new releases

John Luther Adams
Houses of the Wind

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Houses of the Wind is a shimmering, mesmerizing electro-acoustic piece composed in 2021.

The composer writes: 

“Much of my music of the past thirty-some-odd years has grown out of my experiences listening to aeolian harps. Yet, until now, I’ve never incorporated those sounds directly into the music

“In the last two decades of the 20th century, I made field recordings of elemental sounds all over Alaska—fire, ice, thunder, glaciers calving into the sea. Recently, I transferred those aging tapes to more stable media. Listening to the very first segment of a small aeolian harp, recorded in the Arctic in the summer of 1989, I was captivated. The voices of the wind singing through the strings of the harp brought back vividly the clarity of light, the sprawling space, and the sense of possibility I had felt.

Houses of the Wind (2021–22) is composed entirely from that single ten-and-a-half-minute recording, transposed, layered on itself, and sculpted into five new pieces of the same length. The world has changed since then, in ways we couldn’t have imagined. The winds rising around us now seem darker, more turbulent and threatening. Yet still, if this music is haunted by feelings of loss and longing, I hope it also offers some measure of consolation, even peace.” 

John Luther Adams is a Pulitzer- and Grammy-winning composer who lived for many years in Alaska, where his work derived much of its unique character from the landscape and weather of the Great North. About a half-dozen years ago, he moved from Alaska, living in various desert and mountain areas in South and Central America—places that also inspired and found expression in his music. He currently resides in rural New Mexico. He is a long-time associate of the Cold Blue label; his music has appeared on eight previous Cold Blue CDs, including Arctic Dreams, Everything That Rises, and the Grammy-nominated Lines Made by Walking.

“One of the most original musical thinkers of the new century.” — Alex Ross, The New Yorker

“His music becomes more than a metaphor for natural forces: it is an elemental experience in its own right.” —Tom Service, The Guardian

“His music perfectly echoes the landscape he loves: impersonal, relentless, larger than human scale, yet gorgeous, a quiet chaos of colors, suffused with light.” —Kyle Gann, Chamber Music Magazine

“Adams’s music sounds like it has nothing to accomplish. It simply exists, hanging in mid-air, waiting to be listened to.” —All-Music Guide

“Adams’s music is as hypnotic as it is different.” —MusicWeb Int’l

“Adams’s powerful music finds inspiration, depth of field, and sonic substance in the shapes and textures of the natural world and, most of all, in the composer’s own deep and passionate commitment to the act of listening itself.” —Dusted magazine

“Adams’ manner is that of Thoreau—to be in a place, incorporate it into his memory and values, and recreate that through music. It misses the point to say he is inspired by nature—Adams is changed by nature and his music is a catalogue of the places that changed him. . . . Adams [is] an important and necessary musician for our time.” —New York Classical Review

“Adams’s major works have the appearance of being beyond style; they transcend the squabbles of contemporary classical music.” —Alex Ross, The New Yorker

 

Jacob Cooper & Steven Bradshaw

Sunrise 

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Sunrise is an expansive, incandescent, haunting electro-acoustic work jointly composed and performed by Jacob Cooper and Steven Bradshaw. Created during the 2020–21 pandemic, this alluring, kaleidoscopic piece grows into a tsunami of sound while it casts an eye (ear) back 100 years to derive its text from a popular song composed during the 1918 pandemic: “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise.”

Cooper and Bradshaw constructed Sunrise via the internet—Bradshaw recording vocal melodies and improvisations that Cooper subjected to electronic manipulation. In this fashion—back and forth, again and again—they spent months composing and realizing the music. (In addition to Cooper and Bradshaw, pianist Dynasty Battles, violinist Clara Kim, and flutist Timothy Munro also contribute performances to the work.)

[More info…]

[Sunrise video teaser]

Jacob Cooper has been lauded as “richly talented” (The New York Times) and a “maverick electronic song composer” (The New Yorker). His music has been commissioned and performed by such ensembles as the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, Eighth Blackbird, and the Calder Quartet and released by Nonesuch, New Amsterdam, and other record labels. The recording of his string orchestra work Stabat Mater Dolorosa (New Artisans), which the New York Times described as “exhaustingly poignant,” was an NPR Top Ten album in 2020.

