Musicologists of the distant future won't be the only ones astonished to discover innova's 5CD set, The NYFA Collection. It brings together in one fat jewel box a trove of musical gems that document a golden age of a classic culture; a quarter of a century's musical output, all grown in the fertile creative soils of New York, and judged by its artistic peers to be the best of its day. In a field glutted with all kinds of musical chatter, this six-hour, NEA-funded set sorts and distills, juggles and organizes, sifts and curates, some of the most notable artists worthy of your attention.
It's beyond cream: it's a feast, an education, an extravaganza, and a Rosetta Stone all in one. Some of the composers are household names, and some still (for now) known to only a few households. All, however, have received gold stars for their work and deserve a close listen. The gold stars in question being NYFA Fellowships. In 1983, the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) established fellowships in 16 arts disciplines so that regional artists could receive unrestricted support to pursue their work. The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) administers the fellowships in Music Composition and Sound. To celebrate 25 years of fellows (of which there have been over 200 to date), this Collection features 52 of them.
The dozens of works, most heard here for the first time, are not necessarily the pieces that were submitted to the fellowship panel; rather they are new works by composers who have been prize recipients at one time since 1983. The pieces have been selected by Cristian Amigo (composer, guitarist, and NYFA Advisory Committee member) and Philip Blackburn (innova director), and together show the vast range of musical expression that the program supports; music diverse enough to challenge and reward anyone with an appetite for new sonic adventures.
The pieces range from experimental jam bands, to works for newly invented instruments (a tap-dance instrument, a faucet, music boxes, a bridge railing...), electronic manipulations (using the latest analog and software-based tech wizardry), ethnically specific jazz and world music forms (African banjo, Indian sax, Chinese jazz band...), music for concert hall (for choir, orchestra, brass ensemble, string quartet, piano, flute ensemble), music for dance and film... Some is crunchy, some is serene, some is tuneful, some noiseful; some go for the gut, some for the cranium; some Uptown, some Downtown, some Out of Town, others sideways. All the works are carefully conceived and crafted, and played by top-shelf performers from around the globe.
The field of New Music easily disappears under the radar of the mass media; the forward-hearing work of thousands of contemporary artists is routinely ignored by the commercial music (not to mention the classical music) industry. Where does one go to discover this exciting human endeavor for the first time, to learn about its heroes and their many divergent paths to artistic expression? You can start right here.
In 1983, the New York State Council on the Arts established fellowships in 16 arts disciplines, including ones for Music Composition and Sound administered by the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). To celebrate 25 years of fellows (there have been more than 200 to date), this five-CD collection features 52 of them, mostly performing new compositions heard here for the first time. The pieces show the diverse range of contemporary musical expressions the program supports--experimental jam bands, works for newly invented instruments, electronic manipulations, jazz and world forms, music for dance and film--enough to challenge and reward anyone with an appetite for well-crafted sonic adventures. Notable names like Meredith Monk, Robert Dick, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Fred Ho and Paul Motian stand out among the many forward-thinking, New York-based composers and performers featured in this stunning document of a historic culture. --DownBeat Magazine, Ed Enright, October 2010