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!