nF Presents – LONGLEASH


Jan 25, 2024 – 7:00pm


(tap/click dropdowns to expand program notes)

Sounding Petals (2019) - Igor Santos

Sounding Petals is an imagined sonification of the famous mobiles of American sculptor Alexander Calder. Each instrument here represents an individual object from a mobile structure, rotating (i.e. looping) musical phrases independently from each other. Furthermore, like the aluminum petals in some of Calder’s work, each musical object shares common shapes/sounds with its surroundings—promoting a cohesion between small details and a larger—unified—picture. – Igor Santos

Songs after Sufjan (2020) – Baldwin Giang

  1. I should have known better
  2. so/than (Interlude)
  3. to be alone with you

Program Notes

songs after sufjan is, in part, an homage to the singer/songwriter/composer Sufjan Stevens. I found myself most intrigued with how Stevens’s lyrics, often intensely lyrical, conflicted, and loaded with symbolism, are usually accompanied by music of simplicity and restraint. I wondered how this ambiguous combination of elements would be transformed if fragmented and cast as purely instrumental music. My piece for piano trio makes use of some of the musical material of Stevens’s songs, such as translating their carefully orchestrated pop production into dreamy microtonal harmony and extended techniques, as a means to evoke both the intimacy and delicate affect of Stevens’s sound worlds. Furthermore, the ghosts of Stevens’s lyrics, when re-contextualized against my own music, serve as a starting point for the unique emotional arc of my own work. 

The first movement, “I should have known better,” is a reference to the song “Should have known Better” from Stevens’s 2017 album, Carrie and Lowell. Stevens’s lyrics concern his grief over his mother’s death, and the conflicted nature of their relationship, before an unexpected turn towards the light that his newborn niece brings into his life. My work, inspired by the drama of the lyrics, juxtaposes highly contrasting material based on chromaticism and 7 limit-just intonation. 

The second movement, “so/than,” is a study in ambiguity. It functions both as an interlude between the outer movements as well as the emotional center of the entire work. It takes some veiled influence from Stevens “Fourth of July,” also from Carrie and Lowell

The title of the third movement, “to be alone with you,” is a reference to the eponymous song by Stevens, from his 2004 album Seven Swans. I found the lyrics of Stevens’s song, which acknowledge the self-sacrifices required to be alone with someone and with God, especially relevant as I was making hard choices in my own personal life during the COVID-19 pandemic. In these times, to choose to be alone with someone brings both comfort and risk, companionship and awkwardness. 

songs after sufjan is dedicated to my mother, Cam Ly, who passed away from cancer in November 2020 as I was writing the piece. – Baldwin Giang

Dislocated (2023) - Stephen Montalvo ** WORLD PREMIERE **

Dislocated is an exploration of the forgotten, lost, and discarded artifacts that populate our lives. Performers are encouraged to seek out found objects from diverse locations such as attics, crawl spaces, hiking trails, thrift stores, lost and found boxes, and similar forgotten corners of our world. These discarded items, each with their own story, carry with them echoes of the past, serving as silent witnesses to the passage of time. The performers, armed with their found objects, collaborate to weave sounds, textures, and emotions as the music explores different facets of loss, memory, and time, mirroring the multifaceted nature of the objects themselves. As the composition unfolds, listeners are invited to reflect on their own relationships with the things they discard or overlook in their daily lives. The music is a reminder that even in abandonment there is beauty, and in forgotten objects there are stories waiting to be heard.

