“Strobe” release!

Strobe is now available on Google Play! It’s featured on an album of performances from the NY Phil’s Biennial last year, and I’m so thrilled to be included on it. Also included are my Earshot colleagues Max Grafe and Julia Adolphe, as well as Matthias Pintscher, Michael Hersch, Oscar Bettison and others. Press release with more info is here.

Update #1: Now available on Spotify as well! Web version here, or search “ny phil biennial” in the Spotify app.

Update #2: And now on Amazon too!

Chaos, Fire and Nostalgia

At the end of Die Walküre, Wagner represents the fire surrounding a sleeping Brünnhilde with a beautiful flurry of orchestral activity: a sea of sweeping, impossibly fast violins under pointed woodwind and harp gestures. It’s called the “Feuerzauber” or “Magic Fire Music”, and here’s a small part of it:

Screenshot 2015-06-15 08.54.52

My new piece for the Mizzou International Composers Festival and Alarm Will Soundembers, fused to ash, alludes to this in strange and twisted ways, like these:

Screenshot 2015-06-15 09.03.56Screenshot 2015-06-15 09.06.21

There are other representations of fire, like the sustained, uncomfortably high brilliance of the opening, and the generally unpredictable fits and starts that pervade the piece. But this chaotic, noisy energy slowly extinguishes over time. It relaxes into a bluesy lyricism, then further fades into a cold but tender chorale, with simple melodic lines hovering over low sustained strings. The ending hovers on the edge of silence: wispy strings struggle to rise from the ashes but are cut off by an abrupt bass drum.

In spite of its dark ending, I see embers, fused to ash as nostalgic, not negative. There’s a twinge of sadness amid the brightness of the Magic Fire Music  – after all, it follows Wotan’s emotional Farewell to his daughter. Manic energy and brilliance aren’t invariably positive things, and they only burn for so long. And it’s not nihilism to find beauty in the process of fading away from them.

Sonifying the electrical patterns of rat brains

Neurosonics I is the first outgrowth of a collaboration I did with neuroscience graduate student Tahra Eissa, supported by the Arts|Science Initiative at the Logan Center for the Arts. Tahra’s lab runs experiments that study the electrical behavior of cultured rat neurons, and uses these data in the study of epilepsy. All of the sounds in the piece bear some relationship to the neuron activity: the pulses of raw noise that murmur at the opening are direct sonifications, while the unstable vibrating sounds use the neuron activity to manipulate filtering and some spectral frequencies. There are also drum sounds: Tahra plays percussion with the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, and she had previously noticed a relationship between certain drumming patterns and the electrical activity in the experiments. So I recorded her playing a handful of these patterns on her darabukka. All of these sounds float together in three-dimensional space, eventually combining into a maelstrom of activity. Neurosonics does not directly describe the epileptic experience, but I do have a personal connection to it, as I was diagnosed with a mild form of the condition 11 years ago.

Press for “Strobe”, opera, and more…

Andrew_McManus-95_final_WM

Hi! Thanks so much for visiting my site. I’m in the process of re-vamping it, so in the meantime, please find some recordings and other information about me at the addresses below. Thank you!

Soundcloud: http://www.soundcloud.com/andrewemcmanus
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/andrew-mcmanus/9/1b6/b12
Academia.edu: https://chicago.academia.edu/AndrewMcManus

And here is more information about the premiere of Strobe by the New York Philharmonic back in June:

New York Times
New York Classical Review

Finally, here is a video of the premiere of my opera, Killing the Goat (2012-2014):

Recording of “The Rarer Action” from the Wellesley Composers Conference, July 2012

Shakespeare’s The Tempest finds Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan and a learned magician, stranded on a remote island. Twelve years prior his own brother, Antonio, had conspired with his rival Alonso, King of Naples, to depose him. When Prospero divines that Antonio and others are on a ship passing close to the island, he conjures a tempest that wrecks the ship, bringing those who have wronged him ashore. Prospero then uses his powers and those of his servant, the spirit Ariel, to torment Antonio, Alonso and the others. But Prospero cannot sustain his quest for vengeance indefinitely. In this scene from the play’s last act, Ariel reports to Prospero on the suffering of his enemies, saying that “if [he] now beheld them, [his] affections would become tender…Mine would, sir, were I human.” Prospero responds:

 “Though with their high wrongs I am struck to th’ quick,
   Yet with nobler reason ‘gainst my fury
   Do I take part. The rarer action is
   In virtue than in vengeance.”

