Kronos Quartet, Kimmo Pohjonen And Samuli Kosminen – Kamala (2007)

From the album “Uniko”, commissioned by Kimmo Pohjonen & Samuli Kosminen for the Kronos Quartet. “Uniko” was composed over an eighteen-month period before its world premiere in Helsinki in September 2004.

Kimmo Pohjonen (born August 16, 1964) is a Finnish accordionist who has revolutionized accordion sounds and performance with his custom-made electrified and modified instrument. Since the mid-nineties he has released numerous albums and toured the world with various projects.

Kimmo Pohjonen and Samuli Kosminen Kluster meet Kronos Quartet in the Uniko project featuring music composed by Pohjonen and Kosminen, commissioned by Kronos. The Uniko album with Kronos was recorded in 2007 and was released in 2011 by Finnish art music record label Ondine. [source]

All tracks on “Uniko” : I. Utu / II. Plasma / III. Särmä / IV. Kalma / V. Kamala / VI. Emo / VII. Avara

Kimmo Pohjonen – Accordion, Voice
Samuli Kosminen – Electronics (Strings & Accordion Samples), Programmed By
Jeffrey Zeigler –  Cello
Hank Dutt – Viola
David Harrington – Violin
John Sherba – Violin

Recorded at Avatar Studios, NYC, 2007.
Additional recordings at Greenhouse Studios, Reykjavik and Ulappa, Helsinki, 2008-2010.
Mixed at Greenhouse Studios, Reykjavik and Seawolf Studios., Helsinki.
Mastered at Finnvox, Helsinki.

Philip Glass establishes annual arts festival in California

Composer Philip Glass will launch an eclectic annual arts festival in August, with music, dance, theater, poetry and film offerings at Hidden Valley, an arts training center near Carmel.

The first Days and Nights Festival runs Aug. 19 to Sept. 4 at the 300-seat Hidden Valley Theatre in Carmel Valley, except for a poetry evening and a concert at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur.

A news release announcing the event says the first season “reflects keystones in Glass’ career,” and that subsequent seasons “will delve ever further into the evolution of the arts across time and space.”

Read the full article in the Los Angeles Times here.

‘Pop Music’ vs. ‘Classical Music’, Part One

Written by Ronnie Rocket, Classical 2.0 (

The recent debate on the influence of classical music on indie rock and vice versa, originally initiated with this post in the excellent Flavorwire (cultural news from the übercool, digital cityguide Flavorpill) and later commented in The Guardian here, seems to have touched an interesting nerve among music buffs. It is always interesting, when artists crossover or show new, surprising sides of their talent. Sometimes, they create a whole new genre, like Rufus Wainwright in recent times with ‘popera’.

For more than 30 years I have followed the developments and firsthanded experienced some defining moments, that are examples of meetings or outright clashes between genres. Karlheinz Stockhausen live with punkrockers in the audience, Balanescu Quartet playing Kraftwerk and releasing records on the esoteric electro-label Mute Records, Elvis Costello performing live in a concert hall with the Brodsky Quartet, Glenn Branca with 100 electric guitars in an auditorium in Rome, and many more.

Inspired by the current discussions, I have put together a list of 20 important events, where the popular music genres of the day, be it jazz, pop or rock meets the established world of classical music. They have since, in their own right, changed the future of music, no less.

1. Miles Davis playing Manuel De Falla on “Sketches of Spain” (1960)

The jazz trumpeter studied at Julliard School of Music (his father let him drop out to pursue a career in jazz). Davis was frustrated about the focus on white, European composers. Later in his career, working with arranger Gil Evans, he went back to the European tradition and quoted references on the landmark ‘Sketches of Spain’ album. Read a review of the album here. He was a big fan of Karlheinz Stockhausen, an important inspiration for his late electric period.

2. The Beatles putting Stockhausen on the cover of “Sgt. Pepper…” (1967)

Everybody knows that the most famous songwriting couple in the world, Paul McCartney and John Lennon, had their differences. They even could not agree on who discovered the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen first. You can see the archived correspondance about the inclusion of Stockhausen’s face on the Beatles’ album cover here and here and  a christmas card John Lennon sent to Stockhausen here and here. Stockhausen himself hated pop music.

3. Walter/Wendy Carlos releases “Switched-On Bach” (1968)

Wendy Carlos not only introduced (and collaborated with Robert Moog) the Moog synthesizer, but did it with music written by the Godfather of classical music, Johan Sebastian Bach. Later, she worked closely with movie director Stanley Kubrick, creating futuristic sounds for the innovative cinematic experiences that would later be regarded as some of the most important movies ever made. However, several of the recordings were rejected by Kubrick. Carlos later released some of these out-takes on two CD’s (1, 2). The introduction of the synthesizer, the adaption of classical music and the soundtrack work for Kubrick were very early experiments connecting popular culture with the classical music world.

4. Stanley Kubrick introducing György Ligeti on the “2001: A Space Odyssey” soundtrack (1968)

The film introduced the avantgarde composer György Ligeti to a wide public. Ligeti’s Requiem (the Kyrie section) and Atmosphères act as recurring leitmotifs in the film’s storyline. Other music used is Ligeti’s Lux Aeterna and an electronically altered form of his Aventures, the last of which was so used without Ligeti’s permission.

