber music, No Exit new music ensemble’s December 14 performance with Patchwork at SPACES offered a reintroduction to the fundamental appeal of the art and its scene. Listeners heard eleven expert performers render five world premieres, all within the bright intimacy of four art-lined gallery walls.

Directness of expression reigned throughout the evening, starting with the cozy oval of seats: performers on one side, audience opposite. Assistant director James Praznik jolted listeners to attention with Screaming Songs, his own composition. Designed to “wring vocal expressions” from all-instrumental forces, the piece succeeded: saxophonist Noa Even and bass clarinetist Gunnar Owen Hirthe achieved humanlike sounds. However, even non-wind players, such as cellist Nicholas Diodore and drummer Stephen Klunk, stretched known techniques in pursuit of the quasi-vocal. Some music calls attention to its own artifice with its clear sections and melodic play. Not this piece, which felt organic and alive, voicing its own growing pains.

Ty Emerson’s Darkling, I Listen, inspired by Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale, resembled a single painted brushstroke on an otherwise blank canvas. Variable in thickness, color, and height, drawn against silence and always threatening to run out, the line of sound appeared most fragile when Nicholas Underhill’s piano and David Luidens’s glockenspiel splattered above. Hong-Da Chin’s …the arc of a tear… zoomed in on the titular gesture of sorrow and replayed it over and over, from a new angle each time. The opposite of Praznik’s piece, it makes both local and long-term processes plainly audible. In concert, it proved absorbing and, at moments, shocking.

Although many readers might choose Screaming Songs as a soundtrack for their daily news consumption, they might consider Colin Holter’s smart, striking Pallor instead. A reflection on everyday social realities that gradually grow too grating to ignore — such as traditional notions of white identity in the U.S., “increasingly and troublingly loud” in Holter’s self-aware phrasing — the piece asks audiences for patience. After several minutes’ worth of periodic shh sounds from a laptop that underpin calm, interlocking woodwind lines, one wonders: is this getting louder? The question felt like a distant memory by the time the performance reached its raucous climax, complete with the rubbing and beating of a snare drum head with a brick of Styrofoam. By the end, one truly does question how we all got to this point, musically as well as politically, without noticing.

No Exit artistic director Timothy Beyer’s She Was My Only Child shares its name and mood with a painting by Louise Pershing, which depicts a black-clad figure leaving a blood-red church as a small, ghostly form lingers behind. Bringing all of the players together to cap the concert, the piece also tied the program to the setting in a subtle but effective fashion. Flutist Sean Gabriel pulled a sort of teakettle wail from the headjoint of his instrument as textures shifted, and the excellent upper strings — violinist Cara Tweed and violist James Rhodes — created the sonic equivalent of a halo, or perhaps a more threatening aura. Later, Hirthe generated tones that sounded like the authentic vocalizations of a spirit, gurgling unintelligibly from the other side.

Article originally published on ClevelandClassical.com on January 2, 2019.
The full article can be found – Here


From ClevelandClassical.com – No Exit: Cleveland Composers Series

By Mike Telin
noexit at heights arts
Since its founding, the inimitable new music ensemble No Exit has regularly given a voice to area composers, and the ensemble will continue that tradition with its upcoming Cleveland Composers Series. The program spotlights five new works by composers who are recognized for their singular and distinctive voices.

On Friday, November 30 at 8:00 pm at Cleveland State University’s Drinko Hall, No Exit will be joined by special guest Patchwork Duo — Noa Even, saxophone, and Stephen Klunk, drum set. The evening will include works by James Praznik, Colin Holter, Hong-Da Chin, Ty Emerson, and Timothy Beyer. The program will be repeated on Saturday, December 8 at 3:00 pm at the Bop Stop and Friday, December 14 at 8:00 pm at SPACES. As always, the concerts are free.

“For a long time, composers have sought inspiration from finding connections between music and other mediums of art,” No Exit artistic director Timothy Beyer said during a telephone conversation. “This series of concerts features a few works that fit that bill.”

Beyer pointed out that the impetus for Chin’s The Arc of a Tear is a poem by 20th-century Chinese poet Gu Cheng. He said that Emerson’s Darkling, I Listen was inspired by — and uses text from — Ode to a Nightingale by English Romantic poet John Keats. Beyer’s own work, She Was My Only Child, takes both its namesake and subject matter from a 1946 painting by Pittsburgh-based artist Louise Pershing.

He called the other two works on the program spellbinding. “Praznik’s Screaming Songs delves into the notion of virtuosity in a unique and rewarding way, while Holter’s Pallor deftly explores a new sonic landscape, combining electronic sounds with live acoustics.”

How did Beyer discover Louise Pershing? “I stumbled upon her,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in the fine arts, and especially works by regional artists. They are often first-rate, but don’t always get a lot of attention from outside the their home base. I do think that in Pittsburgh, Louise is a name to be reckoned with in that period and style.”


Beyer noted that his 12-minute piece is not meant to be a literal depiction of Pershing’s work. “The painting is stunning,” he said. “It’s clearly about the loss of life, and She Was My Only Child is simply inspired by it.”

During a separate conversation, James Praznik said that the idea for Screaming Songs came about while he was reflecting on past musical experiences he thought were beautiful.

“Many years ago, I was part of an improvisational piano and saxophone duo, and we would accompany silent films. The sax player had only been playing the instrument for about two months when we started the project, so he invented his own way of playing. It was an interesting juxtaposition between me with a solid foundation and him playing his instrument in an unusual way. He would scream into it, use multiphonic fingerings — all sorts of things.”

Praznik said that he remembered thinking how much fun that project was. He also realized that he had included some of those elements in pieces he had written over the past several years. “I thought for this piece, since we’re teaming up with Patchwork, what could I do to capture this idea of what brings me the most joy? I could write a piece where all of the gestures from the instruments are representations of extreme register effects. And find a way so that each person has to reinvent their own idea of virtuosity and find this unusual voice throughout the piece.”


How does Praznik define virtuosity? “I think that virtuosity is synonymous with freedom — the freedom to express anything to the fullest extent that one can. It’s also the idea that we can express something about who we are from having spent so much time with an instrument.”

Praznik said that he has enjoyed writing for saxophone, something he has not done for a long time. Has he written for drum set? “No, never. The closest I got is that I was a percussionist during my formative years — school bands and orchestras don’t usually have a big need for a pianist. When I’ve arranged some jazz pieces for No Exit, I’ve included drum set, but I would just give instructions. This is my first classically-notated piece.”

Since Praznik is an original member of No Exit — as is most of the ensemble — I asked him how it feels to be celebrating the group’s tenth anniversary.

“The best way for me to sum it up — this goes back to the time when we were still only a piano quartet, and we took a trip to Prague to play at the Dvořák House. At that time I was thinking about how players come and go in other ensembles. I would ask Tim about that. He has always been of the opinion that he should treat the group like we are a family. And I feel that everyone has an equal say in everything that goes on. We all really care about each other, and I think that has created an atmosphere where people just want to stay and be a part of it.”

Article originally published on ClevelandClassical.com on November 27, 2018.
The full article can be found – Here


From ClevelandClassical.com – No Exit begins tenth anniversary season with trio of concerts and collaborations

By Mike Telin
noexit at heights arts
2018-19 marks the tenth anniversary of the always creative new music ensemble No Exit. And they will begin their season later this week by once again sharing a stage with Minneapolis-based Zeitgeist. “I’m just thrilled that they will be joining us for these opening three concerts,” No Exit Artistic Director Timothy Beyer said during a telephone interview. “They are they an absolutely amazing new music ensemble but they’re also great collaborators — they always bring something wonderful to the table.”

The first concert on Friday, September 14 at 8:00 pm at SPACES will include world premieres by Christopher Goddard and Cleveland-based composer Ty Emerson. The program will also feature music by Joshua Rosner, Philip Blackburn, Jerome Kitzke, and Julius Eastman.

The two ensembles will move to WOLFS on Saturday the 15th. The 8:00 pm program will again feature works by Goddard, Emerson, and Blackburn. Rounding out the evening will be Frederic Rzewski’s Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues and the world premiere of North Star by Minnesotan Alexis Lamb.

The final concert on Monday the 17th in Drinko Hall at Cleveland State University will see the world premieres of Andrew Rindfleisch’s American Monster for Sinfonietta and Greg D’Alessio’s Running with the Devil for video/audio media. The program will conclude with Frederic Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated! The program is part of CSU’s Cleveland Contemporary Players Artist in Residence Series.

“Andrew Rindfleisch’s piece is going to be huge,” Beyer said. “It will feature No Exit, Zeitgeist, Ars Futura, Transient Canvas, and other performers — twenty musicians in all.”

“Needless to say, we’re currently experiencing a time of great turmoil and tumult in this country. People on both sides of the fence feel that their idea of America is being threatened. I know that many composers and ensembles feel like they should stay clear of taking a side, professionally speaking that is. But we at No Exit are really pleased that we can in some way play a part in giving voice to artists like Rindfleisch and D’Alessio. I think that it’s important — dare I say, American.”

I spoke to Andrew Rindfleisch by telephone and began our conversation by asking him how he was able to bring together all of the ensembles.

Andrew Rindfleisch: I had a professional relationship with Zeitgeist in Minneapolis for many years, and went to one of their collaborations with No Exit as an audience member. I was talking to Heather Barringer, one of the directors of Zeitgeist, and they commissioned me to write a new piece. She said she was interested in one that had political overtones, and would address the current state of affairs. When I began to think about it, I knew that I would need a bigger ensemble, so I thought, No Exit and Zeitgeist collaborate all the time — let’s do that. I also thought that with Ars Futura here in Cleveland, they could join us, as could Transient Canvas from Boston.

Kerrith Livengood originally wrote Show as a solo for tenor saxophone, and Hirthe planned to play a version for bass clarinet at New Music On the Point last summer. But some of the work’s technical demands — plus the wacky weather at the festival taking a toll on Hirthe’s bass — led him to premiere the clarinet version instead, which he’ll play again on Friday.

Mike Telin: What made you decide to program the Rzewski?

AR: I talked to Tim Beyer and we thought that if we’re going to have a quasi-political theme, we may as well do the greatest political piece which is Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated!

It will add a bit of history to the concert and it’s still a relevant work and is significant to the piano repertoire. It’s always nice to have a piece like that on the program, especially if it’s by a living composer — there aren’t that many monumental pieces by living composers. So it is the perfect centerpiece for the concert.

MT: And you’re bringing in Geoffrey Burleson to perform it.

AR: Geoffrey and I go way back to Boston in the ‘80s. He’s just a great new music pianist and very versatile in both jazz and classical repertoire. I worked with him all through the ‘90s on many projects. Whenever I get a chance to work with him I love to do it.

MT: Tell me about American Monster.

AR: It’s in seven movements and it’s happily an unusual instrumentation including four pianos and four percussionists. It is a reflection on the current American political landscape, and my perceptions of it as an unapologetically grotesque and corrupt enterprise. The movement titles reflect different aspects of the scene although I don’t mention anybody’s name. The middle movement is satirical and the finale is more serious reflection.

I have written some politically motivated pieces in the past that have been inspired by events that are specific to this time, but not confined to it. They could apply to any authoritarian or quasi-authoritarian world somewhere. I have never used names.

