Music from the Association for the Promotion of New Music (APNM), vol. 1 & 2


The Association for the Promotion of New Music (APNM) was founded in 1975 by Jacques-Louis Monod as a community of American composers with shared aesthetic values. This double album release features acoustic, electro-acoustic, and purely electronic works by their member composers. 


The Association for the Promotion of New Music (APNM) was founded in 1975 by Jacques-Louis Monod as a community of American composers with shared aesthetic values. This double album release features acoustic, electro-acoustic, and purely electronic works by their member composers and celebrates the organization’s more than four decades long commitment to composers spanning different generations and aesthetic approaches.

The opening work, Wind Chimes for pipa and guitar, is by current secretary of the APNM, Stephen Dydo. Its modal orientation is a nod to Chinese traditional music, specifically music from the earlier Tang and Song dynasties, when compositions exploring multiple modes were the norm. In Dydo’s work, the guitar and pipa inhabit different modes at different times, creating a work that discovers a modern sensibility from a traditional source of inspiration.

Laurie San Martin’s Elective Affinities, heard here in a performance by the Lydian String Quartet with Korean gayaguem player Yi-Ji Young, also looks to the East. Martin treats the quartet as one large hybrid instrument and counterpart to the gayaguem. The piece alternates between gayaguem passages exploring its sonic characteristics and vigorous ensemble sections, leading through an elegant dance to close in a halo of harmonics.

Read More

Thomas James’ Odd Numbers for solo piano was written for his wife Sheila Simpson, who is heard in this performance. The title refers to the odd numbers James used to derive aggregates which shape the rhythmic and pitch organization in the work. The work gives the sense of an internal deliberation, a lyrical consideration of options, implications, and consequences.

Taking its name from a Yiddish word which translates as “little bird,” Elaine Barkin’s Faygele’s Footsteps is composed using midi sounds for a series of virtual instruments: dulcimer, sitar, Balinese gamelan metallophones, harp, and piano. Barkin’s inspiration for the work is a gaudily decorated hub-cap mask; the musical portrait heard here is arranged in a kind of electronic klangfarben.

Sheree Clement’s Round Trip Ticket: A Theme with Variations for Seven Players expands on the Pierrot plus percussion instrumentation by adding an additional percussionist. Clement takes advantage of the expanded percussion palette to explore non-pitched wooden sounds as a counterpart to the prominent marimba part, as subsequent variations diverge further afield from the initial theme.

Joseph Hudson’s Starry Night for solo piano and electronic sounds is performed here by pianist Steve Beck. In the opening minutes of the work, the electronics envelop Debussy-esque chords and arpeggiations in the piano in an ambient halo. As the piano part becomes more active, the electronics respond in kind, overwhelming the piano at the climax before a closing accompanied soliloquy captures the wonder of contemplating the cosmos.

Arthur Krieger’s career has a strong association with his time working at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Studio. His For Diane for fixed media opens the second disc and was one of his last compositions at the EMC. In the piece, we hear echoes of Mario Davidovsky’s hybrid approach to constructing timbral mechanisms, veritable Rube Goldberg machines of sound that ricochet, sometimes in slapstick fashion and other times with multi-layered expressive complexity.

Deconstructing Maria is part of a series of works that Joel Gressel composed in which he imposed the restriction upon himself of using only one melodic strand and its various permutations for the material in the piece. In this case, Gressel begins with the iconic three note tritone motive from Bernstein’s “Maria,” serialized and digitally synthesized to evoke an otherworldly soundscape.

Adam Vidiksis’s Ouroboros references the ancient Egyptian symbol of a serpent eating its own tail as a metaphor for the cyclical nature of human experience. Composed in three sections, Vidiksis establishes rhythmic and material cycles, each of which is “held captive by its own repetitions.”

Maurice Wright’s Stereo Fantasy is a fully notated work for “synthetic orchestra of about 50 instruments.” The work’s opening section is eclectic, with vaudevillian brass lines, bombastic explosions evocative of a marching band, and haunting harmonies out of a sci-fi soundtrack, before moving to a peaceful, wave-like chordal passage. Much of this material emerges and recedes over the course of this eclectic piece.

