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George Lewis: The Will To Adorn

by International Contemporary Ensemble

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George Lewis is a modern musical polymath, in the truest sense of the word. As the legendary trombonist and pioneering member of the Chicago based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Lewis was a driving force in one of the most important movements in improvised music in the last decades of the 20th century. His work with interactive computer software has transformed the fields of electro-acoustic music and virtual instruments. He has had an equally large impact on the academic community, both through his publications and his mentoring of student composers and performers alike. Lewis’s work as a composer fuses the many facets of his musicianship together, and his collaboration with ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) documented here on this recording, gives us an opportunity to see the wide net that he casts. The recording opens with the title track, a boisterous and colorful ensemble work that is inspired by Zora Neale Hurston’s 1934 essay, “Characteristics of Negro Expression.” Hurston’s description of churchgoing folks’ penchant for “decorating a decoration” captivated Lewis, and the piece manifests that exuberance through explosive, embellished lines, glitchy off-kilter grooves, and subtly shaded microtonal chords. Shadowgraph, 5 and Artificial Life 2007 are both examples of Lewis’s open-form scores, in which he strives to facilitate a structured improvisation experience through non-standard notation. Shadowgraph was written for the AACM big band, comprised of a series of symbol instructions, and is among pieces Lewis wrote for what he calls the “creative orchestra.” Artificial Life 2007 was written for the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, and seeks to “exteriorize the process of decision-making” inherent in improvised playing through more explicit text instructions. Born Obbligato was written for ICE as a companion piece to Beethoven’s Septet op. 20. Lewis borrows structural and textural ideas from Beethoven’s septet, and also adds percussion to the fourth movement, performed here by virtuoso Steven Schick. The recording closes with Lewis’s performance of T.J. Anderson’s In Memoriam Albert Lee Murray, a writer and colleague of Anderson who often chose the African-American musical tradition as his subject matter and the departure point for inspiration.



released January 6, 2017

Engineers: Silas Brown (track 1), Ross Karre (track 2-3), Jessica Slaven (tracks 4-6, 8-9), George Lewis (track 7), Ryan Streber (track 10)

Recording locations:
Track 1 Miller Theatre, Columbia University, NY, NY
Track 2 Roulette, Brooklyn, NY
Track 3 Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center
Track 4-6, 8-9 Abrons Arts Center
Track 7 Clark Studio Theatre, Lincoln Center, NY
Track 10 Oktaven Audio, Mt. Vernon, NY

Track 1: Eric Lamb, flute, piccolo; Nicholas Masterson, oboe; Joshua Rubin, clarinet, bass clarinet; Rebekah Heller, bassoon, contrabassoon; Peter Evans, trumpet; Michael Lormand, trombone; Ross Karre, Nathan Davis, percussion; Daniel Lippel, guitar; Cory Smythe, piano; Erik Carlson, Esther Noh, violins; Katinka Kleijn, cello; Randall Zigler, contrabass; Steven Schick, conductor. 
Track 2: Alice Teyssier, flute; Joshua Rubin, clarinet; David Byrd-Marrow, horn; Ross Karre, percussion; Cory Smythe, piano; Kiku Enomoto, violin; Michael Nicolas, cello
Track 3: Joshua Rubin, clarinet; Rebekah Heller, bassoon; David Byrd-Marrow, horn; David Bowlin, Erik Carlson, violins; Maiya Papach, viola; Katinka Kleijn, cello; Randall Zigler, contrabass
Track 4-6, 8-9: Joshua Rubin, clarinet; Rebekah Heller, bassoon; David Byrd-Marrow, horn; Erik Carlson, violin; Miranda Cuckson, viola; Kivie Cahn-Lipman, cello; Tony Flynt, bass
Track 7: Joshua Rubin, clarinet; Rebekah Heller, bassoon; David Byrd-Marrow, horn; David Bowlin, violin; Maiya Papach, viola; Katinka Kleijn, cello; Randall Zigler, bass; Digital spatialization and transformation software by Damon Holzborn; live engineering by Levy Lorenzo




New Focus Recordings New York, New York

New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers. ... more

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