MT: Have you composed political pieces in the past?

AR: I have. Most have been real satire, but this piece is more serious. From my perspective, it’s hard to make fun of what is going on right now, whereas six years ago it was easier to make fun of this or that.

The movement titles of American Monster are:

1) An Immoral Stench Wins the Day

2) The Largest Crowds in the History of the Universe
3) March of the Cowardly Sycophants

4) Interlude: Reminiscence

5) Cruelty is Fun!
6) Supporters, Friends and Loyalists: Racists, Bigots, Homophobes, Neo-Nazis, Fox News, Regular Nazis, White Supremacists, Traitors, Right-Wing Radio Hosts, the National Rifle Association, Islamophobes, Neo-Confederates, the Ku Klux Klan, White Nationalists, the Republican Party, Evangelical Christians, the National Football League, Anti- Anti-Semites, Murderous Dictators, Authoritarian Governments, and Various Xenophobes
7) Enemies: Everyone Else

Article originally published on ClevelandClassical.com on September 11, 2018.
The full article can be found – Here


Andrew Rindfleisch’s “American Monster” Is Just The Latest Part of His Body of Political Pieces

noexit at heights arts
When considering concepts and messages for his new works, composer Andrew Rindfleisch takes considerations beyond academic discourse and engages with one of his most beloved passions: The United States of America and everything it historically represents. In this era of the “24 hour news cycle” Andy is creating pieces that both humorously and satirically push listeners to rethink cultural currents and intense movements.

Andy’s first work that can overtly be called a political song is the satirical “Conservatives United”. It gives a shocking account from the perspective of an extreme right-wing American in a jovial style reminiscent of humorist Mark Russell. The musical materials are extremely polished, the lyrics completely unfiltered. A true stream of consciousness from the most extreme parts of American thought.

Never being completely content with making a statement in just one style Andy followed with a second more improvisatory work, with the help of Steve Baczkowski on Saxophone, Jeff McLeod on Guitar and Matt Felski on Drums, called “I Saw it on Fox News”. This work, which takes its texts directly from “Fox News” commentators, is much more personal. “I Saw It On Fox News” reflects Andy’s feeling watching “Fox News” and becoming agitated in the process. It is an interesting irony that the ire expressed in this work functions as both the intended effect of the alarmist news network and as a residual effect on the passive rational viewer.

These political pieces are not exclusively studio works. More recently Andy created a work for solo bass clarinet, written for virtuoso Pat O’Keefe, composed in response to the personalities present in the Republican debate of 2016. It is clear what the composer intends to impart to an audience with a title like “The Lunatic”.

Andy’s most recent work “American Monster” is a tour de force featuring his most monstrous ensemble and most deeply important message. Come here the premiere on September 17th at Drinko Recital Hall when No Exit teams up with Zeitgeist (Minnesota), Ars Futura (Cleveland), Transient Canvas (Boston), pianist Geoffrey Burleson and others to create an immersive and important night of music.


Wolf’s Gallery Presents A Stunning Exhibition that Flaunts Cleveland Culture

noexit at heights arts
One of the truly amazing venues that No Exit has performed in is Wolfs Gallery. It is a rather unique and special place filled with some extraordinary art. In the coming weeks, the gallery will present an exhibition which places in the limelight an important part of this city’s artistic legacy, The Cleveland School artists. Here’s a little about that:

This stunning display of over 150 works of art and design was conceived as a celebration of the Cleveland School and their important role within our city’s longstanding tradition of artistic excellence. As a not-for-profit exhibition, Cleveland: A Cultural Center is the first of its kind for WOLFS. The vast majority of exhibited works have been graciously loaned from private collections.

Cleveland: A Cultural Center will be on view at WOLFS from July 12th through August 31st, 2018. For more information visit The Wolf’s Gallery Website


No Exit Records Christopher Goddard’s “trope (en)trop” for Their Upcoming Album

noexit at heights arts

This summer marks the beginning of No Exit’s first major recording project; an album of some of our favorite pieces written for the group. During our first session we recorded Christopher Stark’s beautiful and evocative “By the Sea”, and here are some stills from our recording of Christopher Goddard’s “trope (en)trop” at Cleveland State University with Grammy winning engineer David Yost.
Wade Art1

Wade Art 3

Wade Art 3

We can’t wait to share more information as this exciting album project continues throughout the year!


From ClevelandClassical.com – No Exit: a clarinet and five flutes at Appletree Books on June 15

By Jarrett Hoffman
noexit at heights arts
Clarinetist Gunnar Owen Hirthe + flutist Hong-Da Chin = quite the duo.

Combining Chinese traditional music with contemporary repertoire, their upcoming concert — presented by No Exit on Friday, June 15 at 7:00 pm at Appletree Books — will include three duets (one of them by Hong-Da), six solo works, and six instruments (the two likely suspects, in addition to four Chinese flutes).

Let’s start with the bookends of the program. Giacinto Scelsi’s Ko-Lho and David Liptak’s Duo meld together the sounds of the clarinet and Western flute to fascinating effect, treating the instruments almost like conjoined twins.

Hearing an all-Scelsi program at Bowling Green State University is what first drew Hirthe to that composer. “I was really struck by how simple and powerful his music is,” the No Exit clarinetist, Flint Institute of Music faculty member, and BGSU doctoral candidate said during a recent telephone conversation.

How does Hirthe deal with the challenging multiphonics in Ko-Lho? “So much of it is how you use your air and shape your mouth. That way of playing isn’t conducive to ‘good’ clarinet playing — you have to give up a few things in order to do it well.”

Though similar to the Scelsi, Liptak’s Duo really occupies a different universe. “I think it brings in that traditional flute-clarinet world, but it’s also something that people aren’t necessarily used to hearing,” Hirthe said.

Listen to even ten seconds of Ken Ueno’s solo clarinet work I screamed at the sea until nodes swelled up, then my voice became the resonant noise of the sea, and the title will start to make sense.

“With pieces like that, I always find that you just have to let yourself go,” Hirthe said. “Again, don’t think about ‘good’ clarinet playing. Don’t think about the sound — just get yourself into the piece: what does it mean to be in front of the ocean and experience that loudness but also oneness?”

Kerrith Livengood originally wrote Show as a solo for tenor saxophone, and Hirthe planned to play a version for bass clarinet at New Music On the Point last summer. But some of the work’s technical demands — plus the wacky weather at the festival taking a toll on Hirthe’s bass — led him to premiere the clarinet version instead, which he’ll play again on Friday.


I phoned Hong-Da Chin to talk about the other alluring side of this program: the solos for Chinese flute, plus his own duo. An accomplished composer (Young and Emerging Composer Award at NEOSonicFest) and flutist (having appeared at Carnegie and Alice Tully Halls), he recently graduated from Bowling Green’s DMA program, and will join the faculty at Western Illinois University as Assistant Professor in Music Theory/Composition this fall.

We began our conversation by discussing the traditional New Shepherd Song, which “describes the vastness of the prairie in inner Mongolia,” he said. Listen for the imitations of horses galloping and neighing.

He’ll play that work on the dizi, a bamboo flute that is played transversely (horizontally). The instrument has six finger holes and no keys, so chromatic playing requires “half-hole” fingerings, where the player covers a hole only partially.

“One advantage is that you are able to play glisses very easily, unlike the Western flute,” Hong-Da said. “The disadvantage is that you need to have very good ears to play chromaticism in tune. Everything is a half-hole, and sometimes it’s not exactly half — you just have to listen to it, like with the recorder.”

Two other keyless, bamboo flutes are the xiao (which he’ll play for The Remaining Snow in the Cold River) and the bawu (for The Fisherman’s Song). The ancestor of the shakuhachi, the xiao is played vertically like a recorder, and has a mouthpiece shaped like the letter U.

The mouthpiece of the bawu, on the other hand, is a piece of reed like that of a mouth organ, such as a harmonica. “You have to cover the entire mouthpiece, and then when you blow air into it, the reed will vibrate,” Hong-Da said. Both the bawu and the xun, which Hong-Da described as the Chinese ocarina, can only play a single octave. “The xun is made of clay and looks like an egg with eight finger holes,” the flutist said.

The sound of the xun resembles a human voice, making it a compelling match for Three Variations at Gate Yang, an ancient farewell tune about leaving China through that gate. “There was no guarantee you would be back because it was very dangerous out there — you had the desert, and the tribes that were hostile against the Chinese,” Hong-Da said.

We closed our conversation discussing his duo One Gallon of Tears, which premiered last month at the University of Maryland in its original version for two Western flutes.

“It’s written in memory of the 239 victims of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which went missing on March 8, 2014,” Hong-Da said, recalling the figures without hesitation. “The plane still hasn’t been found. And since I’m Malaysian, this incident means a lot to me. It was a dark day for Malaysians, and for the Chinese and everyone else on the plane.” The piece is made up of microtonal, descending figures. “Those lines are like tears flowing down one’s cheek,” the composer said.

Article originally published on ClevelandClassical.com on June 12, 2018.
The full article can be found – Here


A Glimpse of No Exit’s Duo Concert of Contemporary Repertoire and Traditional Chinese Music

Our upcoming concert, featuring the duo of No Exit’s clarinetist Gunnar Owen Hirthe and virtuoso flutist and composer Hong-Da Chin, is certain to be an exciting and engaging evening of music. Though most of our audience are familiar with the types of contemporary repertoire we present, it is exciting to point out that Hong-Da will be presenting traditional Chinese music in addition to 21st century literature.

For a taste of Hong-Da’s amazing virtuosity on traditional instruments, here is a video of Hong-Da performing his piece “A Withered Sunflower with Uneven Legs” for Chinese Flute and 14 Musicians with the CCM Orchestra at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music.

Be sure to join Gunnar and Hong-Da at Appletree Books on Friday, June 15 at 7 PM for an engrossing performance full of surprises.


From ClevelandClassical.com – No Exit’s Nicholas Underhill: solo piano at Heights Arts (June 2)

By Alice Koeninger
noexit at heights arts

Nicholas Underhill’s solo piano recital at Heights Arts on Saturday, June 2 featured a complex program by 20th- and 21st-century composers who seemed to be attempting to dismantle tonality. A member of No Exit, Underhill played eight compositions that he worked on for over a year. The concert was part of the ensemble’s summer series.

The gallery setting was small and intimate, with the piano situated in front of the art as if on display. This casual atmosphere gave the music a more accessible feeling despite its cerebral nature — almost as if it could be purchased and taken home like the art on the surrounding walls.

The modern quality of the concert was felt not only in the music but in the setting and the fact that Underhill was playing from an iPad. The pianist made the audience feel involved as he informed us about every selection — though it wasn’t difficult to hear common elements of dissonance, arhythmic phrases, and atonal masses of notes throughout. He said that the program included some of his favorite works: Copland’s Piano Variations (1930), and selections from Gary Philo’s Five Impromptus (2016) and David Leisner’s Labyrinths II (2009).

Underhill began with The Dark Net, one of his own pieces from 2016. Before taking the bench, he described the work as “vampire music,” meant to be “dark and mysterious” as the title suggests. It begins with spiraling, swirling notes, anchored by a few warm chords. Underhill’s phrases were evenly accented, remaining at a fairly steady tempo and resonant volume throughout. Amidst the whirl of notes a theme emerges, twirling up the keyboard to rest on two high notes that end the piece.