Carl Christian Bettendorf’s Souvenir for solo viola and electronics was originally titled Souvenir de Tristan in an acoustic version, a reference to his teacher at Columbia University, Tristan Murail. Bettendorf owns the reference by opening the work with the same minor 6th (A-F) that Wagner uses in the oft quoted beginning of his most famous opera. The work unfolds as a dialogue with this borrowed material, as Bettendorf explores the line at which it dissociates from the original reference with the help of obscuring electronics.

Jeffrey Hall’s From the Winds of Avalon balances what he describes as “relatively complex ‘noisy’ spectra” and “pitch based tunes.” Skittering passages lead into ethereal soundscapes while the main ascending tune is transformed, weaving a dichotomy between the simple melody and the vivid sound sculpting surrounding it.

Samuel Wells’ Strange Pilgrims: Light is Like Water is part of a series of works for trumpet and interactive electronics based on a collection of stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The work opens with a burst of muted trumpet fragments and sinewy, synthetic electronic sounds. When the mute comes off, the trumpet plays singing lines into a reverberant wash of processed electronics.

The final work on the album is Hubert Howe’s Inharmonic Fantasy no. 6A. A reworking of his Inharmonic Fantasy No. 6 for flute and electronics, Howe harmonizes an underlying melody with inharmonic elements, producing dreamlike sonorities that melt and stretch into each other.

– D. Lippel

  • Produced by Stephen Dydo and Erik Lundborg
  • Graphic Design by DJ Pallotta
  • Disc 1 mastered by Nicholas Prout for True Sonix, Inc.
  • Disc 2 mastered by Stephen Dydo

Association for the Promotion of New Music

APNM was founded in 1975 by Jacques-Louis Monod as a community of American composers with the purpose of sharing common musical values and creating a network of professional support. APNM fosters the compositional creativity of its members by offering performances of their music, publication services, and promotional visibility.

APNM offers publishing services through the Subito Music Corp. APNM composers are published, but fully maintain their copyright, keeping half of their royalties, and are free from any contractual obligations. APNM promotes its member catalog through its website.

APNM presents concerts of members' music at New York City venues at least twice per year, partnering with virtuosic performers and ensembles including members of Argento and Ensemble Pi. APNM holds an annual Composition Call for Scores Contest, seeking public submissions, particularly from emerging composers. Winners are rewarded with performance and membership.



Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

The APNM (Association for the Promotion of New Music) provides the New Music community out there with an invaluable boost. It came into being in 1975 thanks to Jacques-Louis Monod "as a community of American composers with the purpose of sharing common musical values and creating a network of professional support. APNM fosters the compositional creativity of its members by offering performances of their music, publication services, and promotional visibility."

Accordingly they have recently released a well conceived anthology of some 14 works in a double CD set entitled Music from the APNM Volume One, Chamber Music and Volume Two, Computer + Electronic Music (New Focus Recordings FCR248).

There is quite a bit of good music to be heard, all in a more or less High Modern vein, that is to say music of a certain level of abstraction, traditionally untraditional without necessarily being dodecaphonic or atonal (although that not being "prohibited" either), that creates an aural color field via unusual instrumental combinations, electronic timbral niceties and expressive fullness. Each is a world unto itself.

The anthology starts out with two works combining traditional Chinese or Korean and conventional Western instruments in intriguing ways, with Stephen Dydo's "Wind Chimes" (2012) for pipa and guitar followed by Laurie San Martin's Elective Affinities (2010) for gayageum and string quartet. Both thoroughly bridge the East-West gap with contentual affinity and a sort of middle ground between the ultra-new and the considered tradition.

A very dynamic and rather exciting solo piano work follows, Tom James' Odd Numbers (2015). It has a rolling sort of unfolding that is acrobatic in its kinetic force and articulate in its nimble juggling of melodic and harmonic elements.

A nicely inventive midi-based sound color sampling follows with Elaine Barkin's Faygele's Footsteps (2007). Color contrasts work together to create a kind of mosaic that is both intriguing and musically satisfying. One hears adroit juxtapositions of Gamelan tones intertwining with Western instruments and electronically enhanced complexes. It is a pleasure to hear.

