The New York Times has praised violinist Miranda Cuckson’s “undeniable musicality,” while Gramophone has declared her “an artist to be reckoned with.” Born in Australia and educated in America, she makes her ECM New Series debut – alongside pianist Blair McMillen – with three 20th-century milestones: the Hungarian Béla Bartók’s Violin Sonata No. 2 (1922), the Russian Alfred Schnittke’s Violin Sonata No. 2 “Quasi una Sonata” (1968) and the Pole Witold Lutoslawski’s Partita for Violin and Piano (1984).
Music, song, and poetry have long enjoyed a stimulating relationship; coming together for expressive ends and sometimes colliding in dramatic showdowns. None more so than in these vocal works by two composers who often explore extremes, Milton Babbitt and Michael Hersch. Babbitt’s ‘Philomel’ (1964) was an audacious stab at recasting conventions of song (such as voice with accompaniment) by redistributing the text between live voice, recorded voice, and analog synthesizer. The fragmentary words and syllables by poet John Hollander retell Ovid’s story of the rape and subsequent transformation of Philomel into a nightingale; aptly paralleled by the metamorphosis of the human and artificial sonorities.
Back in 2014, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus performed a stage work as part of BAM’s Next Wave Festival, and they’ve recorded the piece in a studio for their debut album Black Mountain Songs. The project was co-curated by the National’s Bryce Dessner and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry, and the first track that’s being shared from it is its title track, which was composed by Dessner. The rest of the album features contributions from Parry, Caroline Shaw, Nico Muhly, and Tim Hecker.
Mutations is not only Vijay Iyer's debut album for ECM, but also the first recording he's issued since winning a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant in the fall of 2013. As a recording, it is certainly among his most provocative. There are no traces of his Hindustani or Carnatic jazz explorations, his athletic post-bop or modal works, or even his explosive readings of modern pop. This is a showcase for Iyer the composer. Even the set opener, a solo piano reading of "Spellbound and Sacrosanct, Cowrie Shells and the Shimmering Sea," which appeared on Memorophilia–his 1995 debut–showcases its harmonic subtleties and formal construction over improvisation – though it's certainly there. The album's title is actually a ten-part suite for piano, string quartet, and electronics originally composed and premiered in 2005; it has been evolving ever since.