Next was Iannis Xenakis’ Mists (1980), which Underhill described as “one of the most intellectually complicated pieces written” because of the complex grid used to compose it. As the title says, the work is meant to evoke mists rolling across the water in an impressionistic manner similar to that of Ravel. While the harsh notes rapidly scrambling up the keyboard demand attention, they were at times too bright to feel like a haze. However, the rolling lines have a purposefully random quality that draws the listener in and holds one’s interest for all 12 minutes of the piece.

Though the evening was not meant for easy listening, Underhill did sprinkle some more melodic and agreeable compositions into the program to disrupt the maniacal atonality of works such as Wild Men’s Dance (1913) by Leo Ornstein. Underhill described Morton Feldman’s Piano Piece (1956) as getting a fortune cookie when you were expecting a four-course meal at a Chinese restaurant. The metaphor, although not complimentary towards Feldman, was accurate in depicting the hesitant notes and deliberate pauses that made it feel like an amuse-bouche easing the audience back into listening.

Frederic Rzewski’s Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues (1979) is meant as a tribute to the working class, as demonstrated in the rapid low notes, reminiscent of a machine, becoming thicker in texture as notes are added. A four-chord blues progression becomes more prominent as the piece goes on, but then dissolves into loud chords. Underhill kept the underlying rhythm steady despite its fast repetition, and his hand crossings added to the drama. The physical exertion required to perform the work was evident when he stood up to bow, breathing heavily.

Underhill ended the evening with a bright, humorous encore “in honor of my kitty cat, Nibbles.” Kitten on the Keys by Zez Confrey showcased his talent, his appreciation of ragtime, and his sense of humor all at once. The energy during the second half of the concert was infectious, and the audience clearly enjoyed the encore, as well as the evening as a whole.

Article originally published on ClevelandClassical.com on June 4, 2018.
The full article can be found – Here


From ClevelandClassical.com – No Exit and Patchwork to become “partners in crime”

By Mike Telin
noexit at heights arts

On Friday, April 27 at SPACES, the adventuresome new music ensemble No Exit and the pioneering saxophone and drum set duo Patchwork (left) will celebrate spring with an evening of premieres. The concert will include works by Derrik Balogh, Victoria Cheah, Osnat Netzer, Christopher Stark, and Evan Ziporyn. The program will be repeated on Monday, April 30 at Cleveland State University’s Drinko Auditorium and on Saturday, May 5 at Heights Arts. All three concerts begin at 8:00 pm and are free of charge.

“We’re excited to be able to premiere Christopher Stark’s Ved sjøen (‘By the Sea’),” No Exit artistic director Timothy Beyer said by telephone. “It’s an evocative rumination inspired by the time he recently spent living in Norway. He’s phenomenal and in my mind, one of those composers that everyone should know. I met Chris many years ago when we were both composers in residence at a festival in Salt Lake City. We hit it off, and we’re honored and pleased that he wrote something for us.”

Beyer said No Exit will also be reviving one of the first pieces that the group commissioned, Derrik Balogh’s “gorgeous and immersive” string trio, Fantasie: si tu veux. “We loved it back then and have been wanting to have a chance to do it again. Derek is a Cleveland State alum and he currently works at American Greetings composing music for their cards.”

Also featured will be two pieces by clarinetist/composer Evan Ziporyn: Tsmindao Ghmerto, a work which calls on the musician to play clarinet while simultaneously singing, and Four Impersonations, which incorporates elements of Balinese, Japanese, and East African music.

Beyer added that Victoria Cheah’s We waited for each other on aim “creates a curious and compelling soundscape for the listener to inhabit.”

The director said that No Exit is happy to be “partners in crime,” with Patchwork (Noa Even, saxophone, and Stephen Klunk, drum set). Patchwork will give the world premiere of Israeli-born composer Osnat Netzer’s Zwang und Zweifel, which Beyer described as “a visceral, internal world of conflict and chaos.”

In her composer notes, Netzer writes:

Zweifel means ‘doubt’ in German. Zwang is much more difficult to translate to English. It can mean compulsion, coercion, constraint, pressure, obligation, restraint and force. My piece Zwang und Zweifel explores the inner tumult that happens when one tries to live with a choice between two options, both of which threaten to tear body and mind to shreds. Musically, this is reflected in the musical materials (body) attempting to devolve into chaos and mayhem, while the musical syntax (mind) is rigidly and strictly trying to constrain and control them.

In a separate interview, Noa Even said that Plunk had performed a marimba work by Netzer during his undergraduate studies at BGSU. “Then we met her at a saxophone conference in 2012. She’s based in Boston and teaches at a few schools, including Harvard. It’s funny because she knew my dad, who sings with a group of Israelis every couple of weeks — Osnat played piano for them. So it’s a strange Boston/Israeli connection.”

Even said that since that meeting, she and Plunk kept the composer in mind as someone they’d want to work with in the future. “Osnat came to Cleveland last summer and worked with us for three days, which was an ideal situation because she wanted Steve and I to find the sounds that we like to create. She basically had a sketch of the piece by the time that she left. It’s nine and a half minutes and full of complex rhythmic changes — Stephen made a click track for us to practice with because it is very complicated getting in and out of the rhythms. But there are also sections that are either quiet and intimate, or chaotic. We think people will like it.”

Article originally published on ClevelandClassical.com on April 24, 2018.
The full article can be found – Here


From ClevelandClassical.com – NEOSonicFest 2018 to present five concerts April 5 through 11

By Mike Telin,
noexit at heights arts

Since 2014, the Grammy Award-winning Cleveland Chamber Symphony has sponsored NEOSonicFest, a festival of new music performed by musicians from Northeast Ohio and beyond. The 2018 festival will run from April 5 through 11 (see below for concert dates and times).

Clarinetist Carol Robinson and trumpeter Nate Wooley will kick things off by performing selections from Éliane Radigue’s Occam Ocean on April 5 at MOCA. The composer describes her work as “an ongoing acoustic work with influences ranging from electromagnetic waves, to William of Ockham’s philosophies, to science fiction mythologies.”

The always creative No Exit will return to the Festival on April 6 at Heights Arts. The ensemble was founded by composer Timothy Beyer as an outlet for the commissioning and performance of contemporary avant-garde concert music. No Exit is committed to promoting the works of living composers, particularly the music of young and emerging artists who haven’t yet received either the opportunities or exposure of their better-known counterparts. (Works by Leo Ornstein, Ty Emerson, Per Nørgård, James Praznik, Andrew Rindfleisch & Tristan Murail).

On April 7 at 7:00 pm at the Bop Stop, Keith Fitch and his outstanding CIM New Music Ensemble will make their first appearance on the Festival. The program will feature David Rakowski’s Breakdown and Préludes for Piano, Stephen Hartke’s Oh Them Rats Is Mean In My Kitchen, and Fitch’s The Range of Light.

Also returning to the Festival is the Cleveland Composers Guild. On April 8 at Judson Manor, the venerable organization will team up with the Syndicate for the New Arts for a program titled “Small Pieces | Big Impressions,” featuring seven-minute compositions by Guild members to be performed by violinist Dana Johnson, cellist Wesley Hornpetrie, and pianist Annie Jeng. The program will include Jennifer Connor’s Sevenwaters, Colin Holter’s red river of the north, Jeffrey Quick’s Piano Trio II, “Experience,” Ryan Charles Ramer’s I Have Wasted This Life And Would Waste Any Other, Robert Rollin’s Rhapsody on Themes by Rachmaninoff, Fuga, Dolores White’s Trio Tango, James Wilding’s Preludes, and Jiří Trtík’s Improvisation No. 30 (After Kandinsky).

The Festival will wrap up on April 11 when conductor Steven Smith leads the Cleveland Chamber Symphony in the annual Young and Emerging Composers Concert at BW’s Gamble Auditorium. As always, the concert will highlight music by the area’s top student composers. This year’s roster includes Nabil Abad (Baldwin Wallace University), Emilio José González (Bowling Green University), Jiří Trtík (Cleveland Institute of Music), Davison Yon (Cleveland State University), Benjamin Grove (Kent State University), Soomin Kim (Oberlin Conservatory), Samuel Ryan Silverman (Cuyahoga Community College), and Cody Ray (University of Akron).


NEOSonic Festival performances are free unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, April 5 at 7:30 pm
Carol Robinson, clarinet and Nate Wooley, trumpet
Music by Éliane Radigue
Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA)
11400 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland
Purchase tickets here

Friday, April 6 at 8:00 pm
No Exit
Program to be announced
Heights Arts, 2175 Lee Avenue, Cleveland Heights

Saturday, April 7 at 7:00 pm
Cleveland Institute of Music New Music Ensemble, Keith Fitch director
Music by David Rakowski, Stephen Hartke, and Keith Fitch
Bop Stop, 2920 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland

Sunday, April 8 at 7:00 pm
Cleveland Composers Guild and the Syndicate for the New Arts
Music by Jennifer Connor, Colin Holter, Jeffrey Quick, Ryan Charles Ramer, Robert Rollin, Dolores White, James Wilding, and Jiří Trtík
Judson Manor, 1890 East 107th Street, Cleveland

Wednesday April 11 at 7:00 pm
Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Steven Smith director
Young and Emerging Composers Concert
Music by Nabil Abad, Emilio José González, Jiří Trtík, Davison Yon, Benjamin Grove, Soomin Kim, Samuel Ryan Silverman, and Cody Ray
Gamble Auditorium, 96 Front Street, Berea

Article originally published on ClevelandClassical.com on March 27, 2018.
The full article can be found – Here

Cleveland Orchestra Trumpet Virtuoso Jack Sutte Joins No Exit for Trumpet Fanfares at NEOSonicFest

For our performances as part of NEOSonicFest V on April 6th and 8th we are proud to be presenting a special set of trumpet fanfares composed by Cleveland composers Andrew Rindfleisch and James Praznik. To help us realize these pieces, No Exit is joined by special guest trumpet virtuosi Scott McKee, one of our frequent collaborators, and Jack Sutte, second trumpet of The Cleveland Orchestra.

Here is Jack’s bio from the Cleveland Orchestra website:

Jack Sutte joined The Cleveland Orchestra as second trumpet in 1999. Prior to his Cleveland appointment, he was the principal trumpet in the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in Norway. A native of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, he attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he earned a bachelor of music degree, and the Juilliard School in New York City, where he earned a master of music degree. He studied with Frank Kaderabek at Curtis, Raymond Mase at Juilliard, and Chris Gekker at the Aspen Festival. Mr. Sutte has performed as soloist with The Cleveland Orchestra with principal trumpet Michael Sachs, as well as with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the New World Symphony, and the Haddonfield Symphony. He made his international solo debut in Argentina in 1995. Mr. Sutte is a lecturer of trumpet at the Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music, and has taught at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music.

Mr. Sutte lives in Euclid, Ohio, with his wife, Audra Zarlenga, their children, Maya and Louis, and four dogs. His hobbies include running, cycling, and multisport racing.

This is a not to be missed performance by Cleveland’s premier contemporary music ensemble.


From ClevelandClassical.com – No Exit and Zeitgeist at SPACES (January 14)

By Mike Telin
noexit at heights arts

No Exit kicked off the new year with a series of concerts that also marked the contemporary music group’s third collaboration with the excellent St. Paul-based ensemble Zeitgeist. I attended the performance on Sunday, January 14 at SPACES.