A founding member of Variant Six and The Crossing (a Grammy-winning vocal ensemble dedicated to new music), Steven Bradshaw has appeared as a soloist with Bang on a Can, the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra, and many other groups and recorded and toured with Roomful of Teeth. He premiered Ted Hearne’s Placeat the BAM Next Wave Festival and will reprise his role in it with the LA Philharmonic. He also premiered and gave 300 performances of David Lang’s lifespan. Also a noted visual artist, Bradshaw has exhibited his work at a number of galleries throughout the country.

 

 

Chas Smith

Three

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Three new dark and haunting soundscapes from composer-performer-instrument builder Chas Smith, a musician who has created his own unique musical world—complete with its own instruments and “language”—a world of expansive musical tapestries and carefully sculpted textures that evolve via a slow, constant change of aural perspective. This is music that seamlessly blends Smith’s metal sound sculptures and his homemade and hot-rodded steel guitars, all of which are performed by the composer.

[More info…]

“Smith’s pieces are music of experiment and discovery: a way of enabling the physical world to ‘speak’ by investigating, harnessing and organizing its sonic properties. The extraordinary sound-world of Smith’s articulately structured music captivates from the start.”—International Record Review

“Chas Smith, musician, composer, engineer, metal craftsman and inventor, is a classic American original.”—New Times (Los Angeles)

“With Smith’s music, the sounds are as compelling as his concepts and instruments.” —The Wire magazine

“Smith creates unsettling music that is both beautiful and eerie.”—Electronic Musician magazine

 

 

John Luther Adams

Arctic Dreams

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Arctic Dreams is a stunning, gloriously beautiful piece for four string players and four singers, with multiple layers of digital delays that create 32-part canonic textures.

The composer writes:

“This was the first music I composed in my ‘aeolian’ sound world, which grew out of my experiences listening to wind harps on the tundra. As in several of my later string quartets, all the sounds are produced by natural harmonics and open strings. . . . Extensive retuning of the strings is employed.

“The sung text is a series of ‘Arctic Litanies,’ composed of the names of Arctic places, plants, birds, weather, and the seasons, in the languages of the Iñupiat (Alaska Inuit) and Gwich’in (Athabascan) peoples of Alaska.

Arctic Dreams is dedicated to the memory of my dear friend Barry Lopez, and is titled after one of his greatest books.” [See Adams’s remembrance of Lopez from Harper’s magazine.]

[More info…]

Performed by the incredible Synergy Vocals, a critically acclaimed vocal ensemble that has during the past 25 years recorded music by Steve Reich, Louis Andriessen, David Lang, Luciano Berio, James MacMillian, Steven Mackey, John Adams, Arvo Pärt, and many other composers and performed with the Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, and San Francisco Symphonies, the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics, as well as other major orchestras and many chamber ensembles. Their performances and recordings have been deemed “amazing” (New York Times);  “beautiful, haunting” and “wonderfully transparent” (Gramophone); “superb” (The Guardian); “dazzling” (The Observer); “exquisite” (Financial Times); and “blazing and stunning” (The Herald, Scotland). With Synergy Vocals is a quartet of notable string players, all specialists in new music: violinist Robin Lorentz, violist Ron Lawrence, cellist Michael Finckel, and bassist Robert Black.

John Luther Adams is a Pulitzer- and Grammy-winning composer who lived for many years in Alaska, where his work derived much of its unique character from the landscape and weather of the Great North. About a half-dozen years ago, he moved from Alaska, living in various desert and mountain areas in South and Central America—places that also inspired and found expression in his music. He currently resides in rural New Mexico. He is a long-time associate of the Cold Blue label; his music has appeared on seven previous Cold Blue CDs.

 

“One of the most original musical thinkers of the new century.” — Alex Ross, The New Yorker

“Adams’s music sounds like it has nothing to accomplish. It simply exists, hanging in mid-air, waiting to be listened to.” —All-Music Guide

“Adams’s music is as hypnotic as it is different.” —MusicWeb Int’l

“Adams’s powerful music finds inspiration, depth of field, and sonic substance in the shapes and textures of the natural world and, most of all, in the composer’s own deep and passionate commitment to the act of listening itself.” —Dusted magazine

“Adams’ manner is that of Thoreau—to be in a place, incorporate it into his memory and values, and recreate that through music. It misses the point to say he is inspired by nature—Adams is changed by nature and his music is a catalogue of the places that changed him. . . . Adams [is] an important and necessary musician for our time.” —New York Classical Review

“Adams’s major works have the appearance of being beyond style; they transcend the squabbles of contemporary classical music.” —Alex Ross, The New Yorker

 

Peter Garland

Three Dawns 

and

Bush Radio Calling

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Two exuberant, beautiful solo piano pieces—the three-movement Three Dawns (1981–82), based on poems by Jean-Joseph Rabéarivelo, and the 10-movement Bush Radio Calling (1992), written for the music-theater work Just Them Walking, by New Zealand’s avant-garde theater company Red Mole.

