Aaron Siegel, Mantra Percussion, and Christa Van Alstine
"A Great Many" record release
6pm doors • 7pm show
Inspired by massive flocks of starlings flying in uncannily precise murmurations, A Great Many celebrates the emergence of order out of chaos and the power of the natural world. A collaboration between composer Aaron Siegel, clarinetist Christa Van Alstine, and Mantra Percussion, A Great Many is being released on the venerable New Amsterdam Records, and will be performed on this concert next to Siegel’s first work for Mantra Percussion, Science is Only a Sometimes Friend, a piece whose debut recording was hailed as one of the Ten Best Classical Albums of 2011 by Time Out New York.
Notes from composer Aaron Siegel:
The original idea for A Great Many came from videos of starlings moving together in a murmuration. I am interested in large groups of organisms and the way they operate with each other in highly choreographed ways. A Great Many is a dense piece with layers of sound stacked on top of one another. In concert, the vibrations from the percussion and clarinet should feel like the air sweeping by. Music like this gives listeners a chance to feel the vibrations of the sound and to live with them as part of their lives for the duration of the performance. At the same time that the piece is the physical feeling a great many sounds together, it is also a series of states that together (I have learned) constitute something like a cycle of agitation and introspection. In a way, the form of the piece may, in the end, suggest the kind of narrative arc that I have explored in my works for theatre over the last several years. In this case, though, the sounds represent a character who is at times clearly defined and at other times conflicted and confused. A Great Many is a collaborative performance project between Mantra Percussion and Christa Van Alstine and really could not exist without them.
Experiments in Opera co-founder Aaron Siegel is a composer, percussionist, organizer, and educator. As a composer, Siegel’s inquisitive and playful work represents a personal vision of how we live with and respond to the sounds in our world. He has written countless works for solo percussion, percussion ensemble, string quartet, mixed ensembles, and chorus, among others. His collaboration with Mantra Percussion, Science is Only a Sometimes Friend for eight glockenspiels and organ, was released in May 2011 on LockStep Records and hailed as “one continuous ecstatic sonic event” and as one of the best records of 2011 by Time Out New York.
With Experiments In Opera, Siegel has premiered the opera short The Collector and, in May 2014, a full production of Brother Brother, based on the lives of Orville and Wilbur Wright. In the past three seasons, Siegel has collaborated on Sisyphus with Jason Cady and Matthew Welch, premiered a monodrama for actor and fifteen percussionists, directed a video opera called Tea Before You Go, and contributed The Wallet to EiO’s production of Flash Operas. His choral work for young voices The Mysteries of Nothing was premiered as part of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City’s Radio Radiance concert series, and a 2017 commission from Chamber Music America resulted in the epic A Great Many for six percussionists and clarinet. Siegel is currently at work on a new opera with director Mallory Catlett based on a novel by Janet Frame.
In addition to his work as a composer of operas and innovative text pieces, he has performed extensively with Anthony Braxton and his improvised trio Memorize the Sky. He also performed with Robert Ashley in a revival of his seminal work That Morning Thing at The Kitchen in New York City. Siegel is on the staff of the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.
Committed to honoring the past and expanding the future of percussion music, Mantra Percussion brings to life new works for percussion by living composers, collaborates with artists from diverse genres and styles, and questions what it means to communicate music with percussion instruments. Mantra Percussion engages new audiences by challenging the standard concert format through evening-length events that look toward a grander artistic vision.
Since forming as an ensemble in 2009, Mantra Percussion has been featured throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, including platforms such as BAM’s Next Wave Festival, the Bang on a Can Marathon and Summer Institute, Duke Performances, the Redcat Theater in Los Angeles, National Public Radio, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, the Drogheda Festival in Ireland, the Ecstatic Music and Summer Festivals, Mass MoCA, the Right Now Festival in South Korea, Vancouver New Music, Make Music New York, Fast Forward Austin, the Apple Store at Lincoln Center, the Carlsbad Music Festival, the Bowling Green New Music Festival, MIT with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Percussive Arts Society International Convention, X Avant Festival, New Music New College, the Moving Sounds Festival, Ear Heart Music, the Hi Fi Music Festival, Wesleyan University, the University of Michigan, SMU Meadows School of Music, the University of New Orleans, Northern Illinois University, Louisiana Tech, Southeastern Louisiana University, CalArts, Chapman University, SUNY Buffalo, the Manhattan School of Music, and others.
After co-commissioning Michael Gordon‘s evening-length percussion sextet Timber, they gave the work’s United States premiere in October 2011 and subsequently toured the work internationally. Mantra Percussion also gave the New York premiere of Timber at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival in December 2012.
Over the past eight years, Mantra Percussion has commissioned and/or premiered over 40 new works for percussion ensemble.
Mantra Percussion has been hailed by The New York Times as “finely polished…a fresh source of energy” and by Time Out New York as “forward thinking”; the group was praised by The New Yorker and Time Out New York for presenting one of the ten best classical performances of 2012. They recorded one of Time Out New York‘s Ten Best Classical Albums of 2011: Aaron Siegel’s Science Is Only A Sometimes Friend on LockStep Records. In 2016, they released a double CD, Timber Remixed/Timber Live, on Cantaloupe Music with 12 remixes of Michael Gordon’s Timber by some of the leading electronica artists today including Squarepusher, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Tim Hecker, Fennesz, Oneohtrix Point Never, Hauschka, and more.
New York City–based clarinetist Christa Van Alstine began her musical life in the great plains of Saskatchewan, Canada. After a stint in Toronto studying at the Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School and performing in the National Academy Orchestra, she moved to New York for graduate school at SUNY Stony Brook. Christa currently dedicates her time to collaborating with ensembles, performers, and composers in NYC and beyond. She is on the music faculty at the United Nations International School.