Receiving its world premiere, Nicholas Underhill’s No Exit for Zeitgeist was written to celebrate the collaboration between the two ensembles. Underhill took full advantage of the forces at his disposal — violin, viola, cello, flute, two clarinets, two keyboards, and three percussionists. Based on a single scale, a hybrid of Mixolydian and Harmonic minor, the work also “makes indirect references to pieces by Kaija Saariaho and Andy Rindfleisch, as well as other solo pieces I have heard played in our concerts,” Underhill writes in his composer notes.

It begins with a scale spread over multiple octaves that continually grows into an intense, pulsating chord. A celestial middle section is highlighted by haunting solos for the viola and violin, giving way to an extended percussion cadenza before ending with a loud, short chord. Conductor James Praznik led a tight performance of the rhythmically complex work.

Twin-Cities-based composer Joshua Musikantow’s Tzimtzum also received its world premiere. Introducing the work, Musikantow said the title is Hebrew for “contraction,” a concept in the Lurianic Kabbalah that states that in order for God to create a space for lesser spiritual and physical planes to exist, God must contract, or conceal his/herself.

Based on a fifteen-note scale with nine fixed tones and six microtones, the hypnotic work is a study in shifting timbers. No Exit’s violinist Cara Tweed, violist James Rhodes, cellist Nicholas Diodore, flutist Sean Gabriel, bass clarinetist Gunnar Owen Hirthe, pianist Nicholas Underhill, and percussionist Luke Rinderknecht gave the seven-minute piece a captivating performance.

Commissioned by Zeitgeist, Cambodian-American composer Chinary Ung’s Spiral XIV “Nimitta” is grounded in the traditions of Khmer Pinpeat — the ceremonial music of Cambodia — and Balinese Gamelan. The subtitle “Nimitta” is a Pali word meaning a sign or image that is received through meditation. Ung makes use of “heterophony,” a single, constant melody that is embellished simultaneously by other voices. Zeitgeist’s clarinetist Pat O’Keefe, pianist Nicola Melville, and percussionists Heather Barringer and Patti Cudd gave a dramatic reading of the brilliantly crafted, intense work.

Eric M. C. Gonzalez’s Found Again, Secure in Migration is a three-movement work that comments on “monumental life transitions.” The former Clevelander explained that he and his significant other had recently relocated to St. Paul. The first movement, “A Recent Distant Past,” is about the reliability of home and reminiscing on separation. “A Forward Moving Pilgrimage” is about the sense of wonder that is brought on by new opportunities, while “Fortunate Companions” is about knowing where you came from and knowing where you are headed. Gonzalez weaves a variety of musical styles throughout the mercurial work, including walking bass-lines and boogie-woogie licks. O’Keefe, Melville, and Barringer brought every mood change to life.

Written for piano and any combination of additional instruments, Bill Ryan’s Blurred begins with repeated notes in the piano. As instruments are added the piece blossoms into a colorful soundscape and gradually diminishes until the repeated piano notes quietly fade away. The piece is mesmerizing and members of both ensembles sounded terrific together.

Article originally published on ClevelandClassical.com on January 24, 2018.
The full article can be found – Here


From ClevelandClassical.com – No Exit and Zeitgeist continue their collaboration this weekend

By Mike Telin
noexit at heights arts

“We’re starting off the new year with a bang,” No Exit artistic director Tim Beyer said during a telephone conversation. This weekend No Exit will continue their collaboration with the St. Paul-based new music ensemble Zeitgeist. “The two ensembles will once again be sharing a stage in a series of concerts that is sure to be an unforgettable musical experience.” The series kicks off on Friday, January 12 with a 7:00 pm concert at Wolfs Gallery. The ensembles will perform at 8:00 pm on Saturday the 13th at Heights Arts and at 12:00 pm on Sunday the 14th at SPACES.

“This is our first time at Wolfs Gallery and they’re pulling out all the stops. Hors d’oeuvres will be served at 6:30 pm and there will also be valet parking,” Beyer said. “It will be nice to introduce people to Wolfs’ extraordinary space and exquisite collection of paintings and sculpture while enjoying an intimate evening of music. We love playing at Heights Arts and SPACES, so this is going to be an incredible series of concerts. As always, the performances are free and open to the public.”

Beyer said that their collaboration has become ever more meaningful since No Exit and Zeitgeist began working together three years ago. “We’ve been to St. Paul three times — the last was back in October of 2017 — and this is the second joint concert in Cleveland. Over time concerts have included not just improvisation, but new pieces by composers from St. Paul and Cleveland that were written for both ensembles.”

Due to space considerations, Friday’s performance at Wolfs Gallery will feature music for smaller ensembles. The concert will include the world premiere of Tzimtzum by Twin Cities composer, author, and percussionist Joshua Musikantow. The work’s title is Hebrew for “contraction,” a concept in the Lurianic Kabbalah that states that in order for God to create a space for lesser spiritual and physical planes to exist, God must contract, or conceal his/herself.

“Joshua’s music has been performed in concerts and festivals in England, France, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and across the United States,” Beyer said. “I met him many years ago when we were both studying in Prague.” The concert will also include a new work by Colin Holter. “Colin is interesting to our collaboration in that he is from St. Paul but living and teaching in Cleveland. He wrote this piece for Zeitgeist for our October concerts, so this is a Cleveland premiere. Suburb is about his move from St. Paul to Cleveland.” Works by Bohuslav Martinů, Lou Harrison, Jennifer Higdon, and Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr. will also be included.

Saturday’s and Sunday’s program will feature works for larger ensembles, including the world premiere of No Exit for Zeitgeist, by No Exit pianist and composer Nicholas Underhill, as well as the Cleveland premiere of Eric Gonzalez’s Found Again, Secure in Migration. “Eric lived and worked in Cleveland for a long time but has recently moved to St. Paul. He wrote the piece for our collaboration.”

A work suggested by Zeitgeist is Spiral XIV “Nimitta” by Chinary Ung, a Cambodian-American composer who teaches at the University of California San Diego. “His music is wonderful and immersive — something you experience rather than merely listen to. He uses a lot of traditional music that includes the Khmer Pinpeat and Balinese Gamelan.” The program will be rounded out by Michigan-based composer Bill Ryan’s Blurred and Joshua Musikantow’s Tzimtzum.

Article originally published on ClevelandClassical.com on January 9, 2018.
The full article can be found – Here


From ClevelandClassical.com – No Exit at SPACES Gallery (Sept. 30)

By Mike Telin
noexit at heights arts

The inventive new music ensemble No Exit launched their ninth concert season with three identical concerts featuring world premieres by Ohio composers. I attended the September 30 performance at the acoustically pleasing SPACES Gallery. The evening was defined by works that creatively explored the use of layered rhythms, ranging from the violent to the enchanting, that were deftly performed by the seven-member ensemble.

The first premiere was Michael Rene Torres’ …his existence a flux… (2017). Inspired by an excerpt from philosopher and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius’ book Meditations, the work opens with long-ringing notes in the glockenspiel, later joined by the piano, that transform into slow-pulsating tones as players are added. The mesmerizing chords grow in volume as they are interrupted by loud instrumental shrieks from the ensemble. Long chords return, fluctuating syncopations in the piano and glockenspiel meditatively floating above. Flutist Sean Gabriel, clarinetist Gunnar Owen Hirthe, violinist Cara Tweed, cellist Nicholas Diodore, pianist Nicholas Underhill, and percussionist Luke Rinderknecht performed expertly, bringing the work’s inner turmoil to life.

Tweed and Diodore were joined by violist James Rhodes for premiere number two, Nasim Khorassani’s Growth (2017). The work depicts the story of a musical cell formed by the tones B, C, D, and E-flat which gradually grows over nine minutes. Trills, sharp accents, and subtle waves of sound that reflect the young composer’s Iranian roots are skillfully woven together, creating a hazy color palette. The performers, cued by Hirthe, played with poise.

The full ensemble was onstage for the evening’s final premiere, Matthew Ivic’s Septet (2017). During the eleven-minute work, Ivic uses tone clusters that slowly unfold — compact music becomes fragmented and fragmented music becomes unified. Opening with long chords punctuated by a snare drum roll and woodblock, a virtuosic wailing clarinet line leads into a soft march section. This music ebbs and flows in style between neo-classical and Americana, as the instruments exchange solo passages. Eventually the beguiling theme builds into a full-blown march which is suddenly halted by booming stomps in the percussion. Long chords emerge as triangle taps bring everything to a tranquil conclusion. The enjoyable piece was given an excellent performance that captured both the menacing and calming nature of the work.

Alexsander G. Brusentev’s In Mourning, for solo flute, provided the perfect platform for Sean Gabriel to show his prowess in performing extended techniques — the un-barred, introspective work contains roughly fifteen of them. The gripping piece is a solemn meditation, perhaps about a deceased pet, that is rudely interrupted by poltergeists — sultry straight-tone melodic passages countered by whistle tones, flutter tonguing, key slaps, and humming. Gabriel understands how to convey this music to the audience, which he held in rapt attention from beginning to end.

Clarinetist Gunnar Owen Hirthe possesses a phenomenal technique and a natural ability to make the thorniest passages sound easy. Both qualities were evident during his riveting playing of Eric Mandat’s Tricolor Capers. A clarinetist himself, Mandat is known for composing experimental works for the instrument. Capers, a three-movement work played without pause, is filled with multiphonics and fast leaps from the lowest to highest register, with just enough chromaticism to keep it interesting. Hirthe’s dark, woody sound was ominous during the opening “Portent,” his soft passages brutally interrupted by loud wails. Simple oscillating motives build during “Sway,” and gradually move into the wild, exciting “Bop.”

What made the evening so attractive was the variety of styles and the compactness of each work. Nothing was longer than eleven minutes.

Article originally published on ClevelandClassical.com on October 5, 2017.
The full article can be found – Here


Sad News About Ladislav Kubik


It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I report that Ladislav Kubik has died. He was an extraordinary composer, an extraordinary person……. truly larger than life. We extend our deepest felt sympathies to his family and those close to him. He was a remarkable human being.

No Exit had planned for their 2018-2019 season to present a series of concerts – comprised entirely of Ladislav’s work – that would serve as a celebration of this great living composer. Ladislav wrote a new piece for us – which we just received a few weeks ago – to be premiered during this series of concerts. We plan to still move forward with this program although it is heartbreaking that the context of these concerts has changed.

If you are not already familiar with Ladislav’s work, I would encourage you to go online, seek out his music and discover his brilliance for yourself.

You will be so dearly missed Ladia.


From ClevelandClassical.com – No Exit opens season with three premieres by Ohio composers

By Mike Telin
noexit at heights arts

The inventive new music ensemble No Exit will launch their ninth concert season with a free concert on Saturday, September 23 at 8:00 pm at Heights Arts. Staying true to the ensemble’s mission, the program will feature three premieres by Ohio composers.

“We’ve always had a keen interest and deep commitment to commissioning and premiering new works by composers working and living in our area,” No Exit’s Artistic Director Timothy Beyer said during a telephone conversation. “There are so many artists in our neck of the woods who are creating interesting and worthwhile music. Cleveland — and for that matter, Ohio — has something special going on in this regard.”

