Composer Rick Baitz at the rehearsal for the INTO LIGHT release concert.

Rick Baitz Releases New Album, Into Light

Faculty member Rick Baitz’s most recent works have been immortalized by Innova Recordings and released on the new album Into Light. The three pieces presented span various stages of his career. Together, they represent a return to concert music for the seasoned media composer.

Baitz’s work tends to explore musical movement in time. He speaks at length about the ways that music can show that movement, and the way it transports the listener. Given his background, he’s especially interested in non-Western ways of approaching that motion. He spent part of his youth in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Durban, South Africa, among others. His wide variety of experiences instilled in him a unique sense of how to approach musical construction. His singular perspective shows in the way he deliberately eschews harmonic motion at times in favor of texture, rhythm, and musical gesture. These latest works represent some of his most comprehensive takes on his longstanding fascinations.

“Chthonic Dances” is a string quartet composed in 2011 for Mary Rowell, and revised in 2016. It features Joyce Hammann and Mary Rowell on violin, Beth Meyers on viola, and Ashley Bathgate on cello. The piece exalts his experience with the healing, cathartic power of dance across cultures around the planet. It veers between shimmering textures and bright, folksy dances. “The healing energy of dance is a constant wherever I’ve lived,” says Baitz. “From South African township music to Brazilian samba, the juxtaposition of dance and story-telling creates catharsis- and if you’re down, the act of dancing your pain is a force in transcending it. So the dance of chthonic spirits brings out their complement, the spirits of light.”

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“Hall of Mirrors” was a commission for the Juilliard School’s “Beyond the Machine” concert series, and premiered in 2015. This recording features percussionists Brian Shank, Christrian Lundqvist, Jeremy Smith, and Brian Shankar Adler. Baitz himself accompanies on electronics via a laptop computer. The piece features percussion from around the world, including mbira, caxixi, talking drum, surdo, dumbek, and tabla, to spin a unique web of weaving, interlocking rhythms.

“Into Light” is a new recording of an earlier work, from before Baitz’s film scoring years. Baitz calls it both a dance and a meditation. It features Ken Thomson on clarinet, Jessica Meyer on viola, and Stephen Gosling on piano.

Rick has a long history of bringing phenomenal New York session musicians to the VCFA program. During his tenure as faculty chair in the early years of the Music Composition MFA, establishing strong relationships with virtuosic talent was one of his most enduring achievements. In turn, he has collaborated with several people that he has met through the school. Baitz’s collaborative projects are a perfect example of VCFA’s spirit of cooperation and artistic spark.

A concert and release party on Thursday, September 13th celebrated the album. Tribeca New Music hosted the concert, which was a virtuosic showcase for the composer and the performers alike.

You can find Into Light at Amazon on CD or digitally. You can also find it at Apple Music or iTunes. If you’re feeling more direct, you can always grab it straight from Innova.

This year has been an exciting one for Baitz. In May, BMI awarded him their Classic Contribution Award. The commendation recognized his creation and 10-year leadership of BMI’s “Composing for the Screen” workshop. Previous honorees have included the likes of Mike Post and David Newman.

Beth Bradfish Concert and Exhibition Grace New York

Chicago-based VCFA alum Beth Bradfish has an ongoing exhibition and an upcoming concert in New York. The concert, “Attachments,” features other members of the VCFA community and takes place on June 27th. The exhibition, Untied/United, is a collaboration with multi-discplinary artist Connie Noyes. Both projects were completed under the auspices of Harvestworks.

Untied/United

Untied/United is an installation about the fragility and resilience of close relationships. Noyes has woven a web-like pattern of elastic threads through the exhibition room. Visitors can interact with them via strumming, pulling, or moving around the threads. As they do, sensors developed by Bradfish use that information to create changes in the installation’s soundscape. The changes depend on the density and closeness of the strings, among other factors. The interwoven effects of the visitors can create some drastic results, and invite guests to ponder our interconnectedness.

The installation is currently running, and will continue through July 22nd. The hours are 12–5 pm on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Holiday Mondays at Governors Island Building 8a Nolan Park.

“Attachments”

The technology that Bradfish developed for the installation will also be part of a special collaborative concert on June 27th. She will present an improvisation for piano, bass, laptop, Wii Remotes, contact mics, and smartphones about the present, past, and future of familiar relationships and places. VCFA faculty Diane Moser will join her on piano, with VCFA alum Max Johnson on bass.

The concert will be Wednesday, June 27th, at the ISSUE Project Room, 22 Boerum Place, Brooklyn, NY 11201.

Beth Bradfish Readies January 14th Performance

Sunday, January 14th, the Chicago Composers Orchestra is performing Beth Bradfish’s piece Fanfare with Singing Insects of South Pond, Lincoln Park. Bradfish is a groundbreaking electronic composer whose works are as heartfelt as they are daring. Incorporating field recordings of people and places that she loves, Bradfish’s work has an emotional immediacy that lends it an incredible power.

Also on the program are works by Tomeka Reid, Larry Axelrod, and George Walker.

Tickets are available here, and the piece invites audience participation. Willing participants are encouraged to download one of the following audio files and be ready to play it back on their phone when they are directed to do so. You can download your choice of file here, here, here, or here.

The performance will be held January 14th, 8:30pm at Constellation (3111 N Western Ave, Chicago 60618).