Pasos en otra calleFonema Consort/Pablo Santiago Chin/Mauricio Pauly

About

Chicago based ensemble Fonema Consort performs works by Costa Rican composers Pablo Santiago Chin and Mauricio Pauly that stretch vocal chamber music into new and highly expressive territory, lending new poignancy and immediacy to gestures traditionally associated with the avant garde.

Audio

This recording of music by Costa Rican composers Mauricio Pauly and Pablo Chin performed by Chicago based Fonema Consort explores the boundaries of form—where structures are endangered by the very tensions that sustain them—and of meaning—where words verge on pure sound and where musical sound is itself loosed from its conventional moorings. Fonema Consort, founded in 2011 by Chin and singer Nina Dante, is an ensemble devoted to expanding the repertoire for voice and ensemble and is the perfect vehicle for these works that place avant garde gestures traditionally reserved for instrumental writing into the ultimate human context, the voice. Text setting also plays a central role in this disc, with poetry by such figures as Octavio Paz and Lawrence Ferlinghetti shaping the expressive landscape for the compositions. Whether or not Chin and Pauly reflect a shared Costa Rican aesthetic is a question for the critics to answer, but certainly their penchant for prioritizing the visceral gesture over a systematic treatment of material indicates a common sensibility, especially in their vocal writing. The result is that despite the music's obvious sophistication, it hits the emotions before the mind, albeit in surprising and altogether unpredictable ways. The interesting dichotomy between "instrumental" and "vocal" material and the way this music challenges those boundaries reveals itself in the first minutes of the opening track, Solo es real la niebla, where soprano Nina Dante shifts back and forth between swooping melismatic treatments of the text, imitative textures with the ensemble, and extended vocal techniques. Even when Ms. Dante sings material that is "instrumental" in character, the physicality of her voice adds an extra layer of expression. In Pauly's Dust Unsettled, this dichotomy is underscored, as the vocalist's extreme roles shift according to the section of the composition, traveling through distant timbres in the chamber texture, text recitation, and fragments of poignant song. Chin's and Pauly's experimental approaches strive to break through conventional ways of hearing to reach a more direct expression of powerful and complex emotion.

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Chicago based ensemble Fonema Consort performs works by Costa Rican composers Pablo Santiago Chin and Mauricio Pauly that stretch vocal chamber music into new and highly expressive territory, lending new poignancy and immediacy to gestures traditionally associated with the avant garde. These works also explore the boundaries of form—where structures are endangered by the very tensions that sustain them—and of meaning—where words verge on pure sound and where musical sound is itself loosed from its conventional moorings. Fonema Consort, founded in 2011 by Chin and singer Nina Dante, is an ensemble devoted to expanding the repertoire for voice and ensemble and is the perfect vehicle for these works that place avant garde gestures traditionally reserved for instrumental writing into the ultimate human context, the voice. Text setting also plays a central role in this disc, with poetry by such figures as Octavio Paz and Lawrence Ferlinghetti shaping the expressive landscape for the compositions. 

Whether or not Chin and Pauly reflect a shared Costa Rican aesthetic is a question for the critics to answer, but certainly their penchant for prioritizing the visceral gesture over a systematic treatment of material indicates a common sensibility, especially in their vocal writing. The result is that despite the music’s obvious sophistication, it hits the emotions before the mind, albeit in surprising and altogether unpredictable ways. The interesting dichotomy between “instrumental” and “vocal” material and the way this music challenges those boundaries reveals itself in the first minutes of the opening track, Solo es real la niebla, where soprano Nina Dante shifts back and forth between swooping melismatic treatments of the text, imitative textures with the ensemble, and extendedvocal techniques. But because the voice is so directly connected to a universal experience, even when Ms. Dante sings material that is “instrumental” in character, we hear an extra layer of expression because of our empathy with her physicality. In Pauly’s Dust Unsettled, this dichotomy is underscored, as the extreme roles the vocalist is placed in shift according to the section of the composition, traveling through distant timbres in the chamber texture, spoken word, and brief fragments of poignant song. Chin and Pauly’s experimental approach strives to break through conventional ways of hearing to reach a more direct expression of powerful and sometimes quixotic emotion. 

Recorded at the Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago by Alex Inglizian

Edited by Pablo Santiago Chin and Mauricio Pauly
Mixed and Mastered by Alex Inglizian
Produced by Pablo Santiago Chin
Photography by Marc Perlish
Artwork and design by Ben Knight

Fonema Consort

Fonema Consort was founded in October 2011 by singer Nina Dante, and composers Pablo Chin and Edward Hamel. Since its founding, the ensemble has put down roots to become a national and international performing entity. Fonema Consort has initiated a relationship with the City of Chicago, appearing on the Loops and Variations concert series in Millennium Park, and an upcoming presentation at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Music Summit. The 2013-2014 season will also include regular performances at the Berger Park Cultural Center. Fonema Consort believes in the power of concert series to build a stronger new music community, a belief that has taken them to New York City with Permutations and MIKROS, to Costa Rica with De música y músicos, and at home in Chicago with the Latino Music Festival and Frequency.