[More info…]

Both works are elegantly and spiritedly performed by Ron Squibbs, a pianist who has also recorded music by Dane Rudhyar and Joji Yuasa.

Peter Garland is a composer, world traveler, musicologist, writer, and former publisher whose music is always informed by his well-traveled ear and strong sense of personal vision. He is a long-time associate of Cold Blue—his music has appeared on seven of the label’s previous CDs.

“Garland’s music seems to be about the sheer expressive power of sound itself…. I feel he is one of our true originals.” —Robert Carl, Fanfare magazine

“Radical consonance’ has been used to describe Garland’s music…an apt choice of words.” —Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare magazine

“[Garland] is an avatar of an experimental American tradition … a composer of mesmerizing music; and in many ways, the musical conscience of my generation.” —Kyle Gann, Chamber Music magazine

 

 

John Luther Adams

Lines Made by Walking

and

untouched

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The composer writes: “I’ve always been a walker. For much of my life I walked the mountains and tundra of Alaska. More recently it’s been the Mexican desert, the altiplano, quebradas, and mountain ridges of Chile, and the hills and canyons of Montana. Making my way across these landscapes . . . I began to imagine music coming directly out of the contours of the land.

“I began work on my fifth string quartet, Lines Made by Walking (commissioned by Tippet Rise Art Center, 2019) by composing three expansive harmonic fields made up of tempo canons with five, six, and seven independent layers. Once I’d composed these fields, I traced pathways across them. As I did this, each instrument of the quartet acquired a unique profile, transforming the strict imitative counterpoint of the tempo canons into intricately varied textures.”

The composer writes about untouched: “I stood on the tundra, holding a small Aeolian harp on top of my head, dancing with the wind, turning like a weathervane. Music seemed to flow out of the sky—across the strings, down through my body, and into the earth. From that beginning, I’ve discovered a broad harmonic and melodic palette derived from superimposing the harmonic series on itself at different intervals.

“I composed my first piece for string quartet, The Wind in High Places (2011), when I was fifty-eight. As I wrote it, I imagined the quartet as a single sixteen-string Aeolian harp, with the music’s rising and falling lines and gusting arpeggios coming entirely from natural harmonics and open strings. My second string quartet, untouched (2016), was a further exploration of this sound world, with the fingers of the musicians still not touching their fingerboards.”

This recording of JACK performing Lines Made by Walking is a 2022 Grammy nominee in the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance category.

Performed by the incredible, illustrious JACK Quartet.

Adams is a long-time associate of Cold Blue; his music has appeared on six of the label’s previous CDs.

[More info…]

“Adams’s major works have the appearance of being beyond style; they transcend the squabbles of contemporary classical music.” —Alex Ross, The New Yorker

“Adams’s music . . . simply exists, hanging in mid-air, waiting to be listened to.” —All-Music Guide

“Adams’s music is as hypnotic as it is different.” —MusicWeb Int’l

“Adams’s powerful music finds inspiration, depth of field, and sonic substance in the shapes and textures of the natural world and, most of all, in the composer’s own deep and passionate commitment to the act of listening itself.” —Dusted magazine

“One of the most original musical thinkers of the new century.” — Alex Ross, The New Yorker

“Adams’ manner is that of Thoreau—to be in a place, incorporate it into his memory and values, and recreate that through music. It misses the point to say he is inspired by nature—Adams is changed by nature and his music is a catalogue of the places that changed him. . . . Lines Made by Walking is his most intimate music-making to date. . . . [P]oignant and powerful music that shouts into the canyon and wonders if an echo, or something, will return. Beyond its sheer beauty, doing just that makes Adams an important and necessary musician for our time.” —New York Classical Review

“JACK . . . the nation’s most important quartet.” —David Allen, The New York Times

 

Matt Sargent
Separation Songs

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Separation Songs is a haunting hour-long continuous work for two string quartets. In it, composer-performer-music technologist Matt Sargent systemically juxtaposes and weaves together an array of 18th-century composer William Billings’s hymn tunes, subtly altering certain aspects of them via real-time-generated variations as the piece unfolds. “Ever wonder what two centuries colliding sounds like…? Listen to Separations Songs.” (Robert Carl)

The composer writes, “Throughout the piece, hymn tunes come and go, passing from one quartet to the other. As tunes reappear, they filter through a ‘separation process,’ whereby selected notes migrate from one quartet to the other. This process leaves breaks in the music that either remain silent or are filled in by stretching the durations of nearby notes, generating new rhythms and harmonies.” 

