Music
Writing

Selected Musical Works

Title: Extinction (2014)
Length: 11’18”
Commissioned by: Spitting Image Composers Collective
Performer: Joshua Musikantow

Extinction mix one

Extinction, tuned to 53-tone equal temperament, is a non-nostalgic meditation on loss: both everything that has been lost, and everything we risk losing. I say non-nostalgic not because it is without sentiment, but rather because nostalgia usually entails a yearning for the familiar; yet, that which has been truly lost is quite alien to us, as its very state of being lost implies an omission from, or at least underrepresentation within, the accepted canons and historical narratives.
I’d like to believe that the things that survive the test of time do so because of their virtue; yet, through the years, I have moved further towards the opposite viewpoint: namely, that survival is secured not through virtue but through some combination of cold pragmatism; pandering; political maneuvering; or outright brutality on the part of those with superior numbers, resources, or military might.
My allegiances are with the losing side.
The work is written for one live performer using an Axis 64, a MIDI input device with 192 velocity-sensitive keys arranged into a hexagonal grid. All sounds were synthesized from scratch. The work was performed by myself as part of the Hear and Now concert series.

Title:
Lisp (2012-13)
Length: 12’18”
Commissioned by: James DeVoll, with funding provided by ACF and the Jerome Foundation.
Performer: James DeVoll

Lisp

Lisp traverses a many-graded field between language and sound, between the intelligible and the unintelligible, and between pathology and expression. Communicating with miscommunications, each movement of Lisp utilizes some quirk of speech normally assumed to be an impediment as a musical resource.

Lisp was a recipient of the 2011 JFund award.


Title:
Earthbound III (2011)
Length: 9’00”

Commissioned by: No Exit Ensemble
Performers: No Exit Ensemble (Cara Tweed, violin; Tom Bowling, viola; Nick Diodore, cello)

Earthbound III, all movements

Picasso asserted that art was an “instrument of war,” even describing his paintings as being “bristled with razors.” Earthbound III, a strident and unapologetic piece that requires the string trio to fortify the wood of their instruments with coatings of beeswax and rosin and instructs the violist to use a knife, perhaps comes closer to being bristled with razors than anything else in my output.
This undertaking arose out of my inner need to fully engage the instruments in the basest, most visceral sense: as physical objects, detached from preconceived notions. It could just as easily be called a piece for wood with attached strings as a string trio.
The piece has been performed many times by the No Exit ensemble through out the Cleveland area, and has also been performed by the Jack Quartet at the University of Minnesota.


Title: Comma (2011)
Audio Length: 5’54”
Commissioned by: Noriko Kawaii
Performers: Joshua Musikantow, bodhran; Zeitgeist (Shannon Wettstein, piano; Heather Barringer, vibraphone)

Comma_by_Joshua_Musikantow

Comma juxtaposes standard intonation in the live instruments with nearly pure fifths in the electronics. After cycling through 12 fifths, the electronic part reaches a pitch a Pythagorean comma higher than the piano’s A440 pedal tone. Continued iterations create even greater deviations until they get back in sink again after 665 fifths (thanks to a very small amount of tempering).
In this recording, I play a Celtic bodhran drum by rubbing (rather than striking) the head to produce long, unearthly tones. The figures used by the other performers come from a series of text descriptions I provided for them, as well as from coaching during rehearsals. I created the fixed electronics using an accurate yet efficient harmonica simulator that I developed myself in Max MSP.
Comma was commissioned by Noriko Kawaii for the occasion of James Dillon’s 60th birthday and was a winner of the Zeitgeist call for scores. Aside from the Saint Paul performance with Zeitgeist presented here, Ms. Kawaii and I performed Comma as a duet at the University of Minnesota, and Ms. Kawaii performed it as a solo in the 2012 PureGold [sic] Festival in London.



Title: Hues (2010)
Audio Length: 19’00”
Performers: Contemporary Music Workshop (Whitney Noble, clarine; Baylen Wagner, cello; Scotty Horey, percussion; Dan Hedegard, guitar; Joshua Musikantow, electronics; Erik Rohde, conductor)


hues (full)

A hue is not a color, but rather a property of colors.  Colors with the same hue may occur at many different levels of brightness and saturation; but across these differences, they retain a shared nature. For each of the twelve hues explored in this work, one of the players sets down his or her instrument, goes to the instrument of another player, and performs a variety of activities on that other player’s instrument while the other player is still playing.



Title: Six Realms (2009)
Audio Length: 10’00”
Performers: CASMI Ensemble (Hana Knauerová, viola; Michal Sedlácek, violin; Balázs Adorján, cello; Zdenek Koubek, percussion)

Six Realms (applause cut out)

Six Realms, the oldest work that I have included for your consideration, is organized into six brief episodes, each depicting a different category of rebirth in the Buddhist cosmology. Coming and going, learning and forgetting, the piece takes an evocative and imagistic approach to music rather than an architectural one. Atmospheres become the foreground in a journey through worlds.

The work premiered at the 2009 CASMI festival in the city of Prague’s lovely Dvorak museum.


Title: Small Feets (2013)
Audio Length: 6’04”

Small Feets

Small Feets is my submission to the 2012-2013 Untwelve Composition Competition, which is a competition for microtonal works. In this work, I use a self-designed software synthesizer, making fine pitch adjustments with foot pedals (hence the title). Using foot pedals in combination to a traditional keyboard makes large scales (in this case, a division of the octave into 94 equal tones,) performable. My previous submission to the Untwelve Competition, Nerding Out with Mel, can be found here: http://untwelve.org/competition/2011.

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Selected Writings

Bitterness Bonanza

Teeth

superluminal man, revised 2009



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