Louis Langrée is well aware of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's rich history. The CSO's freshly minted music director also knows part of that history includes the nurturing of contemporary composers and their often unconventional works.
Enter MusicNOW, Bryce Dessner's 9-year-old festival of adventurous sounds. (Read our conversation with Dessner here.) This year's sonic extravaganza includes the CSO's take on new pieces by such esteemed composers as Nico Muhly and David Lang, as well as the title work from Dessner's new Classical album, St. Carolyn by the Sea.
CityBeat recently connected with the genial Langrée — who spoke in self-described "primitive" English by phone from Paris — to discuss the CSO's collaboration with MusicNOW.
CityBeat: Before we get into MusicNOW, I'm curious about your initial impressions of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Why were you interested in coming on as music director?
Louis Langrée: The fame the orchestra is really big. Everybody knows it's a major orchestra. But then making music with them was a completely different experience because, yes, they have the qualities of all major American orchestras — precision, clarity of the attack of the situation. But they have also from their heritage, in their DNA, this German conception of sound, that you build the sound from the base of the harmony. That means the density of the sound is something absolutely remarkable, and that's rare in the United States. I think it has to do with the tradition, the roots, of this orchestra and also, of course, about the quality and the spirit of the musicians, which is really wonderful.
CB: Why were you interested in collaborating with MusicNOW and taking on a festival of contemporary music?
LL: One of the strengths of the orchestra is to have supported and commissioned and performed contemporary music from their very early age. Having given the American premiere Mahler Third, Mahler Fifth, Stravinsky coming to Cincinnati before he was considered a giant, having premiered (Aaron Copland's ) "Lincoln Portrait," having commissioned (Copland's) "Fanfare for a Common Man" and many other pieces and many more recent pieces. That's why I wanted to open my tenure as music director with eighth blackbird and Jennifer Higdon concerto piece. It shows that we should support, play, commission and perform contemporary music — and, of course, contemporary American music.
CB: What was it like collaborating with Bryce?
LL: Meeting Bryce was a wonderful. His French is perfect. Especially compared to my primitive English. (Laughs). I like his attitude in making music and experimentation. And any strong institution should be also a place of experimentation. Music is not something you put in a museum. It's alive. And then we should perform contemporary music like Classical music and perform Beethoven music, not forgetting that he only composed contemporary music. All the composers — Mozart, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Bartok — composed contemporary music, so we have to continue it. He's very focused and concentrated, but on the other hand the spectrum was quite bright. I think we have arrived on wonderful programs — very challenging, but very exciting.
CB: What makes him unique as a composer?
LL: He knows how to make an orchestra sound. It's a very clear and precise writing but at the same time there is so much flexibility in the variations of colors written and the flow of the music. It's always quite exciting to study a piece and hear it. Having the privilege of working with the composer is something wonderful because there are so many questions I would like to ask of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, and of course it's impossible. So being able to ask the composer and to hear his answers is just wonderful.
Bryce is someone who has great harmonic taste, and I think for the orchestra it's wonderful because you can express yourself much easier. I think he's very much like his music — a very welcoming man, a very open, very luminous person. I see that in his music, which is not always the case with composers. With him, I get the feeling he's one with his music.
CB: How has the orchestra responded to playing these new, sometimes challenging pieces?
LL: Any new piece you don't know what to expect. What I've found is that these musicians are very open-minded, they are very generous and positive in their attitude and are eager to try any new experience. It's a privilege to perform these two concerts of new music, but it's also very challenging, so you have to be very practical.
CB: And what's the experience been like for you?
LL: It's a great responsibility when you conduct a piece, but it's also a great privilege that today's major American composers are willing to write for us. To be sharing this experiment and experience in concert, to be a part of MusicNOW, is really something beautiful.
MusicNOW's 2014 festival begins tonight and continues tomorrow. Visit musicnowfestival.org for tickets and full programming details.
The inaugural Bunbury Music Festival — three days of top-shelf Alternative music at Cincinnati's riverfront Sawyer Point Park — is TOMORROW! All this week, CityBeat's music blog has featured samples from some of our "sleeper picks" for the fest, artists who some may not be as familiar with as they are Weezer or Death Cab for Cutie or Jane's Addiction.
Our next "sleeper" is Now, Now, performing Sunday at 3 p.m. on the Bud Light Stage.