Fonema Consort is dedicated to the commissioning of new works for voice(s) with instruments, and collaborating closely with composers on the realization of these scores. Since its debut concert in February 2012, Fonema Consort has commissioned more than a dozen works by national and international, emerging and established composers. The ensemble’s dedication to the guidance of young new music performers and composers has led to past and upcoming ensemble residencies at Chicago’s Saint Xavier University and North Central College; as well as a lecture-performance at Boston’s New England Conservatory.

Pablo Santiago Chin

The music of Pablo Chin, a Costa Rican composer based in Chicago, engages with self-designed methods that aid in generating sophisticated polyphony, and that reveal unforeseen musical trajectories. These methods derive from the composer’s concerns with the role of calculation and intuition in his work. Recent works draw inspiration from the narratives of film and literature, phonetic structures in text, and the exploration of iconic Latin rhythms and metrical spaces.

Chin’s music has been performed in 11 countries and across the U.S. states. He has been commissioned by Ensemble Recherche, International Contemporary Ensemble, members of the Anubis Quartet, the MAVerick Ensemble, Chicago Humanities Festival, Latino Music Festival of Chicago, Claremont Concert Orchestra and ensemble dal niente among others. His music has also been performed by artists including Ostravská Banda, Donatienne Michel-Dansac, Pierre-Stéphane Meugé, Marino Formenti, Claire Chase, Eric Lamb, Gan Lev and Marcus Weiss.

Chin earned his doctoral degree in composition from Northwestern University, where he has been awarded the Cacavas Award, William T. Faricy Award, and William Karlins Award. There he studied with Hans Thomalla, Jay Alan Yim, and Aaron Cassidy. In master classes he has worked with Richard Barrett, Oliver Knussen, Chaya Czernowin, and Kaija Saariaho among others. His music has been commissioned for and performed in prestigious international festivals of new music, including the 45th and 46th Summer Courses for New Music in Darmstadt, Ostrava Days 2009, and Centre Acanthes 2011. Currently Chin teaches theory, aural skills and composition at Saint Xavier University, and is co-founder and artistic director of Fonema Consort. Chin was recently awarded the Dotacion Musical from Costa Rica’s ACAM, to fund the production of his first album, to be released in the Spring of 2014.

Mauricio Pauly

Mauricio Pauly (b. Costa Rica / UK resident since 2007) is a chamber electroacoustic music composer and electric bass player. Recent commitments include performances at Ultima Festival for Contemporary Music in Oslo, MATA Festival in New York and Aldeburgh as well as commissions for Darmstadt 2010 (Staubach Honoraria) and 2012. Upcoming performances in Paris, Geneve, Bordeaux, Melbourne, Berlin, New York, London, TelAviv and at Warsaw Autumn.

In 2011, Mauricio was awarded the Costa Rican Composers Association Composition Prize. He is artistic co-director of Distractfold Ensemble and play electric bass with the Manchester-based trio, A Greater Horror, and a founding member of the Altavoz Composers. Mauricio teaches at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and at the Architectural Association Interprofessional Studio in London.


Reviews

Chicago Reader

Forward-looking new-music ensembles dedicated to the work of living composers, especially young ones, seem to be proliferating unstoppably in Chicago these days. The likes of Ensemble dal Niente, Fifth House Ensemble, and Eighth Blackbird regularly perform pieces written for vocalists, but Fonema Consort has distinguished itself by focusing on vocal music. Costa Rican composer Pablo Santiago Chin and singer Nina Dante founded the group with composer Edward Hamel in 2011, and it's already become an important creative force in the city. All six works on Fonema's dazzling new album, Pasos en Otra Calle (New Focus), are by Chin or fellow Costa Rican Mauricio Pauly (now based in London), but the group's enthusiastic embrace of daring new music extends well beyond its founders and their associates: it's also performed music by Chicago-based composers such as Marcos Balter, Morgan Krauss, and Daniel Dehaan as well as rigorous pieces from the likes of Ferneyhough, Aperghis, and Webern. Fonema doesn't always feature voices, but Dante and French expat Nathalie Colas, the group's two imaginative singers, ensure that the pieces that do are highlights of its lively and varied concerts.

 -Peter Margasak

Chicago Reader Best of 2014

This ensemble has changed my thinking on contemporary classical vocal music. The dynamic performances of Fonema's singers, Nina Dante and Nathalie Colas, complement conventional operatic passages with dazzling extended techniques, providing as much of the music's color and texture as the bold instrumental parts do. On its debut album, the group focuses on new work by one of its cofounders, Pablo Chin, and a fellow Costa Rican, London-based composer Mauricio Pauly; most of the pieces incorporate Spanish-language texts by the likes of Octavio Paz and Julio Cortázar, whose images and ideas the music echoes and refracts. - Peter Margasak

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