Photo Courtesy of Anna Yatskevich
Each year, we move closer and closer to a convergence of electronic, rock, and classical music. Composer-performers lie at the core of this movement, bringing new sound ideas to the forefront of public knowledge while acting as musical conduits and interpreters for other like-minded creatives.
Enter Tyler Neidermayer, an NYC-based clarinetist who is poised to re-imagine the next wave of art music happening in North America.
“My background as a performer absolutely influences how I think about writing my own music, but the two originally were very disconnected,” Neidermayer explains. “I started writing back in 2016 during my undergrad but limited myself to only working with notation software.”
“Around the same time, I started getting into improvising with other musicians and on my own and it really opened this wide door of possibilities for me,” Neidermayer continued. “I was also playing a lot of rep using extended techniques, so finding spaces to freely explore the bass clarinet's palette and discover what else I could do with the instrument was huge for me. I didn't actually consider my improvisations as compositions until very recently. Discovering music by solo performers writing their own music like Colin Stetson and Holly Herndon really helped validate the concept of composing without notation. I much prefer to work directly with recorded sound to lay out and organize different ideas and listen for what I want to come next.”
This approach to exploring composition has led Neidermayer to create an artistic language that feels incredibly open and alive. The use of electronics play a large part in realizing this style of music.
“Many of my first compositions were written with fixed media elements made from processing field recordings, but I didn't really know what I was doing at the time,” Neidermayer said. “I started really delving into Ableton Live at MSM working with Todd Reynolds and Mike Lowenstern to amplify and process my clarinets. Ableton was a complete game changer. It's my primary tool for composing but also this hybrid instrument I can play and control in real time. I like to think of it as an extension of my bass clarinet sound because it can do so many things I could never physically play on my horn, but that in turn made me start approaching the bass clarinet like a synthesizer trying to find ways to replicate the new sounds I was creating in Ableton.”
“I think it's necessary for all musicians to have a basic understanding of music technology / electronic music and to know what is available to them. We live during a time when recording equipment is more accessible than it ever was and many free studio-level tools can be used with just a laptop, yet most music schools still do not include an equitable electronic music education in their core curriculum leaving their students wildly unprepared.”
The experimentation with recording, improvisation, and electronics spawned two notable pieces this year, strata and Witch King, with a slew of new works on the way.
“I got into the hall [at Manhattan School of Music] and had a lot on my mind with so much unknown and up in the air at the time, I wanted to just play whatever came to me and push as much as I could through my horn,” Neidermayer said.
“That improvisation became strata after I came back to it a month later and started to play with pulling out specific tones from the recording to slowly build this wailing chord throughout the entire piece. It was a one-in-a-million improv for me and I have conflicted feelings on if I should try to transcribe and recreate the piece or if it should just exist as a recording, as I think that lets it stand out as a composition in its own beautiful way. The visuals I built for the piece was also my first time working with interactive graphics in Max but the result turned out to represent my concept of the piece well; this fission of sound between my voice and my horn that eventually collapses into just one split sound.”
“Witch King was born from an exercise on circular breathing I had been working on for a while, starting from this almost subtone sound with minimal air and focus on the physical key clicks and growing into a three chord progression that explores different overtone possibilities until the sound starts to split into this shriek,” Neidermayer continued.
"Both of these pieces have greatly influenced how I am currently writing music because they both came from such opposite beginnings, one from months of testing techniques and the other from a burst of raw emotion, yet they became full works that I am extremely proud of.”
This same ethos of embracing new means of making music has blended into the ensemble work Neidermayer is currently involved in.
One of his latest endeavors is acting as a member of Apply Triangle. The trio, consisting of Joshua Weinberg (flutes) and Jixue Yang (keyboards) and Neidermayer, will soon enter the scene with a series of recordings that center around creative use of new technologies and exploring the integration of electronics in art music.
“We wanted to create an opportunity for emerging composers to start or continue experimenting with electronic / electro-acoustic music by writing up to five minutes of music for our instrumentation,” Neidermayer said. “ All of us in [Apply Triangle] are versed with the various DAWs available and want to share our experience performing new music that uses electronics with composers who may be new to the medium. We currently have over 25 new pieces in the works and plan to release them as a set of albums throughout 2020 and 2021.”
The ensemble currently has an open call for scores, that can be found on their website.
Despite coronavirus completely altering the musical landscape for the foreseeable future, Neidermayer hasn’t been deterred.
“I want to continue as much of the work that I have been doing with my groups and collaborators, Neidermayer said.” “Apply Triangle has our Call for Scores underway, Quintilia is in the works of developing new types of online artistic events, and BlackBox Ensemble is kicking off our third season navigating a hybrid of recorded and live performances. Things are just going to be new and different moving forward and I want to be involved with as much as I can to keep creating and making new music however we are able to.”
“I have plans to produce an album of my own compositions later this year which I am very stoked about. Most of it is recorded already, I will be recording the rest of it from my home studio here in Brooklyn but I am excited to see what comes from working with new limitations. I also want to get more into creating some content for my YouTube channel about my workflow and some examples of how I process my sound.”
With so many projects in the works, striving to create the novel and exciting could seem overwhelming. Neidermayer approaches this challenge with grace, making him someone we should all be on the lookout for in the coming months:
“Remember that everyone has new limitations they are dealing with now and workflow on both sides might not be what it was a few months ago," Neidermayer said. "Making music in this time can often be difficult and when we're collaborating with people across the world we need to stay flexible and supportive. Just because we see so many people constantly putting out different projects or streams or whatever doesn't mean things need to be rushed. Music takes time.”