A chamber confluence of definite interest follows in Sheree Clement's 2009 Round Trip Ticket: A Theme with Variations for Seven Players. One revels in dynamic chains of figuration that unwind in tableaux of sectional timbral juxtapositions. Well done!

And then follows the final work of the first volume, Joseph Hudson's 2010 Starry Night for piano and electronic sounds, which paves the way for the second volume and its computer-electronic emphasis. Hudson creates a kind of majesty of sequencing and a superior melding of the acoustics of the piano with the related electronic transformations that accompany and complete the aural soundscape.

The Computer + Electronic Music volume that follows keeps up the momentum with eight works of interest, six comprising "fixed audio media," or in other words the more traditional electronic studio mode, and two with live interactive electronics.

The works are generally oriented towards pitched timbral spectrums (as opposed to noise-based timbres) of fascinating novelty and high levels of musical interest--and show off in this way a kind of continuity with the classic American School of electronics made most famous at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Studios at the peak of the High Modern Era--especially in the '60s.

Each of the eight works on Volume Two weaves its own magic, and each has a nicely constructed complexity and timbral brilliance that marks it out in the listening mind as more than memorable, special, each a little milestone of Modernist tone painting.

There are also few poignant interactions between conventional instruments and their live electronic transformations, such as Carl Bettendorf's 2012 viola and electronics work Souvenir.

The remainder are for electronics in a studio compositional context and they cover a period from 1995 through 2017. A lengthy description of each is probably not necessary. Suffice to say that they are some of the most interesting works I have heard in recent years.

You may not know the composers but you no doubt should by listening closely to this entire volume. Hats off to Arthur Kreiger, Joel Gressel, Adam Vidiksis, Maurice Wright, Carl Bettendorf, Jeffrey Hall, Samuel Wells and Hubert Howe.

The judicial selection of worthy recent works by artists we might not otherwise come to know forms a tribute to the discernment of the APNM and its trustees. This is an essential anthology of the New Music Moderns currently coming up today. If it is any indication, and it no doubt is, we are most assuredly not lacking talented new voices to take us into the future. Highly recommended.

— Grego Applegate Edwards, 2.21.2020


The Whole Note

The Association for the Promotion of New Music (APNM) was founded in 1975, and is celebrating its long commitment to composers with this double release of acoustic, electroacoustic and electronic works by member composers.

Volume 1: Chamber Music is mostly acoustic music performed by a variety of excellent musicians and ensembles. The opening work Wind Chimes, performed by composer/guitarist Stephen Dydo with Chen Yu on pipa, is a continuous colourful sound mix of the two instruments in 12 continuous sections each based on an early Chinese music mode. Thomas James describes his Odd Numbers as utilizing odd numbers to create “aggregate” rhythms, with piano soloist Sheila Simpson especially spectacular in the deli- cate sections. Love Joseph Hudson’s piano/ electronics work Starry Night. The composer memorably orchestrates my own interpret- ation of the night sky with florid piano lines against held, calming, electronic sounds, weather changes with louder rhythms and forceful ticking, and clouds drifting by in the closing slow piano/electronics section. Other works are composed by Laurie San Martin, Elaine Barkin and Sheree Clement.

Volume 2: Computer + Electronic Music consists of eight contrasting compositions. Explosions, rapid-fire lines open Arthur V. Kreiger’s For Diane, with a plethora of interesting electronic sounds created on fixed audio media, while Adam Vidiksis’ Ouroboros features more current-day electronic sounds like plops and repeated rhythmic figures. Almost theatre/movie music, Stereo Fantasy by Maurice Wright is fully notated and performed by synthetic orchestra, complete with sparkling staccato lines, electronically generated strings and drones. Lots of contrapuntal conversations with noisy bangs tunes and almost-live instrument sounds in Jeffrey Hall’s From the Winds of Avalon. More computer-generated instrumental sounds in Joel Gressel’s Deconstructing Maria. Works by Samuel Wells and Carl Christian Bettendorf combine electronics with live instruments, trumpet and viola respectively.

A fabulous collection of acoustic and electronic compositions showcasing the talents of APNM’s members and the organization’s multi-decade work supporting new music.

— Tiina Kiik, 4.01.2020

Related Albums