The program will be repeated on September 29 at Cleveland State University’s Drinko Hall and on the 30th at SPACES Gallery. Both performances begin at 8:00 pm and are free of charge.

New works by Cleveland residents include Matthew Ivic’s Septet, and Iranian-born composer Nasim Khorassani’s Growth for string trio. Also seeing its world premiere will be …his existence a flux… by Columbus-based saxophonist and composer Michael Rene Torres.

“All three of our world premiere pieces are really amazing,” Beyer said. “This is the third time that No Exit has commissioned a work from Matt Ivic, and he always brings something original to the table.”

Beyer described Nasim Khorassani as “an extraordinary young lady who is currently a composition student at Cleveland State. We performed a piece of hers in a workshop and were so impressed that we wanted to have her write something for us.”

Beyer noted that No Exit has played music by Michael Rene Torres in the past. “Our clarinetist, Gunnar Owen Hirthe, performed his Voices of Contempt for solo clarinet during last year’s NEOSonicFest. I think that he’s a remarkable composer, and his new work is really powerful.”

Also included on the program will be music by Saint Paul, Minnesota-based composer Alex Brusentsev. “Alex wrote an evocative piece for solo flute called In Mourning. We were introduced to Alex’s music through the exchange program that we’ve been doing for the last few years with Saint Paul new music ensemble Zeitgeist. The partnership with them has been a rewarding experience that has borne a lot of fruit, not the least of which is getting to know some great composers from Minnesota like Alex.”

The program will be rounded out with the music of clarinetist and composer Eric Mandat. “Tricolor Capers is a rather virtuosic piece, the kind that our clarinetist Gunnar has a special talent for bringing to life,” Beyer said, adding that Mandat is known for composing forward-thinking, often experimental pieces for the clarinet. “His work has helped to flesh out a lot of the extended techniques that are used on the instrument.” Beyer added that all five works share a commonality of layered rhythms, ranging from the violent to the mesmerizing.

These concerts are just the beginning of what promises to be a remarkable season for No Exit, Beyer said. “We have so many extraordinary things planned, including more commissioned pieces that will see their world premieres.” In October No Exit will return to St. Paul to perform a series of concerts with Zeitgeist, and in January both ensembles will perform in Cleveland.

Other season highlights include the revival of their Trio Concert format, featuring violinist Cara Tweed, clarinetist Gunnar Owen Hirthe, and percussionist Luke Rinderknecht. The April series will include a collaboration with saxophone-percussion duo Patchwork.

Article originally published on ClevelandClassical.com on September 19, 2017.
The full article can be found – Here


Nicholas Diodore Concludes Summer Recital Series at The Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern (Aug.23) and The Bop Stop (Aug.27)


With only two concert engagements remaining before the summer ends, No Exit’s virtuoso cellist Nick Diodore is ready to conclude his series of summer recitals with some truly memorable performances. The cello presents so many rich sonic possibilities for composers in the 20th century, and Nick’s recital repertoire represents some of the most impactful and demanding pieces ever written for the instrument; ranging from Kaija Saariaho’s exuberant explorations of the cello’s entire sonic character, Andrew Rindfleisch’s focused yet musical exploration on a single sonority or Timothy Beyer’s use of the cello to embody physical maladies.

Be sure to join No Exit and Nick for two free shows starting at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, August 23rd at The Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern and starting at 7 p.m. Saturday, August 27th at The Bop Stop.

These recitals are definitely a unique musical experience not to be missed.


From ClevelandClassical.com – No Exit at Bop Stop: “Homage to Eric Dolphy” (May 27)

By Joshua Rosner
noexit at heights arts

Recently declared “the hippest haunt on the Cuyahoga” by New York Magazine, the Bop Stop was abuzz for No Exit’s “Homage to Eric Dolphy.” No Exit is no stranger to inventive, new programs. But especially intriguing on Saturday night, May 27 was that this outstanding new music ensemble added to its ranks a trio of talented local jazz musicians: Bobby Selvaggio (alto saxophone), Scott McKee (trumpet/flugelhorn), and Dustin May (drum set).

“Hat and Beard,” from Dolphy’s seminal album Out to Lunch, was heard in an arrangement by Andrew Rindfleisch, who reimagined the piece for string trio (violinist Cara Tweed, violist, James Rhodes, and cellist Nick Diadore), trumpet, alto saxophone, and drum set.

May began with a medium-tempo swing, and the rest of the ensemble entered with a sharp, sudden pop. Diadore took the role of bass, locking in stunningly with May, while Tweed and Selvaggio played the melody with a beautiful blend. Soon the room was filled with trills from trumpet and high strings, and Rindfleisch’s arrangement became a vessel for Selvaggio’s improvisations. Thanks to Dustin May, this contemporary ensemble was swinging.

After Tweed left the stage, Luke Rinderknecht (vibraphone) and Gunnar Owen Hirthe (bass clarinet) joined the ensemble for Selvaggio’s arrangement of Serene. As he writes in the program notes, here the saxophonist’s fascination with avant-garde musicians playing “pretty straight-ahead” songs was apparent. The arrangement featured Rhodes and Rinderknecht improvising over backgrounds written in a way that they, too, could be determined in the moment.

With Tweed back in the mix and the composer at the piano, Paul Epstein’s Looking for Eric immediately set up a chaotic conversation among the musicians before settling into a bass figure between the left hand of the pianist and Hirthe. This was the first moment in the evening that sounded like fully-fledged jazz minus a bass player — the traditional big band sax soli was distributed between winds and strings before Selvaggio, McKee, and Epstein all took solos.

Selvaggio’s arrangement of Out There begins as a ballad derived from Dolphy’s melody for string trio and saxophone, then the entire ensemble improvises together before returning to the melody in unison.

The first half concluded with Tim Beyer’s Elegy for saxophone, bass clarinet, trumpet, vibraphone, and cello, conducted by James Praznik. The most traditional chamber piece on the program, Elegy begins with cacophony as a Dolphy-esque line is passed around the ensemble. While Hirthe blasted out an impression of a didgeridoo, Praznik left the stage. The ensemble continued with a collective improvisation, finishing with a flurry of key clicks and McKee flicking the bell of his trumpet — one of the most sonically satisfying moments of the evening.

After intermission, Hirthe performed Roger Janotta’s direct transcription of Dolphy’s live solo performance of Billie Holiday’s and Arthur Herzog, Jr.’s God Bless the Child. Hirthe made the arpeggios and his entire instrument seem effortless.

Greg D’Allesio’s Late Lunch is a collage of themes from Out to Lunch with lovely orchestration, including an especially memorable blend of vibraphone, bass clarinet, and viola.

Selvaggio’s arrangement of Truth featured lush backgrounds from bass clarinet, flugelhorn, and viola. The saxophonist soared as the improviser Cleveland has come to adore. His arrangement was reminiscent of the Third Stream greats (like Gunther Schuller) and even ended with a Picardy third (minor piece of classical music ending on a major chord).

Closing out the program was Praznik’s Iron Manic, a restructuring of Dolphy’s Iron Man. Taking the bare essence of that work, Praznik, who played piano for the performance, gives the ensemble a set of instructions to follow — almost a road map. Featuring large-scale improvisations, sustained strings, and an incredible drum solo from May, the piece delivered on the manic energy it promised.

A fine line exists between appropriating jazz into classical music and paying homage to a musician whose work defies genre. In this case, No Exit paid elegant tribute to Dolphy, balancing the notes he played with why Dolphy played them. One can only hope that No Exit and other ensembles in Cleveland continue to wrestle with this challenges — and, more importantly, that they are as successful as Saturday evening’s homage to Eric Dolphy.

Article originally published on ClevelandClassical.com on May 31, 2017.
The full article can be found – Here


From Cleveland.com – Cellist Nicholas Diodore aims to crush cello pigeonhole with modern recital series (preview)

By Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer
noexit at heights arts

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Think you know how the cello sounds? Think again.

Better yet, attend one of the solo concerts cellist Nicholas Diodore has planned this spring and summer, beginning Saturday at Heights Arts. Do that, and never again will you regard the cello as a simple source of warm depth.

“We tend to kind of pigeonhole the cello as dark and brooding,” said Diodore, a member of the Cleveland-based new music ensemble No Exit. “But it isn’t that way at all.”

Sure, the cello is great for Bach, Brahms and Dvorak. Some might even say the instrument was built for that music.

But that’s not the view Diodore holds. For him and many others, the cello has kept up with the times and remains a vital and powerful medium for the music of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Yes, it can sing, soar and wax uncommonly romantic. But it can also screech, howl and haunt in a way no other acoustic instrument can. Just as modern composers pushed the limits of the orchestra, so too have artists found new ways of making the cello speak.

“The thing most people say to me after concerts is they had no idea the cello could sound like that,” Diodore said.

Here’s a revealing fact: The oldest work on Diodore’s program hails from 1976, the year cellist Mstislav Rostropovich commissioned 12 solo flights on the name Sacher (the notes E-flat, A, C, B, E and D), in honor of Paul Sacher, the late, great champion of new music.

One day, Diodore hopes to perform them all. For the time being, this Saturday, he’s focusing on four, each of them as different as can be: “Sacher Variations” by Witold Lutoslawski, “Les mots sont alles” by Luciano Berio, Punena No. 2 by Alberto Ginastera and “Trois strophes,” by Henri Dutilleux.

“The melody that comes from that [name], it doesn’t settle,” Diodore said. “The amount of variations they were able to get out of it is unbelievable.”

That’s not all Diodore has in store for his audiences (the second planned performance is 7 p.m. Friday, June 30 at Appletree Books in Cleveland Heights; more are TBA). In addition to the Sacher commissions, the cellist also intends to feature “Spins and Spells” by Finnish titan Kaija Saariaho and two works by Cleveland-based composers: “Afflictions,” by his No Exit colleague Timothy Beyer, and “Quiet Music” by Andrew Rindfleisch.

Not your typical recital, in other words. Then again, “typical” is a relative term. For Diodore, who grew up on the cutting edge of music, a series of modern solos is all in a few days’ work.

“It’s an ambitious program, but it’s also right in my wheelhouse,” Diodore said. “I’ve always been around that creative process. It’s kind of what I do.”


Cellist Nick Diodore

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 6.

Where: Heights Arts, 2175 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights.

Tickets: Free. Go to heightsarts.org or call 216-371-3457.

Article originally published on Cleveland.com on May 2, 2017.
The full article can be found – Here


From ClevelandClassical.com – No Exit brings Eric Dolphy back for three concerts in April and May

By Mike Telin
noexit at heights arts

When NoExit celebrated jazz great Eric Dolphy back in 2012, the Ensemble’s artistic director Timothy Beyer said that although Dolphy is best known for his contributions in the jazz world, his music transcends that idiom. “His is a unique voice in American music, one that defies categorization.” On Saturday, April 29 at 8:00 pm at Heights Arts, NoExit will present the first of three concerts that will once again pay tribute to Eric Dolphy. The program will be repeated on May 13 at SPACES and on May 27 at The Bop Stop.

