Ecstatic Music: TAK Ensemble plays Taylor Brook

, composer


Ecstatic Music: TAK Ensemble plays Taylor Brook is the product of years of collaboration between Brook and TAK, and captures the range of Brook’s compositional voice, as well as TAK’s dedication to bold, highly communicative new music. 


Ecstatic Music: TAK plays Brook presents four recent works by composer Taylor Brook, interpreted by TAK Ensemble, a “stellar” quintet (flute, clarinet, violin, percussion, and voice) featuring some of New York’s most adventurous new music performers. The album is the product of years of collaboration between Brook and TAK, and captures the range of Brook’s compositional voice, as well as TAK’s dedication to bold, highly communicative new music.

Ecstatic Music, the album's title track, is a frenetic and virtuosic work for violin and percussion, performed brilliantly by the violinist Marina Kifferstein and percussionist Ellery Trafford. The work's ecstatic state is achieved through a musical language that employs fragile instrumental techniques and microtonal tuning systems. Throughout Ecstatic Music, the violinist and percussionist (playing two microtonally tuned guitars) work as a single unit, often playing in rhythmic unison to create a truly otherworldly sound.

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The haunting song cycle Five Weather Reports uses text from David Ohle's novel Motorman to comment on current environmental and societal concerns. The five songs, performed exquisitely by soprano Charlotte Mundy and her instrumental colleagues, showcase the group’s ability to find extreme, powerful contrasts of sound, as they blend various timbres and extended techniques to create striking new textures.

Idolum draws connections between the work's title, which suggests a phantom or spirit, and the sensors that control the piece's guitar machines. As Brook explains in his notes, the title also refers to the nature of music which, "can become a spell or hypnosis, pulling thought and emotions this way and that." Amalgam explores ways in which sonic and musical amalgamation can be achieved through orchestration. In the first half of the piece, Brook presents a fusion of sound in the instrumental consort, matching disparate musical elements to create a unified monophonic texture. The work's second half achieves a different type of unity, with single lines fused into heterophony united through connection and contrast. In keeping with the rest of the album, this work celebrates the virtuosity of the individual voices and explores the possibilities of this unique ensemble blend.

Produced by David Bird and Taylor Brook
Design by David Bird
Engineered by Patrick Higgins
Mastered by Christopher Botta
Recorded at Futurepast Studio, 11/14/2016 to 11/15/2016

Taylor Brook

Taylor Brook has studied composition with Brian Cherney in Montreal, Luc Brewaeys in Brussels, and George Lewis, and Georg Haas in New York. Brook has also studied Hindustani musical performance in Kolkata, India, with Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya. His music is often concerned with finely-tuned microtonal sonorities and toying with multifarious musical references and styles.

Brook writes concert music, music for video, and music for theater and dance. His work has been performed around the world and has been described as “gripping” and “engrossing” by the New York Times. Brook has won numerous awards and prizes for his compositions, including the MIVOS/Kantor prize, the Lee Ettelson award, and several SOCAN young composers awards including the grand prize in 2016. Brook has been a finalist in the Gaudeamus prize and was awarded honorable mention for the Jules Leger prize two years in a row. His music has been performed by ensembles and soloists such as the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Quatour Bozzini, JACK Quartet, MIVOS quartet, Talea Ensemble, Ascolta Ensemble, and many others.

Brook's current projects include a new piece for New Thread Saxophone Quartet and a new string quartet for the JACK quartet. Brook holds a master’s degree in music composition from McGill University. He currently resides in New York City, where he is completing a doctorate in music composition at Columbia University and working as a freelance composer.

TAK Ensemble

TAK is a quintet that delivers energetic and virtuosic performances of contemporary classical music. Described as “stellar” (Oneirics), and full of “restless strands of ever ­shifting color and vigor” (Feast of Music), TAK concerts are consistently dynamic and engaging. The group frequently collaborates with video artists, installation artists, and experimental theater companies to create immersive concert experiences on a multi-media level. TAK has had the pleasure of working with esteemed composers Mario Diaz de Leon, Lewis Nielson, Tyshawn Sorey, Sam Pluta, Ashkan Behzadi, Natacha Diels, David Bird, and Taylor Brook, among many others.

The members of TAK are each "individual virtuosos" in their own right (Lucy Shelton), and have performed individually across North America and Europe with ensembles such as the London Sinfonietta, International Contemporary Ensemble, JACK Quartet, Wet Ink Ensemble, and Grammy­-winning ensemble Roomful of Teeth. TAK has performed throughout New York City in spaces such as Roulette, New Amsterdam Records Headquarters, DiMenna Center for Classical Music, and Issue Project Room. In recent seasons, they have been invited to perform in collaboration with the American Composers Alliance, Innovations en concert (Montreal), the Queens New Music Festival (Queens, NY), and the Public Theater (NYC); they have held artist residencies at Avaloch Farm (New Hampshire) and Mount Tremper Arts (New York).