Matt Sargent’s music has been described by critics as “a powerfully organic experience” (Sequenza21) that is “so simple, so natural, and yet sets up a complex set of interactions” (SoundExpanse) as it “uses bare resources to establish a bounded and essential space” (The Wire).

Both quartet parts are performed on this recording by the Eclipse Quartet, a celebrated long-time stalwart of Los Angeles’s new music scene. “The Eclipse [Quartet] is LA’s answer to 20th-century and present-day music.” (HuffPost)

[More info…]

Robert Carl
Splectra

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Specially priced CD single

Splectra is an elegant harp solo embellished by subtle digital processing. Each of the work’s two sections gradually expands a simple rising motive, becoming harmonically richer by adding pitches related to its opening note’s (low C) harmonic series. Splectra is performed by Los Angeles harpist and new-music champion Alison Bjorkedal. The design and realization of the processing was a collaboration between Robert Carl and Matt Sargent.

Robert Carl is a prolific composer, a performer, and an author of books and articles on new music. His eclectic though often serene compositions usually explore a harmonic language based in the overtone series. “[Carl’s] writing is free of the predictable trappings and dogma, conveying an intelligence that doesn’t need to bury itself in theory in order to express something serious and compelling.” (Time Out New York) “Robert Carl would seem to have a hard time writing dull music.” (Boston Globe) “[Carl] has settled into a more serene, meditative idiom, but still with a dissonant edge.” (Kyle Gann) “[Carl’s] work possesses a great deal of immediate, surface appeal, and yet every piece has deeper layers that repay further listening and consideration.” (Fanfare)

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Michael Byron
Bridges of Pearl and Dust

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Specially priced CD single

 Bridges of Pearl and Dust is virtuosic music for four vibraphones. Polyrhythmic and contrapuntal throughout, it rings out with both inevitably and surprise as it moves through its series of lush, beautiful harmonic fields. It’s a composition wherein continuous activity comfortably shares space with a sense of motionlessness. Via overdubs, all of Bridges‘s four parts are performed for this recording by Los Angeles-based percussionist, composer, and new-music advocate Ben Phelps.

Byron writes, “Bridges of Pearl and Dust is a music about one thing: It points toward a musical experience in the present tense; the burden of anticipation is lifted, and drama, along with its potential for surprise, is abandoned.”

Michael Byron’s music, which tends to be harmonically rich, rhythmically detailed, and virtuosic, is often praised for its ability to create uniquely dense constructions out of relatively limited means: “Byron creates maximalist effect out of minimalist means.” (ClassicalNet) “One is reminded…of the mobiles of Alexander Calder, which are both fixed and moving. And, like Calder’s work, Byron’s music is immediately comprehensible and beautiful, while it remains experimental.” (San Francisco Bay Guardian) “Byron’s music, like Ligeti’s, is instantly recognizable, perceptually challenging, beautifully proportioned and deeply satisfying.” (Paris Transatlantic) “Byron’s music dances with tremulous iridescence.” (Julian Cowley, The Wire)

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Michael Byron
Fabric for String Noise

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Fabric for String Noise is wildly virtuosic music for two violins. Unlike pretty much anything else written for violins, this new two-movement piece may be said to resemble some sort of universal folk music of madly driven ecstasy, a sonic canvas wherein intense hyperactivity shares space with an overarching sense of motionlessness. Also on the CD is the first recording of an earlier Byron work, Dragon Rite—a slow, beautifully rumbling work for four double basses, occasionally employing quarter-tones.

Fabric is performed by the new-music violin duo String Noise—violinists Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim. Dragon Rite is performed by bassist Jim Bergman.