Cacie Dalager and Bradley Hale, paired up as songwriters since 2003 when both were in high school marching band, officially started as a duo with the unwieldy handle Now, Now Every Children; their 2008 debut full length Cars was an indie sensation.
That success ultimately resulted in a moniker makeover to the sensibly edited Now, Now and the addition of second guitarist Jess Abbott, which broadened the band’s sound on its 2010 EP, Neighbors. Sporting an energetic Indie Pop vibe that could pass for Kathleen Edwards channeling Motion City Soundtrack, Now, Now teamed with veteran producer Howard Redekopp for its just-released sophomore full length Threads, an expansive album that throbs with an aggressive Ambience.
Here's "Thread" from Threads.
April 29 - Super 8 Motel, Wytheville, Va.
Wytheville — pronounced "whiteville," I believe — sits at the cross of I-77 and I-81. Looking down I-81, I used to see Bristol, Tenn., and think of that time in 1927 when The Cater Family and Jimmie Rodgers separately met a rep from the Victor Talking Machine Company and recorded a couple of songs. They got paid about $100. Lot's changed since then, though the pay's about the same. These days when I look down towards Bristol I see a redneck deputy hauling a longed haired songwriter off to jail for the crime of relieving himself behind a bush. In 1981, that cost $25. There use to be a great BBQ joint in Wytheville. It's gone. too. They had the best fried chicken and blackberry cobbler.
I guess everyone wore themselves out Saturday as no one stayed up past midnight to talk or jam or whatever. On Sunday morning, with a solid six hours of sleep, I was up and drenched in coffee by 8 a.m. I packed up camp and planned what was left of my MerleFest weekend. I like to get going, so it was an easy morning and I headed out to the Traditional Tent for some Shape Note Singing with Laura Boosinger.
I misidentified this a few days ago as Sacred Heart singing. The idea is the same — using shapes for notes instead of notes on a musical staff. Sacred Heart uses four notes. Shape Note uses seven. The workshop I attended was about those seven notes and how to sing them. It's pretty straight forward — anyone who's ever seen The Sound of Music and sang "Do Re Mi" will get the idea. "Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti" — each note has a particular shape attached to it and you sing that note when you see that shape. Laura talks about the history of Congregational singing, why they use shapes (people actually patented musical notation at one time) and how Sacred Heart differs from Shaped Note contextually, historically and regionally. Pretty cool stuff, even if the Traditional Tent smells like a barn and is now filled with flies. Laura is also really funny, cracking denominational jokes that the churchgoers find hilarious. I don't get them.
My interest in Sacred Heart/Shaped Note singing came when I wandered into a church one Sunday morning 30 or so years ago. I was wandering around northern Alabama on a motorcycle making my way to the Natchez Trace and then south to New Orleans when I stopped for a breather and cool air beneath a tree. I heard the singing as soon as my head stopped rattling. I slipped inside the outer part of a church and heard the most glorious harmonies — not sweet or beautiful, but primitive and inspiring.
In Shape Note, everyone is singing to the pitch the lead singer has identified. There is no piano, no organ, no hip dude playing guitar, only imperfect humans looking for the most comfortable place for their voice to sing. Your split into four groups depending on your vocal range — altos (includes sopranos), tenors, bass (includes baritones) and leads (anyone who can't but follow the melody regardless of range). I go to the bass group. Each group has a different part to sing — the altos, basses and tenors all singing a harmony part and the leads singing the melody. When it all comes together it unifies the same way most old time music does. It's wondrous and miraculous; if there is a place where God exists, it is inside the dissonance that has congealed into a thing so coherent and beautiful that any existence of God outside of it becomes marginal and meaningless.
I leave the Traditional Tent invigorated and inspired and head back to camp to pack the van. Everything packed and lunch consumed, I head back to the Traditional Tent for one last show before heading home — "Women Singing Traditional Music." On stage are women ages 20 -70, including hosts Carol Rifkin and Gaye Johnson, Brooke Buckner, Laura Boosinger, Joan Wernick, Tara Nevins (Donna the Buffalo), Kim McWhirter and Gailanne Amundsen (Jubal's Kin). All give outstanding performances, but Kim McWhirter brings the house down with a moving version of the Dolly Parton song "Crippled Bird" (which in turn is based on an English Broadside) sung in a sweet mountain lilt and strummed sparingly on guitar.