different gravities (2023) – Katherine Balch

  1. Agile, crisp
  2. Fragile, sinking
  3. Jittery, mechanical
  4. Brisk, bells clanging

Program Notes

different gravities is a musical take on ideas and images that have been rolling around in my head since reading Liu Cixin’s Three Body Problem trilogy. In this science-fiction saga, Cixin introduces readers to many concepts in theoretical physics and astrophysics, one of which is the trilogy’s namesake, the problem of solving the motion of three gravitationally interacting bodies. Cixin’s book lend me down many delightful Wikipedia rabbit-holes, thinking about the way gravity looms omnipresent in my life on this planet and the fantastical number of other kinds of gravitational circumstances besides Earth’s little g. It also seemed an apt way to think about the relationships in chamber music: mutual attraction of greater or lesser strength between musicians or musical materials, the downward fall of a musical line or phrase towards some resolution, the push and pull of intonation. different gravities imagines a kind of musical planet-hopping: each movement lets musical relationships play out according to their unique “gravitational” circumstances. This piece is written with affection for Longleash: Pala Garcia, John Popham, and Julia Den Boer. – Katherine Balch

Unfolding (2023) - Mendel Lee ** WORLD PREMIERE **

Unfolding was written as:

  • a meditative aural puzzle box
  • a gradual shift from chaotic tension to chaotic relaxation

Longleash is:

Pala Garcia – violin

John Popham – cello

Julia Den Boer – piano

Ensemble Bio

Longleash is an ensemble with a traditional instrumentation and a progressive identity. The “expert young trio” (Strad Magazine) takes its name from Operation Long Leash, a Cold War era CIA operation that promoted American avant-garde artists in Europe. “Fearlessly accomplished” (Arts Desk UK), Longleash has quickly earned a reputation in the US and abroad for innovative programming, artistic excellence and new music advocacy.

Recent and upcoming engagements include Five Boroughs Music Festival (NYC), Electric Earth Concerts (New Hampshire), Princeton Sound Kitchen (New Jersey), (le) Poisson Rouge (NYC), Bowerbird (Philadelphia), Ecstatic Music Festival (NYC), National Sawdust (Brooklyn), and the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (Troy, NY). Appearances abroad include Jeunesse (Vienna), Átlátszó Hang (Budapest), FUAIM Music (Cork, Ireland), Trondheim International Chamber Music Festival (Norway), Echoraum (Vienna), and Open Music (Graz, Austria).

In the 2023-24 season, Longleash premieres new works by Katherine Balch, Leilehua Lanzilotti, Adrian Knight, and Igor Santos at venues including Miller Theatre (NYC), University of Louisville, nienteForte (New Orleans), Kaufman Center (NYC), and the Noguchi Museum (NYC). The recipient of grants from New Music USA, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Music Academy of the West, and Chamber Music America, Longleash has premiered over 30 works, and received critical acclaim for their “tight playing,” “lucid interpretations,” and “inspired” premiere recordings (Tempo).

Longleash has given workshops at University College Cork, Royal Irish Academy of Music, The Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program, Manhattan School of Music, Hunter College, New York University, The Graduate Center (CUNY), and Ohio University. In 2015, Longleash founded The Loretto Project (Kentucky), an annual new music series and tuition-free composition workshop that supports promising collegiate composers while presenting socially-minded programs and celebrating diverse cultural perspectives.

Composer Bios (program order)

Described as “otherworldly and mysteriously familiar” (Chicago Classical Review), and as “exciting and clear… with a striking boldness” (Luigi Nono Competition Prize), Igor Santos’ music has been performed internationally, by leading musicians such as Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Intercontemporain,Ensemble Dal Niente, Yarn Wire, Alarm Will Sound, POING, the American Composers Orchestra, and The Florida Orchestra.

His work is centered on mimetic relationships between found sounds, acoustic instruments, and recently with video, all of which is dramatized through repetition and the use of microtonal keyboards.

Igor has earned degrees in Music Composition from the University of Chicago, the Eastman School of Music, and the University of South Florida. He has been awarded the Rome Prize (2022), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2023), and has won additional prizes such as the International Ferruccio Busoni Competition, the Luigi Nono International Competition, the RED NOTE Competition, the Salvatore Martirano Award, and was also awarded Best Sound Design from Theater Tampa Bay (for his incidental music). Igor is a native of Curitiba, Brazil.