5. Ornette Coleman writing “Skies of America” for orchestra (1972)

Skies of America is a third-stream composition, meaning that it encompasses parts of traditional classical music and parts of contemporary jazz. This work was meant to be a collaboration of a full orchestra, in this case the London Symphony Orchestra (conducted by David Measham) with Coleman’s quartet, but conflicts with the musicians’ union in Britain forced the quartet players from the recording. Skies of America is Coleman’s epic “harmolodic manifesto.” Read a review of the reissue here.

6. Electric Light Orchestra’s first single (1972)

“10538 Overture”, released in 1972, was the first single by Electric Light Orchestra. 15 overdubbed, cheap Chinese cellos played by the legendary Roy Woods creates a new sound, that became part glam rock, part symphonic rock.

7. Brian Eno & Obscure Records (1975)

Ex-Roxy Music glamrocker was instrumental in introducing classical music to the rock world. The 10-album series issued on the Obscure Records label introduced an unsuspecting audience to Gavin Bryars, John Adams, Michael Nyman and more. Not since the Beatles album have a single act had such an influence on exposing classical composers to a ‘rock’ audience.

8. Manfred Eicher from ECM Records releasing Steve Reich’s “Music For 18 Musicians” (1976/1978)

The Bavarian record producer Manfred Eicher had already established one of the most innovative records companies ECM Records, releasing records with Keith Jarrett and Art Ensemble of Chicago among many others. Early on, he began expanding into and focusing on so-called classical music and released several records with Steve Reich reaching a new, more mainstream audience. These releases eventually became the platform for the ECM New Series, a sub-label and a ‘market leader’ in contemporary music today.

9. The soundtrack for Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” (1980)

György Ligeti (again) and Krzysztof Penderecki‘s music introduced to a massive audience in a soundtrack to a popular horror movie earning almost 100 million dollars was a major breakthrough for contemporary classical music into pop culture and the hard-to-find soundtrack is still a favourite in the indie crowd today.

10. Glenn Branca writing symphonies for electric guitars, like “Symphony No. 1”, and releasing them on underground cassette tape labels! (1981)

Music from the pioneering no-wave artist, Mr. Glenn Branca – here making a modern classical masterpiece with four guitar parts, including axe-man Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth:

Here is a clip from the Rome performance of “Hallucination City: A Symphony for 100 electric guitars”:

Part Two of this article will be posted here next week – stay tuned for 10 more groundbreaking moments in the grey area of popular and classical music!

On a personal note, I would like to add that I am promoting a chamber music concert in Copenhagen next week, where the programme goes from baroque, impressionism and modern to contemporary 20th century and completely new music including a version of Kraftwerk’s “Die Roboter” arranged for treated piano and amplified cello thrown in for good measure. The music is performed by Eriko Makimura & Co. More information about this special event here


The Kronos Quartet / Terry Riley at Zankel Hall, New York City

The Kronos Quartet is ensconced at Carnegie Hall for a Perspectives series that explores the expansive, stylistically borderless repertory for which this ensemble is known, with master classes and a program by student quartets along the way. The group made a down payment on this minifestival in November, when it performed Tan Dun’s “Ghost Opera” and the pageantlike “Chinese Home” during Carnegie Hall’s festival of Chinese music. But the series got under way in earnest on Thursday evening, with a program of Terry Riley’s music at Zankel Hall.

Single-composer programs are rare for the Kronos, but the Riley program celebrated a relationship that dates back 30 years, to Kronos’s early days, and has yielded 26 works. Kronos built its program around three of the latest, with glances back at two earlier scores as well.

All this music addresses, however abstractly, Mr. Riley’s longstanding interest in fostering peace. And two of the new works focus more specifically on how children see the world around them and what they will make of the planet they are inheriting.

Read the full review in The New York Times here.

Kronos Quartet performing new work by J.G. Thirwell

Kronos Quartet
Margaret Leng Tan
Victor Gama


Zankel Hall (Seating Chart)
Friday, March 12, 2010 at 7:30 PM

Tickets from $28 – $42

Using an orchestra of toys, instruments constructed from remnant military materials by children from Angola, and technology capable of capturing tones emitted by the desert, Kronos revisits the joy in discovering new sounds through new means. The program features toy piano virtuoso Margaret Leng Tan and Portuguese instrument builder Victor Gama, and a new work for Kronos by J. G. Thirlwell inspired by environmental acoustic phenomena. To conclude the evening, Kronos is joined by electronic duo Matmos, for a tribute to Terry Riley.

The Program

Kronos Quartet
·· David Harrington, Violin
·· John Sherba, Violin
·· Hank Dutt, Viola
·· Jeffrey Zeigler, Cello
Margaret Leng Tan, Toy Piano, Toy Orchestra, and Vocals
Victor Gama, Pangeia Instrumentos
·· Drew Daniel, Electronics
·· M.C. Schmidt, Electronics

Program / Program Notes / The Artists

[via Alexander Natas]