“When we did that first series of concerts dedicated to Dolphy we were just dipping our toe in the water,” Beyer said during a recent conversation. “But this program not only takes a deeper look at his music, it emphasizes his living legacy.” The concerts will include Dolphy’s Hat and Beard, arranged by Andrew Rindfleisch, Serene and Out There, arranged by Bobby Selvaggio, and a collage of Dolphy’s music titled Late Lunch, arranged by Greg D’Alessio, as well as the premieres of original works by Paul Epstein, Timothy Beyer, and James Praznik.

In addition to NoExit’s regular personnel — violinist Cara Tweed, violist James Rhodes, cellist Nicholas Diodore, pianist Nicholas Underhill, flutist Sean Gabriel, clarinetist Gunnar Owen Hirthe, and percussionist Luke Rinderknecht — the concert will feature special guests: drummer Dustin May, trumpeter Scott McKee, and saxophonist Bobby Selvaggio.

“Eric Dolphy is a singular presence in the music world,” Beyer said. “The more I’ve been thinking about and listening to Dolphy’s music, the clearer it becomes that he wasn’t just ahead of his time, but he was truly of another place. He’s often associated with jazz, and for good reason, but ultimately that was his launching point to something else. That’s why I think his music is as much akin to avant-garde classical music as it is to jazz.”

Prior to the 2012 performances, we spoke to alto saxophonist, composer, arranger, and educator Bobby Selvaggio and asked him to give his thoughts on cross-genre collaborations.

“I wanted to do something a little different for this project, so I arranged Dolphy’s Out There more like a Bartók string quartet where the alto sax is treated as a second violin. But this idea of collaborating across musical styles is happening more and more. It’s something that I have talked to Nick and Cara about in the past, and it’s something they have been thinking about as well. Although there have been crossover attempts where jazz musicians were doing classical type things for years — all the way back to the 40’s and 50’s — this idea of having everyone join together is really important in this day and age. A leading reason behind this NoExit project was to arrange pieces that would require improvisation. It’s been exciting to do that with classical musicians. Improvisation is not just a jazz thing, it’s important to music in general.”

Article originally published on ClevelandClassical.com on April 28, 2017.
The full article can be found – Here


A Taste of No Exit’s Upcoming Tribute to Jazz Luminary Eric Dolphy.

In Spring 2012, No Exit dedicate a concert to the works of legendary jazz musician Eric Dolphy. It was our first concert incorporating jazz in to our repertoire, and we had a blast. In fact, it was such much fun that we are expanding on our previous offerings and doing it all again April 29th (Heights Arts), May 13th (SPACES) and May 28th (The Bop Stop). Here is a sneak peek at one of the returning tunes, Andrew Rindfleisch’s arrangement of Dolphy’s “Hat and Beard” from the 1964 album “Out to Lunch”.


From ClevelandClassical.com – NEOSonicFest presents contemporary music over a ten-day period (March 17-26)

By Mike Telin
noexit at heights arts

No Exit’s Friday, March 24 program at Heights Arts opened with Ryan Gallagher’s Night Falls Fast for viola and percussion. The work begins as though the two performers are working at cross-purposes, later evolving into a single unit. Violist James Rhodes and percussionist Luke Rinderknecht were magnificent.

Gunnar Owen Hirthe brought an abundance of life to the world premiere performance of Michael Rene Torres’s Voices of Contempt for solo clarinet. Traveling from the lowest to the highest range of the instrument, Hirthe played with nimble technique. The sometimes angry-sounding work ends with a final screech before fading into silence.

Matthew Ivic’s Piano Quartet No. 1 is defined by long sustained lines and intermittent rhythmic blasts. Violinist Cara Tweed, violist James Rhodes, cellist Nicholas Diodore, and pianist Nicholas Underhill gave a convincing reading of this anxious work.

The evening also featured an outstanding performance of Bohuslav Martinů’s Duo No. 2 for Violin and Cello by Tweed and Diodore, while alto flutist Sean Gabriel found all the wit and whimsy in Donald Erb’s Music for Mother Bear.

Article originally published on ClevelandClassical.com on April 11, 2017.
The full article can be found – Here


From ClevelandClassical.com – NEOSonicFest continues with four new music concerts this week

By Mike Telin

NEOSonicFest 2017 continues this week with four concerts that celebrate the breadth of Cleveland’s new music scene.

The festival will feature a performance by No Exit on Friday, March 24 at 8:00 pm at Heights Arts. “It will be a great concert. These are some of our favorite pieces in our repertoire, and it’s nice to be able to perform them again,” artistic director Timothy Beyer said during a recent conversation.

The program will include Ryan Gallagher’s Night Falls Fast for viola and percussion. “Ryan grew up in Cleveland, and one of his first pieces was part of CCS’s Young and Emerging Composers concerts, which is where I first met him,” Beyer said. “I’ve always been impressed with his music.”

Another composer Beyer first met through the Young and Emerging program is Matthew Ivic. “His Piano Quartet No. 1 is one of two pieces we’ve commissioned from him, and we’ve always loved it. We first performed it during our second season, and it’s nice to be able to bring it back.”

Columbus-based saxophonist and composer Michael Rene Torres’s Voices of Contempt for solo bass clarinet will receive its world premiere at the concert. “We were introduced to his music through our clarinetist, Gunnar Owen Hirthe, and we hope to play more of his music in the future.”

The evening will also feature Bohuslav Martinů’s Duo No. 2 for Violin and Cello and Donald Erb’s Music for Mother Bear. “I never had the opportunity to really get to know Donald Erb,” Beyer said. “Obviously, he loomed larger than life in the Cleveland new music scene. He was an inventive and original composer, and it’s great to include this piece on the program.”

Excerpted from an article originally published on ClevelandClassical.com on March 21, 2017.
The full article can be found – Here


From ClevelandClassical.com – No Exit: a conversation with composer Emily Koh

By Mike Telin

Composers never know how and when they will find inspiration for a new work. For Emily Koh it was during a visit to a museum. “I was walking around the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and a painting by Esphyr Slobodkina caught my attention,” Koh said during a recent telephone conversation. “Her pieces are abstract, colorful, and angular — all the things I find interesting, not only in music, but in art and sculpture as well.”

On Saturday, February 4 at 8:00 at SPACES Gallery, No Exit will present the world premiere of Emily Koh’s esphyr, performed by violinist Cara Tweed, pianist Nicholas Underhill, and percussionist Luke Rinderknecht. The concert will also include Lou Harrison’s Suite for Solo Piano (tribute to Arnold Schoenberg), Christopher Deane’s Mourning Dove Sonnet for vibraphone, Nicholas Underhill’s Habanera for violin, and George Antheil’s Violin Sonata No. 2. The program will be repeated on Monday, February 6 at Cleveland State University’s Drinko Auditorium, and on Saturday, February 11 at Heights Arts. Both concerts begin at 8:00 pm.

Koh began working on esphyr by sketching some of her musical ideas using brightly colored writing utensils. “The piece is not written in graphic notation, but the map was full of straight lines and angular movements,” she said.

Born in 1986, Koh is the recipient of awards from ASCAP, Prix D’Été, and PARMA. She has received commissions from the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, Composers Conference at Wellesley College, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, and has been awarded grants from New Music USA, Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy, and Artistic Excellence (Paul Abisheganaden Grant). A graduate of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, NUS, and the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University, Koh is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Music Composition and Theory at Brandeis University.

Koh has found her success as a composer surprising. “I always thought of myself as going to conservatory to become an orchestral bass player. In high school, I had one composition class which made me think that maybe I should consider writing music. When I applied to college I also sent in a composition application, so I guess you could say the rest was history.”

Even with her busy schedule in North America, Emily Koh finds the time to stay in touch with her family in Singapore. “I visit my parents and grandparents as often as possible,” she said. “I’ve also had a lot of performances of my pieces there, which I am very thankful for. The fact that people are interested in hearing my music is very humbling.”

Originally Published on ClevelandClassical.com January 30, 2017.


No Exit Composer Portrait: Emily Koh


For No Exit’s upcoming February concert series, which will feature violinist Cara Tweed, pianist Nicholas Underhill and percussionist Luke Rinderknecht, we are excited to present a newly commissioned work by extraordinary composer Emily Koh. Emily’s work, which can be characterized for both its recognizably musical character and its re-imagining of instrumental texture, has been performed all over the world by ensembles such as the Singapore Symphony, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, the New England Philharmonic and the participants of the 2015 Singapore International Violin Competition.

Emily’s new work “Esphyr”, for violin, percussion and piano, is an intense look at how textures can grow out of an instrument with a fixed tuning and be transformed in to a far more robust texture through micro-tonal inflections on the violin and spectral accents in the percussion.

For now, enjoy a similarly colorful work by Emily “cis-[flux]”, recorded by the Boston based sinfonietta “[sound icon]”, which uses the same ingenious textures as “Esphyr”, but spread across an entire chamber orchestra.


From ClevelandClassical.com – No Exit and Zeitgeist at New SPACES (Jan. 15)

by Daniel Hathaway

noexit-1Zeitgeist, the new music ensemble from St. Paul, Minnesota, hosted their Cleveland colleagues, No Exit, in concerts in the Twin Cities last fall. No Exit returned the favor last weekend, joining Zeitgeist for three concerts at the Happy Dog Euclid Tavern, Heights Arts, and SPACES. We caught some of the pieces on their joint playlist at SPACES’ new location in Hingetown on Sunday, January 15, where the musicians presented several sets between noon and 5:00 pm.

The ambiance was completely informal. A double row of chairs was set up in the main gallery, but most of the audience either stood around the perimeter or circulated between rooms. Titles were only sporadically announced, and at times it was difficult to know if musicians were warming up, testing equipment, or if a piece had actually started.

The audience was obviously a mix of visual art fans and new music followers. The former were a chatty crowd, even when seated, the latter intent on hearing what was going on and not averse to shushing their more garrulous fellow travelers. Still, the laid-back atmosphere made it easy for the curious to dip an ear into music that was often both new and strange. And there was enough visual content to hold the attention of those who may be more stimulated by images than sounds.

Like most No Exit performances, this one featured a fascinating variety of styles and media. We walked in halfway through the first performance of Mark Applebaum’s The Metaphysics of Notation, in which the whole group of instrumentalists performed a graphic score projected on the back wall. In the program notes, No Exit associate director James Praznik writes that the piece “seeks to deconstruct and reinterpret the way in which musicians are trained to respond to certain symbols and then, by placing these symbols in a series of abstract collages, force a group of players to improvise and audibly bend their understanding of music in front of you, the audience.”

While made up of a vast catalogue of familiar symbols, the collages are complex and sometimes mystifying. Needless to say, the musicians’ reactions were as varied as individual interpretations of Rorschach images, and the collective texture could never be the same twice — as we heard in a second performance an hour or so later. Did the piece go on a bit too long? Perhaps, but there was a lot to watch and listen to.


A second multimedia work was James Praznik’s film Almost a New Man, originally performed by No Exit in 2011 with live cello, but now recomposed for bass clarinet and percussion (Zeitgeist’s Pat O’Keefe and Heather Barringer). Praznik shot the 17-minute film in addition to writing the live music to go with it.

The narrative is inscrutable, and some of the images disturbing. A man on a beach (Derrik Balogh) confronts a figure whose head is swathed in gauze. Cut to a filthy washroom sink into which the man spits up blood and later extracts a vinyl record from under the water. Gauze man drowns beach man in a bathtub, but both return for another encounter on the shore. And there’s more. The live music on Sunday was more sporadic than on the film, but no less chilling, and expertly played.