A wonderful to finish to a great MerleFest.
MerleFest is so much more then one guy can write about, no matter how much he tries. I like what I like — new bands and rediscovering old favorites. In addition to what I see and hear, there are workshops on everything from clawhammer banjo to dulcimer playing, a kids stage and activities, open mics, sitting and picking, indoor concerts, food, vendors galore. It is amazing how much music and activity the organizers pack into one day (and then clean it all up and do it again).
A lot of people stream in mid-afternoon for the nighttime concert. As mentioned, these always feature name acts. I am most fortunate to be able to tag along with my sister, help her in her booth and receive onsite camping privileges in exchange. By 8 p.m., I'm pretty exhausted and looking forward to reading under the remaining light and then laying back and hearing what's on the main stage.
This year they had some good acts. Thursday night the very humble and talented (and maybe the last real Country act standing in Nashville) Vince Gill had a fine set. Saturday I was fortunate to hear Derek Trucks take Sam Bush and his band to school on how to play melodious improvisation on the Clapton tune "Bell Bottom Blues." Derek Trucks is the living heir on slide guitar to the dead-to-early Duane Allman and he has unquestionably extended that legacy way past a wink and a nod and into something quite imaginative and bold. His wife Susan Tedeschi joined them on The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" and hit all the backing vocal parts with soul.
Later that night, Trucks and Tedeschi helped Los Lobos to new heights on a cover of the Grateful Dead's "Bertha." They sounded like they were having a blast, and my noisy camp neighbors confirmed as much the next morning as they were on stage watching the whole thing go down. Unfortunately, I slept through most of Los Lobos set and the Tedeschi/Trucks set Saturday night, though I caught the first few songs, and they sounded quite excellent. Good sleeping music — that's a compliment!
Tomorrow (Saturday) is the seventh annual OTR (that's "Over-the-Rhine," if you don't get the hip lingo) 5K Run and Summer Celebration, featuring a fine art show, food, drink and other vendors, the 5K Run and a strong lineup of local, original music in OTR's Washington Park.
The festivities kick off with the 10 a.m. OTR 5K, which begins and ends at Washington Park this year. Here are the artists — including several Cincinnati Entertainment Awards nominees and winners — you can check out (on the park's Bandstand and Main Event Lawn Stage) this year. (Click each name for more info on the performer.)
• The Cincy Brass (Event Lawn Stage 10:15am-11:30am)
• Baoku & the Image Afro-Beat Band (Event Lawn Stage 12:00pm-12:45pm)
• DAAP Girls (Event Lawn Stage 1:15pm-2:00pm)
• Decker, the solo guise of Histoire singer Jane Smith. (Event Lawn Stage 2:30pm-3:15pm)
• The Tillers (Bandstand 11:30am-12:15pm)
• Mia Carruthers (Bandstand 12:45pm-1:30pm)
There will also be the following "special appearances":
Young Professionals Choral Collective (Bandstand 10:45am-11:15am)
Cincinnati Opera (Bandstand 2:00pm-2:20pm)
Queen City Brass Band (Bandstand 2:45pm-3:30pm)
The Heights Music Festival returns this weekend for its fall event and another wide-ranging sampling of Cincinnati’s original music scene. Music will run Friday and Saturday night from 7 p.m. until about closing time at four venues in Clifton Heights near the University of Cincinnati campus — Baba Budan’s, Mac’s Pizza Pub, Christy’s Biergarten and Rohs Street Café (the only location open to music lovers of all ages).
Here's the full lineup/schedule for this year.