Believing them penitent, Prospero prepares to cast a a powerful spell to restore his enemies, end their punishment and, most importantly, exorcize his own demons. The Rarer Action traces the fantastic invocations of Prospero’s final spell and his (arguably) tragic resignation from magic. It concludes with a representation of Prospero’s enemies immobilized in the circle he had traced on the stage. The ending – the distant glow of a major triad in the piano and feeble, flickering crotales – invokes the ambiguous tone of the play’s end, best summarized by Prospero’s final monologue:

 “And my ending is despair,
  Unless I be relieved by prayer,
  Which pierces so that it assaults
  Mercy itself and frees all faults.
  As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
  Let your indulgence set me free.”

———————————————————-

http://andrewmcmanusmusic.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/the-rarer-action_-a-scene-from-shakespeares-_the-tempest_-2012-wellesley-composers-conference.mp3

Mary Nessinger, mezzo-soprano
Barry Crawford, flutes
Sarah Crocker, violin
Joshua Gordon, cello
Stephen Paysen, percussion
Ben Paysen, percussion
Christopher Oldfather, piano
James Baker, conductor

Recording of “The Rarer Action”

Here’s the recording for The Rarer Action, which I wrote for my teacher Augusta Read Thomas’ new composition class at the U of C. Performed by:

Julia Bentley, mezzo-soprano
Constance Volk, flutes
Austin Wulliman, violin
Alison Attar, harp
Greg Beyer, vibraphone
Amy Briggs, piano

————————-

Program Notes:

Shakespeare’s The Tempest finds Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan and a learned magician, stranded on a remote island. Twelve years prior his own brother, Antonio, had conspired with his rival Alonso, King of Naples, to depose him. When Prospero divines that Antonio and others are on a ship passing close to the island, he conjures a tempest that wrecks the ship, bringing those who have wronged him ashore. Prospero then uses his powers and those of his servant, the spirit Ariel, to torment Antonio, Alonso and the others. But Prospero cannot sustain his quest for vengeance indefinitely. In this scene from the play’s last act, Ariel reports to Prospero on the suffering of his enemies, saying that “if [he] now beheld them, [his] affections would become tender…Mine would, sir, were I human.” Prospero responds:

“Though with their high wrongs I am struck to th’ quick,
  Yet with nobler reason ‘gainst my fury
  Do I take part. The rarer action is
  In virtue than in vengeance.”

Believing them penitent, Prospero prepares to cast a a powerful spell to restore his enemies, end their punishment and, most importantly, exorcize his own demons. The Rarer Action traces the fantastic invocations of Prospero’s final spell and his (arguably) tragic resignation from magic. It concludes with a representation of Prospero’s enemies immobilized in the circle he had traced on the stage. The ending – the distant glow of a major triad in the piano and feeble, flickering harp harmonics – invokes the ambiguous tone of the play’s end, best summarized by Prospero’s final monologue:

“And my ending is despair,
 Unless I be relieved by prayer, 
 Which pierces so that it assaults
 Mercy itself and frees all faults. 
 As you from crimes would pardon’d be, 
 Let your indulgence set me free.”

————————-

Text and Stage Directions:

Act V, Scene 1, lines 33-57:

[PROSPERO makes a circle on the stage.]

PROSPERO:   Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves,

And ye that on the sands with printless foot

Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him

When he comes back; you demi-puppets that

By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,

Whereof the ewe not bites; and you, whose pastime

Is to make midnight-mushrooms, that rejoice

To hear the solemn curfew, by whose aid
(Weak masters though ye be) I have bedimmed

The noontide sun, called forth the mutinous winds,

And twixt the green sea and the azured vault

Set roaring war; to the dread rattling thunder

Have I given fire, and rifted Jove’s stout oak

With his own bolt; the strong-based promontory

Have I made shake, and by the spurs plucked up

The pine and cedar. Graves at my command

Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let ‘em forth

By my so potent art. But this rough magic

I here abjure, and when I have required

Some heavenly music (which even now I do)

To work mine end upon their senses that

This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff,

Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,

And deeper than did ever plummet sound

I’ll drown my book.

[Solemn music. Here enters ARIEL before, then ALONSO with a frantic gesture, attended by Gonzalo; SEBASTIAN and ANTONIO in like manner attended by ADRIAN and FRANCISCO. They all enter the circle which PROSPERO had made, and there stand charmed…]