You can listen to Tyler Neidermayer’s music on Youtube and Soundcloud and can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Learn more about Apply Triangle here and check out his piece, strata, below.
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photo courtesy of Tanea Hynes
One of the strangest and hippest phenomena that I am still working on wrapping my head around is the marriage of vaporwave aesthetics with modern strains of art music. This isn’t a wholly new trend—record labels like slashsound have built their brand around this union of styles, while artists like Rohan Chander have tread mid-waist through those same waters to create a wholly unique vision of music.
This chain of experimentation leads us to Andrew Noseworthy’s “Pull Up,” my favorite track on People|Places|Records upcoming record, Consortium Works: Solo Saxophone. The collection of works is a fairly stately affair, with the exception of Noseworthy’s track and Shelley Washington’s “BLACK MARY” bringing the energy that pushes this release to the next level.
While the compilation should definitely be checked out, the power of this release rests in Noseworthy’s contribution, the consortium that spawned it and the community that benefits from the album profits.
“The idea to do the consortium project came from two influences, my longtime friendship with Samantha [Etchegary] and also seeing the great work that Tyler Kline was doing with his commissioning consortium,” Noseworthy said.
“The consortium model made lots of sense to me as a composer, since nearly all of my work focuses on projects with community building goals, as well as writing for instruments/ensembles that are looking to expand their rep.”
Noseworthy’s relationship with Etchegary stretches back to their undergrad days together at Memorial University of Newfoundland and this long-standing bond help spawned the consortium.
“Much of my pieces from that time that involved the saxophone featured her incredible playing,” Noseworthy continued. “When we both headed off to grad school…we kept in regular touch and talked about me writing a piece specifically for her. In 2017, when I moved to London (Ontario) for PhD studies and Sam was performing regularly in Toronto, this idea evolved into the consortium project and creating a whole new set of solo sax works for her to perform.”
Both Noseworthy and Etchegary worked together to find the right composers and artists for the project.
“Samantha essentially picked the composers for the project!” Noseworthy said. “I sent her a list of composers that I had worked with previously and who I knew would be interested and available. They all represented different areas, styles and backgrounds, and together we picked the group. Besides the mix of styles and backgrounds, we also wanted to pick a group that balanced Canadian and American-based composers, as well as those with a strong presence in their respective communities. The result ended up being all composer-performers, with the three American composers (Shelley Washington, Anna Meadors and Andrew Koss) being accomplished saxophonists in their own right.”
The same partnership between the two organizers helped inspire Noseworthy’s contribution to the album.
“My piece is really inspired by my close friendship with Samantha,” Noseworthy continued.
“On the surface [the track] is sonically influenced by vaporwave and sampledelia styles, but its source material dives deep into our mutual tastes in music. The piece is conceptually about how meanings in vernacular language evolve. The music questions how much meanings within language can become divorced from their original sources, which is in line with the vaporwave aesthetic as well.”
“Pull Up,” performed by Greg Bruce on the album, took on a new life through the music video concocted by musician and artist Theo Woodward.
“Since I had written the piece, I had always thought that visual elements would augment its glitchy nature and electronic elements,” Noseworthy said. “I came across Theo’s music and video work during an NYU alumni event last February, and not long after that I asked if he’d be interested in creating a music video for the piece. I commissioned him then to put the visuals together, and besides a couple notes about cuts here and there, I just let him do his thing and he totally nailed it. I knew his surreal, glitchy, and vaporwave-inspired style would already compliment the music, so working with Theo on this piece was pretty straightforward!”
In addition to connecting the North American saxophone/new music communities together, the album has taken on new significance in the greater world of art activism.
“Besides being an album that features music from another community-building initiative, this will also be the first under our new release setup,” Noseworthy continued. “ [Label co-founder] Aeryn [Santillan] and I started the label as a means to build and support our surrounding DIY communities, and from the beginning this consisted of a transparent artist-first setup with each release, along with a sort of fluidity for the roles of those involved between each release. Each release from this point on will have an initial release period where proceeds will go towards a different benefit/cause, while all the music sales that follow will go directly to the artists involved.”
"Aeryn and I... had planned to release this record in late May early June," Noseworthy continued. "Following the public/online focus on Black Lives Matter protests and then the 'Blackout Tuesday' social media trend, we had to take some time to think about our place among it all, as a label and also personally. With some exceptions, I think that following the posting of black squares by different organizations and artists, this was then followed up by one of two next moves... They switched their programming/commissioning to focus on especially/exclusively black voices, much of which they had largely ignored or even dismissed until now or... the next day it was business as usual."
"Representation is important, 100%, but as two artists and a label already involved in promoting work that intersects both BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities, we had to think about what this meant for us to now release music as neither of the above options made sense for us."
"Aeryn and I had been talking since last summer about how to make the label more committed to the community-first model, and now seemed like the time to do that the best way we know how. That’s why moving forward, all our releases will donate to grassroots and transparent activist or benefit organizations during the pre-order and release day period, and following that the entire proceeds of the music will go to the artists involved. In a way, we do hope that us taking the initiative sets an example for the DIY/fringe new music community, but it’s also what we feel is the next step in furthering our mission as a community-first label and as artists individually."
All proceeds from pre-orders and first day sales of the album will go to the Okra Project.
You can explore more of Noseworthy’s work here, check out more of Woodward’s art here, check out the record here and watch the music video below.
Erich is a musician and writer living between Montreal and New York whose work appears on Best Life, Eat This, Not That!, MSN, and more and has represented artists for years as a PR rep. He likes weird music. If you want to find his music, it's over here.