Rohs Street Cafe : 7:00 – Music Resource Center showcase; 8:00 – Wendy’s Yellow Poncho; 9:00 – MC Forty and Wonder Brown ; 10:00 – Cowgirl; 11:00 – The Yugos
8:00 – Sulla;
9:00 – Second Chance At Eden;
10:00 – Damn It To Hell
; 11:00 – Buenos Crotches
; 12:00 – Grey Host
Mac’s Pizza Pub:
8:00 – The Celestials;
9:00 – Majestic Man
; 10:00 – The MJ’s Blues
; 11:00 – Hickory Robot;
12:00 – Jeremy Pinnell & The 55′s;
1:00 – The Founding Fathers
8:00 – The Marmalade Brigade;
9:00 – The Heavy Hinges;
10:00 – The Perfect Children;
11:00 – Shrub (Columbus, OH); 12:00 – The Guitars
Rohs Street Cafe : 7:00 – Elementz Hip Hop Youth Center showcase; 8:00 – Alex Evans ; 9:00 – For Algernon ; 10:00 – Young Heirlooms ; 11:00 – Oui Si Yes
8:00 – Pursuing Hounds
; 9:00 – Sweet Ray Laurel
; 10:00 – Jamwave;
11:00 – The Regrettes (Columbus, OH);
12:00 – The Natives
Mac’s Pizza Pub: 8:00 – Tangerine Sound Machine ; 9:00 – Somebody’s Something ; 10:00 – Big Rock Club ; 11:00 – Valley High ; 12:00 – Junya Be & Wazali
: 8:00 – Killer Looks & Noise
; 9:00 – Horsecop;
10:00 – Loudmouth;
11:00 – Black Signal
; 12:00 – DAAP Girls;
1:00 – The Frankl Project
Tickets are $5 per night if purchased in advance through cincyticket.com here. Admission is $8 for one night or $12 for both if purchased at the festival. Visit the fest's official site here for more info. Here's a sampler the organizers compiled featuring some of the performers:
Details for the first two big local music festivals of 2011 have been announced. The One More Girl on a Stage fest returns Jan. 21 and 22 to Newport’s York Street Café for the Rivertown Music Club’s last ever event, while the Cincy Blues Society’s annual Winter Blues Fest takes over the Southgate House Jan. 28 and 29.
The inaugural Bunbury Music Festival — three days of top-shelf Alternative music at Cincinnati's riverfront Sawyer Point Park — starts TOMORROW! All this week, CityBeat's music blog has been featuring samples from some of our "sleeper picks" for the fest, artists who some may not be as familiar with as they are Weezer or Death Cab for Cutie or Jane's Addiction.
Our next "sleeper" is singer/songwriter (and frequent Cncy visitor) Tristen, performing Friday at 2:15 p.m. on the Bud Light Stage.
MidPoint Music Festival veteran Tristen returns to Cincinnati to play the first ever Bunbury Music Festival. From Chicago, Tristen moved to Nashville soon after college to join the Indie Folk music scene. Her debut album, Charlatans at the Garden Gate, was released in 2011.
Tristen is backed by The Ringers, who add an edge to her Folk Pop music. Tristen is very thoughtful in her approach to Pop music. She has studied what makes a good “hook” and this is reflected in songs such as “Baby Drugs” and “Eager for Your Love.” With lyrics that delve into the complexities of love, it’s clear that Tristen is an introspective soul as well as a fantastic songwriter and performer.
Here's Tristen's music video for "Baby Drugs."
If you're feeling a little adventurous this weekend, there are a pair of great music festivals in the region this that are less than a three hour-drive from Cincinnati. (Stay tuned for continuing previews of the Rock on the Range Hard Rock/Metal fest in Columbus this weekend, for those who like things a little heavier.)
• The Nelsonville Music Festival isn't named because it's some sort of tribute to Willie Nelson. Nelsonville is actually a small town nestled in the Wayne National Forest near Athens, Ohio, and within spitting distance of Hocking College. The eighth annual fest takes place this Friday-Sunday, with a warm-up concert set for tonight. The festival features several stages, an area for art vendors and a kids' section, and you are welcome to camp (though there are several hotels nearby as well).
The lineup for this year's Nelsonville fest is pretty eclectic, with current Indie faves Iron and Wine, Andrew Bird and M. Ward joining legends like Lee "Scratch" Perry, Guided By Voices, Roky Erickson and Sonic Youth's Lee Renaldo. Cincy/Dayton duo R. Ring is also on the bill, along with acts like Mucca Pazza, Horse Feathers, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Kurt Vile, Charles Bradley, Dawes and many, many others.
• About an hour and a half southwest of Cincinnati, in Madison, Ind., the RiverRoots Music & Folk Arts Festival (formerly Ohio River Valley Folk Festival) goes down Friday-Sunday, with a lineup showcasing the many flavors of Americana/Roots music. Now in its seventh year, the festival features family activities, lots of folk artists (the "arts and crafts" kind) exhibiting and selling their work, storytellers and top-shelf music from Hayes Carll, The Black Lillies, The Band of Heathens and Cincinnati greats Over the Rhine.