Baldwin Giang (b. 1992) is an internationally-performed composer, pianist, interdisciplinary creator, and educator whose music aims to empower communities of audiences and performers by creating concert experiences that are opportunities for collective wonder and judgment. He won the Samuel Barber Rome Prize and is in residence as a fellow at the American Academy in Rome from 2023-2024. Baldwin recently completed a 2022-2023 Fulbright artist Fellowship in Taiwan, and was appointed as a composer-in-residence with the Louisville Orchestra in 2024-2025. He was a nominee/finalist for the 2022 Gaudeamus Award, the most prestigious international prize for composers under 35.   Described as “taut and cohesive…challenging and rewarding” (Cacophony), Baldwin’s music has been performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, Symphony Center in Chicago, and Chateau de Fontainebleau. He has received commissions from the National Sawdust Ensemble, Metropolis Ensemble, New York Youth Symphony, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Loadbang, Playground Ensemble, Grossman Ensemble, Fondation Maurice Ravel, Gaudeamus Muziekweek, Robert Black Foundation, Music in Bloom, How It’s Musically Made, and Music from Copland House. Additionally, he is lucky to have collaborated with such celebrated performers as the New Jersey Symphony, Albany Symphony, Ensemble Intercontemporain, International Contemporary Ensemble, New European Ensemble, Riot Ensemble, Ensemble Garage, Argento Ensemble, [Switch~ Ensemble], orkest de ereprijs, Ensemble MotoContrario, Arditti Quartet, Spektral Quartet, JACK Quartet, Longleash, Sandbox Percussion, Ekmeles Vocal Ensemble, Quince Vocal Ensemble, Rage Thormbones, So Much Hot Air, unassisted fold, Ensemble But What About, ChamberQUEER, Verdant Vibes, AEPEX Contemporary Performance, Aspen Conducting Academy Orchestra, Curtis Symphony Orchestra, Yale Symphony Orchestra, University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Opera Theatre of Yale College, Indiana University’s New Music Ensemble, University of Michigan’s Contemporary Directions Ensemble, University of Iowa’s Center for New Music Ensemble, University of North Texas’s Nova Ensemble, and members of Ensemble Dal Niente and Mocrep.

Stephen Montalvo (b.1984) is an active composer and performer of acoustic and electronic music, as well as audiovisual installation artist, based in New Orleans, LA.
Through his music, he explores concepts related to resonance and rhythmic interplay, works to promote equity in artistic experiences by creating agency for performers and
audiences, and draws inspiration from social, ecological, and political concerns. He has received commissions from Sabertooth Swing, who featured Le Dormeur du Val on their
2022 experimental history album Delta Bound, the Louisiana Music Teachers Association, the Louis Moreau Institute for New Music Performance, and the Winnfield
Ensemble, among others. His works have been performed throughout the United States by artists and ensembles including trumpeter and technologist Alexandria Smith, the
Portland Percussion Group, mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen, the Rhythm Method String Quartet, Bent Duo, and the Talea Ensemble, as well as internationally at the Osaka
University of Arts Electronic Music Festival.

Installations and audiovisual collaborations include projects for LUNA (Light Up NOLA Arts) Fête and SALON Gallery by Arts New Orleans, Supernova by the Friends of Lafitte Greenway, Sound Collage by the New Orleans Jazz Museum, and the Virtual Krewe of Vaporwave. As a percussionist, Stephen has performed with the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra, Midland Odessa Symphony and Chorale, Texas Medical Center Orchestra, and the Louis Moreau Institute for New Music Performance. He currently performs nationally with Mike Dillon’s New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium as well as in New Orleans with various local performers.

Stephen is currently the Executive Director of the Louis Moreau Institute for New Music Performance, the Operations and Outreach Director for nienteForte Contemporary Music,
and adjunct professor in Music Science & Technology at Tulane University. He maintains affiliations with Broadcast Music Incorporated, the Society of Composers, the National Association of Composers/USA, and the Vic Firth Education Team as a Scholastic Educator and Marching Percussion Specialist. He holds a Master of Arts in Music Composition from Tulane University, where he studied with Maxwell Dulaney and Rick Snow, and a Bachelor of Music from West Texas A&M University, where he studied percussion with Susan Martin Tariq and composition with Joseph Nelson and Robert Denham.