TAK is dedicated to working with young composers, and has collaborated with a number of university composition programs to produce concerts of new commissions. Among these institutions are the Oberlin Modern Music Guild, the graduate composers of the "First Performance" student organization at New York University, and both the graduate and undergraduate composers of Columbia University for their Columbia Composers Concerts.

Dedicated to the commission of new works and direct collaboration with composers and other artists, TAK promotes ambitious programming at the highest level. TAK fosters engagement both within the contemporary music community, through bringing in guest artists and collaborators, and the musical community at large. Through working with installation artists, theater companies, and video artists, TAK aims to broaden the scope and diversity of their audience interaction.
14 Dec, 2016

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An Earful

Taylor Brook: Ecstatic Music - Tak Ensemble Based on Ice & Longboats, Vikings liked strange and dissonant sounds on occasion, which makes me think they would have liked some of this album. Brook likes to push the envelope, employing extended and techniques to produce music which never becomes quite familiar even upon repeated listens. The title track has a ritualistic, theatrical sound that is highly evocative, violin and percussion combining to sound like much more. The use of "microtonally tuned guitars" as drums probably helps in that regard. The sense of theater continues with Five Weather Reports, a song cycle with words from David Ohle's cult novel Motorman. Charlotte Mundy does a remarkable job with the vocals, switching from spoken word to soprano flights on a dime, all perfectly pitched, with command and humor. Mundy is also great with the vocalise of Amalgam, the last piece, but then all of the Tak Ensemble members show complete commitment to Brook's conception, turning in sympathetic performances (including using his guitar machine) that are further proof that it's a wonderful time to be writing challenging, original music. Let your ears be sympathetic as well, especially the first time you listen - the rewards of Ecstatic Music are many. - Jeremy Shatan, 11.1.2016


Q2 Album of the Week

Like the final draft from an imaginative, unrestrained author with volumes of world-building stacked on their desk, Taylor Brook's music arrives deeply thought out and replete with paradoxes. The works on TAK Ensemble’s debut album Ecstatic Music incorporate a punctilious 72-note microtonal system and guitar machines programmed to specific frequencies, yet no two performances of the pieces can ever be exactly the same. Earlier this year, Q2 Music featured the Mivos Quartet’s Garden of Diverging Paths, which took its title from Brook's voracious Borges-inspired piece. Bands of magical realism stripe Ecstatic Music as well, and the players perform with the fearlessness that Brook’s music requires.

The album’s most electrifying offering is its centerpiece. Five Weather Reports, on text from David Ohle’s 1972 cult novel Motorman, broadcasts from a bizarre biome which may cease to be entirely fictional if the Earth’s environmental decline continues. You expect to hear certain words during a weather report; “high of 65, scattered showers possible.” Substitute one, or add one that shouldn’t be there, and suddenly reality shifts, the sky changing color. Basso profundo electronics ground expansive cumulonimbus textures of violin, clarinet and flute. The matter of fact voice on the radio (here, the bracing, piquant soprano of Charlotte Mundy) takes off into song as if enveloped in a prairie twister, sideslipping into another map. “Birdfall seasonal to normal,” she intones. “Two suns cooling at the horizon. Animals should be sheltered, travelers are warned.”

Ecstatic Music is the album’s most obviously idiosyncratic piece, and the performers communicate in Brook's musical dialect like native speakers. Violinist Marina Kifferstein whips around guttural, unpredictable glissandi, and percussionist Ellery Trafford utilizes the entire bodies of two retuned guitars. Idolum explores a surreal fusion of machinery and humanity; Kifferstein’s violin and Laura Cocks’s flute waft and roil, a fluid fusion over metallic drones from two performers’ interactions with motion sensor controlled guitars. Barbed sounds begin to pierce the flow, and the shimmering fog briefly clears to allow the acoustic instruments to blaze in full color with a feverish duet passage before they recede behind the silvery veil again, fading away.

Amalgam, the final vignette in this collection, is a perspective illusion. The first half alloys phrase-shards from every voice into brooding monophony, each strand coming into the forefront and fading into the background too quickly to think. It then splits into a haunting heterophony, punctuated on soft bells and quick flights across the violin’s open strings. It sweeps along, a devotional from beyond the realm of rationality, where “blister snow falls from chuff clouds,” and the sensual and unsettling is embraced as natural.

- Doyle Armbrust, 9.5.2016


Boston Globe - Top 10 Classical Albums of 2016

New York new-music chamber ensemble TAK pins down the musical magical realism of emerging composer Taylor Brook. These young, fearless players navigate Brook’s mechanized instruments and alternate tunings with fluid grace and confidence. - Zoe Madonna, 12.23.2016

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