Here's the full lineup:
Friday, May 18
5 pm Gates & Folk Art Village open
6 pm Carolyn Martin (Texas Swing)
8 pm The Band of Heathens
10 pm Searson
Saturday, May 19
11 am Gates & Folk Art Village open
Noon Music Workshop & Jam Session (in the Storyteller tent)
1 pm Joe Crookston w/Peter Glanville
2 - 6 pm Rivers Institute at Hanover College Traveling Exhibit open
3 pm Roosevelt Dime
5 pm Charlie Parr
7 pm Over the Rhine
9 pm Hayes Carll
Sunday, May 20
12:30 pm Appalatin
1:45 pm Michael Kelsey
3 pm Whiskey Bent Valley Boys
4:30 pm The Black Lillies
Though there is a lot of it, this weekend's three-day Bunbury Music Festival isn't just dudes with guitars playing Alternative Rock music. You'll also find Folk, AltCountry, Post Punk, Blues, Pop and, if you're a fan of DJs and Electronic music, besides acts like RJD2 and Lights, there's a whole stage set up for you.
Self Diploma, the crowd-brining-and-moving local promoters behind the successful Beats Summer Music Series (which has packed Fountain Square every Saturday this summer with a mix of DJs, Electronic and Hip Hop artists), has booked Bunbury's DJ stage and assembled a great mix of local artists with a few marquee headliners.
The DJ/Electronica bookings will perform on the Red Bull Stage, which is the westernmost stage at Sawyer Point, right before the bridge underpass that separates the park from Yeatman's Cove (and next to the "Craft Beer Village"). Here is the full lineup and a little sampling from each day's headliner.
Ice Cold Tony (Noon); CJ the DJ (1:30 p.m.); Alex Peace (3 p.m.); DJ AMF (4:30 p.m.); Mixin Marc (6 p.m.); The Alchemist (7:45 p.m.)
The Alchemist has been an important player on the Hip Hop scene for the past two decades, from his early years learning under mentor DJ Muggs and producing Dilated Peoples and Mobb Deep, through his run in the ’00s producing some of the biggest names in Hip Hop (Ghostface, Snoop Dogg, Nas) through his acclaimed solo albums and DJing gig with Eminem. Al's latest project is the long-awaited Russian Roulette album, which features guest MCs like Evidence, Action Bronson, Schoolboy Q and Danny Brown and has drawn positive reviews for its progressiveness (and trippiness).
The album is due July 17. Here's a track with Big Twinz from the album.
Davey C (Noon); DJ Etrayn (1:30 p.m.); Big Once (3 p.m.); DJ Ivy (4:30 p.m.); DJ Spider (6 p.m.); DJ Irie (8 p.m.)
When you’re dubbed the top DJ in the club-rich scene of Miami, it’s safe to say you’re also one of the best in the country. Miami Herald gave DJ Irie that distinction for his work not only as host of the No. 1 mix-show on Miami’s 99 JAMZ, but also for his crowd-pleasing, fully-energized club sets across the globe. Irie is often lauded for his ability to read a crowd and incorporate a variety of styles for any occasion. Irie could be the dictionary definition of a superstar DJ, having performed everywhere from Robert Downey Jr.’s crib to Miami Heat home games, where he’s the team’s house DJ.
Here's Irie doing a halftime showcase at a Heat game.
DJ Prism (12:45 p.m.); DJ K-Dogg (2:15 p.m.); DJ D-LO (3:45 p.m.); Mr. Best (5:15 p.m.); Mick Boogie (6:45 p.m.)
Mick Boogie is one of the more popular on-call party/club DJs in the U.S., scoring gigs literally all over the planet at some of the top clubs in the world. He's done a lot of popular remixes and commercial work for campaigns by Adidas and Bing, so chances are you've heard him even if you don't recognize his name instantly.
In honor of Adam Yauch's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and subsequent passing earlier this year, Boogie put together a great Beastie Boys mixtape titled Grand Royal (after the group's boutique not-just-music label). Below is a sample (or you can download the whole thing here).
Tickets and full info on the Bunbury Music Festival can be found here.
UPDATE: It appears there has been some shifting around on the Red Bull Stage. DJ Irie is now spinning Sunday at 5:15 p.m.; DJ Spider has his slot Saturday at Bunbury and the afterparty. Be sure to click here for the latest scheduling updates. And click here for afterparty details featuring several of the DJs from the fest.