Per Bloland’s Shadows of the Electric Moon, a rare, virtuoso piece for upside-down snare drum, featured Zeitgeist’s Patti Cudd in league with a Mac laptop and a sound exciter. Eighty-some cues found Cudd using sticks and antique cymbals to conjure sounds from every part of the drum and its stand. Her virtuosic performance was equally riveting to watch and to listen to.


The two most accessible pieces we caught on Sunday were Marc Mellits’ Black and Pat O’Keefe’s Hello, Cleveland! Praznik writes in the program notes that “one of the greatest expressive qualities of ‘American Minimalism’ is its ability to clearly project a message of unfiltered excitement and joy during a performance.” That’s precisely what bass clarinetists Gunnar Owen Hirthe of No Exit and Pat O’Keefe of Zeitgeist accomplished during their dazzling encounter in Black. Chasing each other at daring time intervals, they ran through a whole roster of musical styles — breathlessly, though they seemed scarcely winded at the finish line.

O’Keefe’s piece, inspired by the Frank Gehry building at Case Western Reserve University, begins with lush textures, then turns foot-tappingly jazzy. Earning its Hello, Cleveland! inscription, it brought smiles to the faces of the onlookers.

Among other very positive impressions to be formed on Sunday: the acoustics of SPACES’ new digs are just as favorable to music as the old gallery space down the street. More performances to come, we hope.

Originally Published on ClevelandClassical.com January 17, 2017.


From ClevelandClassical.com – Zeitgeist to join No Exit for three Cleveland concerts

by Mike Telin

noexit-1“Groups like ours appeal to the most adventurous of listeners,” Zeitgeist percussionist Heather Barringer said during a recent Skype conversation. “They’re people who enjoy listening to something that hasn’t been listened to before.”

Beginning on Friday, January 13 at 7:30 pm at Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern, the St. Paul, Minnesota-based new music ensemble will join forces with Cleveland’s own No Exit for three free concerts featuring experimental music that explores the possibilities of multimedia, improvisation, and electroacoustics. Performances continue through Sunday. See below for a complete list of programs, times, and locations.

“These concerts are going to be really amazing, and each program is a little different,” No Exit artistic director Timothy Beyer wrote in an email. “These Cleveland concerts are the second leg of our multi-city collaboration. The first part of this season’s ensemble exchange program took place in St. Paul in the fall, and now Zeitgeist will be in Cleveland to return the favor.” The collaboration grew out of the two ensembles’ shared goal to bring greater national visibility to composers and performing artists who make their homes in the Midwest.

Founded in 1977 at Macalester College, Zeitgeist began as a loose collective of seven to ten musicians, but has since evolved into a quartet of two percussionists, a woodwind player, and a pianist.

Heather Barringer, who joined the group in 1990, said that the two groups have been friends since they were first introduced to each other through Cleveland State University composition professor Andrew Rindfleisch. “Andy was aware of our group and brought us to Cleveland many years ago, and that was when we first got to know Tim,” Barringer said.

Now in its second year, the collaboration has expanded to include the commissioning of new compositions. “During this series of concerts, No Exit will be performing a work they commissioned from Ann Millikan, a St. Paul composer they met last year,” Barringer said. “For Zeitgeist’s part, we’re going to be playing music by No Exit composers Tim Beyer and James Praznik.”

As the commissioning project grows, Barringer said she hopes they will commission works around shared topics such as the two areas’ relationship to the Great Lakes. “We want to create music that highlights the contrasts and similarities between St. Paul and Cleveland.”

Given that today’s composers are inspired by a such a range of sources, I asked Heather Barringer how she characterizes the music performed by ensembles like Zeitgeist and No Exit. “It is hard to describe, but I usually use the words ‘newly created music.’ There is an incredible amount of musical variety out there — from music that is completely electronic, to music that sounds very pop-oriented, to that which does not stray very far from classical.”

Originally Published on ClevelandClassical.com January 10, 2017.


No Exit Welcomes St.Paul Based Ensemble Zeitgeist for a Weekend of Music Making

We are very excited to announce our upcoming series of concerts which will serve as the second leg of our multi-city collaboration with the amazing Zeitgeist! The first part of this season’s ensemble exchange program took place in St. Paul, Minnesota where Zeitgeist hails from. Now Zeitgeist will be in Cleveland to return the favor! We have three concerts scheduled – 1/13 at the Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern, 1/14 at Heights Arts and on 1/15 a day long ‘open house’ concert at the new SPACES.

No Exit and Zeitgeist will be presenting a weekend of avant-garde music, performing both as individual ensembles and collectively to bring to you an experience which will run the gamut of experimental sounds including pieces which explore the realms of multimedia, improvisatory and electroacoustic music. Each concert will feature a different program so please check out each individual event invitation to see what we’ll be performing.

Featured on the program(s) are a few pieces which were written for (or otherwise are seeing their premiere) this series of concerts including Ann Millikan’s experiment in ‘chance’ music “Streams”, Timothy Beyer’s otherworldly “Shtetl”, Janika Vanderveide’s multimedia exploration of reality “This World is Maya” and a profound reimagining of James Praznik’s film/live music creation “Almost a New Man”.

You can find out more about Zeitgeist by visiting their Facebook page or by going to zeitgeistnewmusic.org


James Praznik’s Almost a New Man Re-imagined for Zeitgeist

almost-a-new-man-news-picComposer, filmmaker and No Exit’s associate director James Praznik created a unique piece for the ensemble, entitled Almost a New Man, which was premiered in April of 2011. James created both a film and a musical element (which was performed live and in real-time by No Exit’s cellist Nick Diodore), the result being an extraordinary and spellbinding work of art.

For No Exit’s upcoming series of concerts with Zeitgeist (which will take place in St.Paul, Minnesota November 10-13), James has re-imagined his multimedia masterpiece by composing entirely new music for it which will be performed by Zeitgeist’s clarinetist Pat O’Keefe and percussionist Heather Barringer. We plan on presenting Almost a New Man again this January when Zeitgeist comes to Cleveland to perform with No Exit.

Please enjoy the original version of James Praznik’s Almost a New Man…..


From ClevelandClassical.com – (Review) No Exit: “Sonic Landscapes” at Heights Arts (Oct. 8)

by Mike Telin

noexit-1For their latest series of concerts, the first-rate new music ensemble No Exit presented “Sonic Landscapes,” a program of six appealing works that explored the variety of ways composers use timbre, texture, and rhythm to create vivid imagery with sound. I was part of the capacity audience who attended the October 8 performance at Heights Arts.

Short, jabbing rhythmic patterns interjected into long melodic lines are the defining features of Danish composer Per Nørgård’s Spell (1973), which opened the concert. Like a trio of chameleons, clarinetist Gunnar Owen Hirthe, cellist Nicholas Diodore, and pianist Nicholas Underhill deftly changed musical colors with each of the work’s short motifs.

The mark of a great composer of miniatures is the ability to create a complete musical arc within a three- to four-minute period, and the late Stephen Paulus knew exactly how to do that. Performing three movements from his Seven Miniatures (1989), Diodore, violinist Cara Tweed, and violist James Rhodes nimbly brought the jazzy “Caprice,” to life. The Trio evoked the stark, cold Nordic winter during “Lament,” and tossed off the quicksilver lines of the ending “Toccata” with flair.

The evening included three world premieres, the first of which was Cleveland State University faculty composer Greg D’Alessio’s Secret Lives of Birds (2016), for solo flutes and electronics. The work is beautifully constructed and inventively interweaves recorded bird songs and lyrical flute passages with live acoustic melodies. Performing on c and alto flutes, Sean Gabriel, for whom the piece was written, brought a graceful warmth to the alluring writing. A nice aspect of the piece is D’Alessio’s resistance to using a barrage of extended techniques in his flute writing, only a few flutter tongues are added here and there for ornamentation, allowing the listener to bask in the serenity of the music.

Born in Taiwan in 1995, Yuan-Keng Ling is currently studying composition at Brandeis University. A very brief, lighthearted work, Out of…// (2016), is centered around a single musical gesture with humorous riffs exchanged between the instruments around it. Here, percussionist Luke Rinderknecht joined Hirthe, Rhodes, and Underhill in a performance that articulated all that the music had to say.

The third premiere was Malaysian-born Hong-Da Chin’s Perpetuity (2016) for solo bass clarinet. Commissioned and performed by Gunnar Owen Hirthe, the work utilizes the entire range of the instrument, including some arresting harmonics in the high register. Throughout, Hirthe repeatedly demonstrated his technical prowess, as well as his stunning breath control. But in the end, Perpetuity indeed like something that was lasting forever.

Except for a slow “Americana-sounding” middle section, Jefferson Friedman’s 78 (2006), is ten minutes’ worth of rhythmic pulsating sound that creates the illusion of two trains on a fast track to collision. Friedman’s imaginative inclusion of blues chords, syncopations, and constant modulating harmonies keep the hyper-active work exciting. Rinderknecht led Gabriel, Hirthe, Tweed, Diodore, and Underhill in an impressive display of pin-point precision, bringing the evening to a wonderful conclusion.

Originally published on ClevelandClassical.com November 3, 2016.


From clevelandscene.com: Whether for Contemporary or Old Music, Two Artists Find Cleveland a Great Place to Live and Work

By Mike Telin


Cleveland provides fertile ground for artists who have grown up or gone to school here and later decided to make the city their home and a place for creating their artistic identities.

Just to choose two examples, composer and new music advocate Timothy Beyer, and Baroque oboist Debra Nagy have chosen to settle here — rather than move to the coasts — and each has established an ensemble that both represent their individual artistic missions and contribute to the cultural life of Cleveland.
“Music was always part of me,” native Clevelander and No Exit artistic director Timothy Beyer said, “although when I was a kid I never thought I would be a composer in the classical music sense. I was sure I would compose, but I thought it would be in the rock or jazz genres.”

Beyer, who spent most of his pre-adult life in the Heights, said that like a lot of kids, he began studying music at a young age, and played in a number of bands with friends.

“In the 1990s I formed a Jamaican Jazz band called Pressure Drop,” Beyer recalled. “We toured, recorded a record, and were featured on a few compilation CDs. It was a great way to spend my 20s, although it wasn’t something I saw myself doing forever.”

When Beyer began to find the Pressure Drop’s music to be too limiting for his expanding musical ideas, he started to think seriously about pursuing a career in classical music, a genre he had enjoyed all of his life. “Because the band was touring and playing a lot of gigs, I enrolled at Lakeland Community College. That was the easiest way to fit in my studies, and it seemed like a good way to get an education.”

After Lakeland, Beyer decided to totally immerse himself in his classical music studies. He enrolled at Cleveland State University and studied composition with Andrew Rindfleisch and Greg D’Alessio. “Both of them were wonderful teachers and the school provided me with the best set of circumstances I could ask for,” Beyer said. “Some college students are trying to find themselves, but because I was older, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do. I just needed to find the tools and the means to get there, and Andy and Greg were big forces in my life.”