Michael Byron’s music tends to be harmonically rich, rhythmically detailed, and virtuosic. It is often praised for its ability to create uniquely dense constructions out of relatively limited means: “Byron creates maximalist effect out of minimalist means.” (ClassicalNet) “One is reminded…of the mobiles of Alexander Calder, which are both fixed and moving. And, like Calder’s work, Byron’s music is immediately comprehensible and beautiful, while it remains experimental.” (San Francisco Bay Guardian) “Byron’s music, like Ligeti’s, is instantly recognizable, perceptually challenging, beautifully proportioned and deeply satisfying.” (Paris Transatlantic) “Byron’s music dances with tremulous iridescence.” (Julian Cowley, The Wire)

[More info…]

Michael Jon Fink
Celesta

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Celesta is a collection of Fink’s alluring, elegant new celesta solos (all previously unrecorded pieces), performed by the composer. This set of pieces, taken as a whole, as a suite, is perhaps the largest statement for the celesta as a solo instrument. (Beautifully recorded on one of LA’s finest five-octave Schiedmayer celestas.)

Fink’s characteristically reductive but expressive music has been described by the Los Angeles Times as “lustrous,” “metaphysically tinged,” and “unapologetically tranquil.” LA Weekly has written that his music is “of ethereal simplicity . . . he has shaped and refined his spare style greatly—it is distinctly his own.”

“There’s something of Gavin Bryars’ evanescent emotional skill to Fink’s music, something of the soft spatial blur of the Evanses (Bill and Gil) … what gets me every time is its sheer and honest beauty.”—Misfit City (UK)

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John Luther Adams
Everything That Rises

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JACK Quartet is Musical America’s “Ensemble of the Year,” 2019

Everything That Rises is an elegant, haunting, and devilishly difficult string quartet. The composer writes: “Everything That Rises, my fourth quartet, grew out of Sila: The Breath of the World—a concert-length choral/orchestral work composed on a rising series of sixteen harmonic clouds. This music traverses that same territory, but in a much more melodic way. Each musician is a soloist, playing throughout. Time floats and the lines spin out, always rising, in acoustically perfect intervals that grow progressively smaller as they spiral upward…until the music dissolves into the soft noise of the bows, sighing.”

Performed by the incredible, illustrious JACK Quartet.

John Luther Adams, a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Award winning composer, is a long-time associate of Cold Blue; his music has appeared on six of the label’s previous CDs.

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Everything That Rises is art without artifice, and its beauty transports the listener into a timeless place outside of everyday experience, surely one of music’s most exalted goals.” —New York Classical Review

Everything That Rises finds Mr. Adams exploring dissonance and just-intonation tuning, in the gentlest of ways.” —New York Times

“Nature and spirit inform every magical page of Adams’ music…. Everything That Rises takes us to a very still place within. Mere words cannot describe it, but music can conjure it. Something tells me John Luther Adams’ ‘sounds in the air’ may well be an answer to a famous koan.” —Bay Area Reporter

“Adams’s major works have the appearance of being beyond style; they transcend the squabbles of contemporary classical music.” —Alex Ross, The New Yorker

“Adams’s music sounds like it has nothing to accomplish. It simply exists, hanging in mid-air, waiting to be listened to.” —All-Music Guide

“Adams’s music is as hypnotic as it is different.” —MusicWeb Int’l

“Adams’s powerful music finds inspiration, depth of field, and sonic substance in the shapes and textures of the natural world and, most of all, in the composer’s own deep and passionate commitment to the act of listening itself.” —Dusted magazine

“One of the most original musical thinkers of the new century.” — Alex Ross, The New Yorker

Peter Garland
Moon Viewing Music (Inscrutable Stillness Studies #1)

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Moon Viewing Music is a quiet, sparse, introspective six-movement work for three large Thai-style gongs and large tam-tam, performed by the celebrated new-music percussionist William Winant.

Composer Peter Garland is a long-time associate of Cold Blue; his music has appeared on six of the label’s previous CDs. 

[More info…]

“Garland’s music seems to be about the sheer expressive power of sound itself…. I feel he is one of our true originals.” —Robert Carl, Fanfare magazine

“‘Radical consonance’ has been used to describe Garland’s music…an apt choice of words.” —Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare

“[Garland] is an avatar of an experimental American tradition … a composer of mesmerizing music; and in many ways, the musical conscience of my generation…. Garland’s work always brings increasing cognitive involvement; it is much more intricate than it sounds at first.” —Kyle Gann, Chamber Music magazine

“Ever his own man, Garland has moved beyond a strictly minimalist phase of evolving melodic and rhythmic patterns into a hybrid sphere of many influences from the panorama of world music, suggestive of such composers as Conlon Nancarrow and Lou Harrison.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Garland’s…compositions exist entirely on their own terms.” —Signal to Noise magazine

“Garland’s not a very baaaad-assed composer, but he’s one of the best.”—Kyle Gann, Village Voice