Described as “some kind of musical Thomas Edison – you can just hear her tinkering around in her workshop, putting together new sounds and textural ideas” (San Francisco Chronicle), composer Katherine Balch is interested in the intimacy of quotidian objects, found sounds, and natural processes. A collector of aural delights, field recordings are often at the heart of her work, which ranges from acoustic to mixed media and installation.

A recipient of the 2020/21 Rome Prize, Katherine’s work has been commissioned and performed by internationally leading ensembles and presenting organizations including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the London Sinfonietta, Tanglewood, Suntory Summer Arts (Japan), Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK) and the symphony orchestras of Tokyo, Darmstadt, Minnesota, Oregon, Albany, Indianapolis, and Dallas. Her music is published exclusively worldwide by Schott. 

Katherine is Assistant Professor of Composition at Yale School of Music and holds a D.M.A. from Columbia University. When not making or listening to music, she can be found building windchimes, hiking, cooking, or taking cat naps with her feline sidekick, Zarathustra.

Mendel Lee (he/him) (b. 1975) is a New Orleans-based composer whose career oscillates between composition, artistic entrepreneurship, and music education in the pageantry arts. Since exiting his long career as Assistant Director of Tulane Bands in 2022, his primary focus outside of his own music has been with nienteForte Contemporary Music as its Founding Executive Director, Versipel New Music as a composer and performer, and Rhythm X, Inc. where he serves on the Board of Directors.

Since his career shift, Mendel’s artistic vision has rapidly earned him recognition, most notably as a VCCA Fellow and a National Performance Network (NPN) Take Notice Fund grantee. His music has been described as “finding the right balance between minimalist… [static] space and forward motion and trajectory.” His solo timpani work Timpani Forces has been praised as a “…virtuosic tour de force…[whose] attention to melodic and lyrical content and the creative use of glissandi result in a unique addition to the repertoire.” Mendel’s music and multimedia installations have recently been featured as a part of the Performing Media Festival exhibition at the South Bend Museum of Art, the Indiana State Contemporary Music Festival, the National Performance Network Annual Conference Artist Showcase, and New Music on the Bayou. He has also been a clinician and panelist at the University of Hawaii, Louisiana State University, and New Music Gathering concerning his work as a composer, his recent career shift experience, and his music.

Mendel’s tenure with Tulane Bands gave him the distinct honor of arranging, producing, and directing numerous high-profile performances, bookended by the New Orleans Saints 2009 Super Bowl Victory Parade and the World Expo 2020 Dubai. His entrepreneurial innovation and collaborative spirit has helped him forge a partnership between Rhythm X and the Cincinnati Bengals to establish their full-time NFL drumline in 2024. It has also helped him to plant seeds for upcoming large-scale projects intended to better serve and strengthen the identity of new music in the New Orleans and Gulf South region.

In his spare time, he is passionate about cooking (and eating), data analytics and spreadsheets, branding/graphic design, audio/video/motion graphics production, and tabletop and video games. He is also an amateur poker player and has a collection of one-dollar poker chips from over sixty poker rooms he’s played across the nation and in the UK.

nF Acknowledgements

nienteForte would like to give heartfelt thanks to our Season 14 donors and sponsors. We would also like to give acknowledge the following people and organizations who have offered their time and resources to make this season possible:

  • Jeff Albert
  • Michael Batt
  • Kari Bersharse
  • Shivani Bondada
  • Maxwell Dulaney
  • Samantha Eroche
  • Evan Hammond
  • Megan Ihnen
  • Dylan Parrilla-Koester
  • Hayden Outlaw
  • Heather Penton
  • Phillip Schuessler
  • Daniel Sharp
  • Rick Snow
  • Andrew Szypula
  • Alan Theisen
  • Kappa Kappa Psi Rho Chapter
  • Marigny Opera House
  • Tulane University’s Music and Science Technology Program
  • Versipel New Music

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