Beyer earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in composition while beginning to create new music groups. “All composition students look to their peers to perform their music. During my last year as a student, I officially formed No Exit with pianist and composer Nick Underhill, violinist Cara Tweed, violist Tom Bowling, and cellist Nicholas Diodore. After I graduated in 2009, we became a professional ensemble. Composer James Praznik, and our art director, Matt Shaffer, have also been involved with the group since the beginning.”

Beyer noted that forming an ensemble was essential to the development of his career. “Musicians, and especially composers, need to be entrepreneurial,” he said. “It becomes clear very quickly that if you want any chance of having a life in this business, you have to create your own opportunities. And I find that I’m much happier doing it this way.”

Did they think about the role that No Exit could play in the musical life of Cleveland when they formed the group? “We did, and not to sound too full of myself, we planned out a course from the beginning and we’ve stuck with it. We’ve been very lucky that so far it’s paid off. We knew it would take some time to build an audience that would support groups like us. We needed to develop relationships with venues that fit the music we play, and places whose audiences were already somewhat aware of new music. That way, we’d have a chance of getting people in there even if they didn’t know us.”

Since the group’s founding, No Exit has performed regularly at Cleveland State University, where they are an ensemble in residence, as well as at SPACES Gallery, and Heights Arts.

Over time, No Exit has increasingly made collaborations an important part of their programming philosophy. “As I’ve grown older, I see less of a separation between artistic mediums,” Beyer said, “and over the past few years we’ve sought out collaborators who blur those lines. We’ve also brought in some great musicians from all over the country. This also ties into the idea of creating a culture for what we do. Cleveland has a lot of great new music groups aside from us, but it is beneficial to bring in people who I feel are the best at what they do. And the audiences have been responded positively.”

Beyer takes great pride in the fact that No Exit has had only one personnel change since 2009, when violist James Rhodes replaced Tom Bowling a couple of years ago. “Everyone has a good time making music together, and they want to get it right. There has been an astounding level of dedication to the ensemble, and all of the members have dedicated to make their homes in Cleveland. They’ve had opportunities in other places, but have chosen to stay because they want to be here.”

How does Beyer spend his time in the city when he’s not working? “I could talk about Cleveland all day,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve always been a local history buff, and there’s a plethora of interesting buildings and neighborhoods in this city. I do go to the Art Museum on a regular basis, and I like going to the police museum and some of the lesser-known cemeteries. And now that there are many great restaurants in Cleveland, I do take advantage of them. My folks were very hip on Zack Bruell’s restaurants, so I grew up eating at them. I still think they’re as good as it gets, but I do enjoy all of the great ethnic food as well.”

Excerpt originally published on clevelandscene.com: September 28, 2016


From clevelandclassical.com: No Exit to play three “Sonic Landscape” concerts on September 29 and October 1 & 8

by Mike Telin

noexit-1“We live in an era where composers are constantly re-imagining and re-contextualizing how sound can be used in their work,” No Exit artistic director Timothy Beyer said during a recent telephone conversation. “And the music featured on our upcoming series of concerts will explore the different ways that composers can use sound to really paint a picture.”

On Thursday, September 29 at Cleveland State University’s Drinko Auditorium, Saturday, October 1 at SPACES, and Saturday, October 8 at Heights Arts, No Exit will present “Sonic Landscapes.” The program will include music by Per Nørgård, Stephen Paulus, Jefferson Friedman, Hong-Da Chin, Greg D’Alessio, and Yuan-Keng Ling. All performances are at 8:00 pm.

“In addition to having a strong connection to nature, most of the pieces featured on these concerts focus on timbre, texture, and rhythm,” Beyer said. “While these elements are present in all music, the idea of using them as the primary means of expression is very cool. It almost challenges the listener to hear these pieces more as one may experience an abstract painting. So I suppose this is where the notion of ʻsonic landscapesʼ or ʻsonic painting,ʼ if you will, came from.”

Beyer described Per Nørgård’s Spell for clarinet, cello, and piano as fugacious and captivating. “Nørgård’s music doesn’t get the attention it deserves, and I’m surprised by that. I know you hear this kind of fluffy language applied to a lot of pieces, but Spell is a great showpiece that really is a journey from beginning to end.”

When asked about Stephen Paulusʼs Seven Miniatures, Beyer said that in his mind, they are the perfect embodiment of what miniatures should be. “Paulus knows how to approach the form. He knows how to minimize the materials and ideas, and he knows how to bring out that special something that is so wonderfully evocative and moving.”

Beyer is happy to able to include Jefferson Friedmanʼs 78 on the program, a work he compared to a freight train. “A lot of composers bring rock music or other popular forms of music into the classical arena, and I think that Jefferson does it in the best way I have ever heard. It doesn’t sound like pop or rock, but you can clearly hear those styles in it.”

Continuing a long No Exit tradition, world premieres will play a key role in the program. Greg D’Alessio’s The Secret Lives of Birds for flute and electronics is built around field recordings of bird songs. “Greg has inventively manipulated those songs. Besides the flute that will be played live, he also recorded some flute sounds and has manipulated those as well. It’s the kind of writing that Greg does best.”

Hong-Da Chin’s Perpetuity was commissioned by No Exit clarinetist Gunnar Owen Hirthe. “Gunnar has worked with Hong-Da in the past and liked his music very much. The way he uses sounds fits the program’s title perfectly. It’s a colorful piece with a lot of rhythmic texture.

“Yuan-Keng Ling is a student at Brandeis University. I would not go so far as to call his Out of…// ‘spectral music,’ but it is in that camp. It’s very nuanced and impeccably put together. Both Chin and Ling are very talented young composers who have a lot to say and are definitely speaking in their own voices.”

Published on ClevelandClassical.com September 27, 2016.

From coolcleveland.com: NO EXIT New Music Ensemble Paints a Picture with New Contemporary Classical Art Music Program

Thu 9/29 @ 8PM

Sat 10/1 @ 8PM

Sat 10/8 @ 8PM

For the better part of the last decade, Cleveland’s NO EXIT New Music Ensemble has been pushing the boundaries of contemporary classical art music.

Now, NO EXIT returns with a new program of experimental music exploring the manner in which composers use sound to paint a picture. Free performances of compositions by Per Nørgård, Stephen Paulus and Jefferson Friedman, as well as new works by Hong-Da Chin, Greg D’Alessio and Yuan-Keng Ling are scheduled for Thu 9/29 @ 8pm at Cleveland State University’s Drinko Auditorium, Sat 10/1 @ 8pm SPACES and Sat 10/8 @ 8pm at Heights Arts.

CoolCleveland talked to NO EXIT artistic director/composer Tim Beyer about the unique septet, which this year will be performing more than 20 shows.

What’s the history behind NO EXIT?

Our first concert was in 2009. The original group was a piano quartet. These were all people I knew through my affiliation with Cleveland State. Since then, we’ve expanded the lineup to include a percussionist, a clarinetist and a flutist, as well as a supporting staff. The vision has always been focused on bringing this sort of avant-garde music to Cleveland and presenting a far wider plethora of what’s out there. It’s not a criticism, but we were all generally unsatisfied with what we were able to find in our area. A lot of the new music being played was the same sort of thing. And it’s a big world out there. We also had a desire to promote the works of young and emerging composers, people who hadn’t really had a lot of opportunities to get their music out there. So it was an opportunity to create our own opportunities as musicians, composers and also pass those opportunities on to other people. To date, we’ve commissioned over 70 pieces of music. That’s a big part of what we do. We also do residencies and workshops to further that aim.

Can you elaborate on the type of music and compositions that define the NO EXIT sensibility?

There are so many extraordinary people out there who have a very unique and singular voice. They really are sort of their own compass in what they’re doing, and a lot of that was not being represented. At least that’s what we saw. What we were seeing was music that represented the middle, and there’s a lot more taking place on either side.

It seems as though NO EXIT is attracted to esoteric or adventurous material.

It’s a lot of things. Our concept is we are into things that at times may be esoteric but are avant-garde, on the vanguard in some way or another. A few years ago, we did a program of Raymond Scott’s work. He was a very interesting, unique iconoclast of the jazz world. No one has done anything like him before or since. So we brought in a lot of other jazz musicians to supplement the group. And then on the other end of the spectrum, we may do a concert of people doing very interesting and vanguard things to multimedia or electronics work. And then we might do people who just write for a string quartet but they’re working in new and different ways to use sound and write pieces. So it’s not one thing we do. It’s more of an overarching philosophy that we look for composers that we feel are avant-garde and are very much working off their own compass.

Who have you found enjoys a NO EXIT concert?

At the beginning, we felt if we were going to see any level of success here you need to help create a culture for it. A lot of people won’t go to Severance Hall but they would go to SPACES. So what we found is a lot of different people. And there really isn’t a type. Also, it depends on shows. Like when we did the Raymond Scott thing, we got a lot of jazz people who may not come to the rest of our concerts. Last year we did a tribute to Erik Satie, so there were people there who had an interest in Satie. But generally speaking, the audience has been growing and we found people in Cleveland have been amazingly receptive.

It seems as though it’s safe to say if you’re into classical music or more esoteric contemporary styles, at the very least NO EXIT provides an entertaining evening of music.

People don’t walk away unhappy, regardless. And I think a lot of people really enjoy it. Usually when one goes to a see a concert, we put ourselves in a certain mode. We kind of understand what a concert-going experience is, whether it’s a rock concert or going to the orchestra or whatever. But I think when people get into this space and hear what we’re doing, it sort of challenges them to experience the music in a very different way. Most people find that very rewarding in one sense or another. And ironically, I think most of our audience is not the traditional sense classical people. In fact, I think classical people tend to stay away from things like this. They’d rather hear Beethoven or Mahler. Which is great. It’s incredible music so there’s not as much as a cross pollination as one might think.

Originally published on coolcleveland.com


‘Sonic Landscapes’ Composer Portrait: Yuan-Keng Ling

Yuan Keng Photo
For our fall concert series ‘Sonic Landscapes’, No Exit is presenting music which seeks to create a ‘sonic environment’, one in which fully immerses the listener in the experience….music that you can really smell, touch and taste. To this end, we have carefully selected pieces that focus on color and texture, music that strives to evoke elements usually reserved for the visual arts. One of the composers we asked to participate in this project is Yuan-Keng “Ernest” Ling, whose work is subtly dramatic and imbued with organicism.

Ernest is also well versed in popular music, having a rock band in his native Taiwan. I believe this sort of “having a foot in two worlds” artist can always surprise an audience with whatever they create, as is most certainly the case with Yuan-Keng Ling. We’d like to share a piece of his that takes a very different approach than what you will hear on our fall program. Enjoy!


No Exit Welcomes Our Newest Member, Clarinetist Gunnar Owen Hirthe

Photo by Michiko Saiki

Photo by Michiko Saiki

No Exit is happy to announce the addition of Gunnar Owen Hirthe to the ensemble’s line-up. Gunnar thrilled us with his inspired performances during his stint as a special guest artist when he appeared on No Exit’s last series of concerts (April 2016).

Gunnar Owen Hirthe hails from Green Bay, Wisconsin and is currently studying new music for clarinet at Bowling Green State University’s Doctoral Program in Contemporary Music. This distinguished program is focused on the artistic specialization of music from the 20th and 21st centuries. Gunnar has worked extensively with experimental, avant-garde and electronic music.

We are proud to have him be a part of No Exit!