Ryan Streber: Concentric

, composer


Composer and Owner/Engineer of Oktaven Audio, Ryan Streber, releases a compendium of his recent chamber works, featuring performances by counter(induction, Line C3 Percussion Quartet, Daniel Lippel, Sam Solomon, and Nadia Sirota. Streber's music deftly balances a command over serial techniques that he acquired studying with Milton Babbitt with an intuitively driven approach to harmony, a penchant for investigating properties of acoustics, and an attraction to extra musical sources of inspiration, particularly literature. 


The pieces on this album were written over a span of 10 years and were each conceived as independent works within their own particular contexts. Yet they all have features - formal, technical, extra-musical, etc. - that articulate concentric designs or tendencies. The intimation through musical time of such a non-temporal idea as concentricity is something that fascinates me, as is the way in which a piece can simultaneously tell a linear narrative while still invoking a cyclical or center-oriented continuity. In their own ways, all of the works on this album engage in this interplay.

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Concentricity takes on a physical and visual guise in Cold Pastoral where the four players’ symmetrical disposition around a small collection of shared instruments focuses their interaction on a collective median. There is an element of this in the musical material as well, as the pitch and rhythmic structures seem to float, mobile-like around a handful of harmonic, melodic, and timbral axes. Compassinges has a short song setting of A.R. Ammons’ poem “Love Song (I)” as its axial thread. Originally an independent piece that predated Compassinges, the song is like a devotional text at the center of a page whose margins are crowded by surreal and even grotesque characters and commentaries. The voice of the song is a ghostly presence, drifting in and out of obscurity behind the solo percussion and electronically-manipulated strings.

In both Compassinges and Descent, a solo protagonist occupies a central position amongst electrical sonic elements that extend, counterpoint, or alter the character of the featured instrument. In Compassinges, the percussionist spars with but eventually melds into the electro-acoustic accompaniment. The process is more native and linear in Descent, with the increasingly-distorted amplification of the electric guitar providing an opening for a progressive expansion and widening of the instrument’s innate sound. But despite the linearity of its arc, there are ways in which Descents lines circle a common mean. For example, the chords that recur throughout the piece (from its opening sound to its final moments) progress cyclically through a range of increasing, then decreasing durations, their end nearing a return to the opening. The piece is also a meditation on Rilke’s poem “Orpheus. Euridice. Hermes.”, and the landscapes, divided senses and temporalities, and inevitable fates of the poem’s characters are like a core around which the piece treads.

The single-movement String Quartet as well as the three-movement trio Dust Shelter and three Shadow Etudes all have in common a middle section or movement characterized by slow, sparse, and delicate music. At the center of the String Quartet, a slow and diaphanous texture of quasi-improvised sound fragments provide an accompaniment to an intimate but restrained violin melody, detangling many of the piece’s multiple strands. In the Etudes, the middle movement is a wispy and ephemeral aria for viola with the bass clarinet acting as its shadow. At the core of Dust Shelter’s second movement - and at the heart of the work as a whole - is an extended viola cadenza that serves as its emotional and thematic summation. In these central moments, the pieces’ dramatic and expressive energies turn most inward and concentrated - nearly-still points from which the rest of the works’ paths radiate.

-Ryan Streber, 2014

All tracks edited, mixed, and mastered by Ryan Streber at Oktaven Audio, Yonkers, NY

Engineer: Ryan Streber (tracks 1, 3-10); Michael Rice (track 2)

Session Producers: Ryan Streber (all tracks); Daniel Lippel (tracks 1, 6, 8-10)

Editing Producer: Daniel Lippel (track 6)

Artwork and Design: Jessica Slaven

Track 1 - counter)induction: Miranda Cuckson, Erik Carlson - violins; Jessica Meyer - viola; Karen Ouzounian - 'cello
Track 2 - Line C3 Percussion Quartet: Haruka Fujii, Chris Thompson, John Ostrowski, Sam Solomon
Track 3 - 5 counter)induction: Ben Fingland - clarinets; Jessica Meyer - viola
Track 6 - Daniel Lippel
Track 7 - Sam Solomon - percussion; Kristi Errera-Solomon, voice; David Fulmer, Keats Dieffenbach - violins; Nadia Sirota - viola; Clarice Jensen - 'cello
Track 8 - 10 Nadia Sirota, Clarice Jensen, and Alex Sopp 

Ryan Streber

Ryan Streber is a composer and audio engineer based in New York City whose works have been performed in the United States and abroad by artists and ensembles such as The American Composers Orchestra, The Lucerne Percussion Group, The Juilliard Orchestra, The New Juilliard Ensemble, Flexible Music, Line C3 Percussion Quartet, ACME, Boston Conservatory, Gemini Youth Orchestra, Fountain Chamber Ensemble, and many others. His most orchestral work, Arcuare, was read by The ACO in its 2007 Underwood New Music Readings. Other recent works include Shadow Etudes for counter)induction, the string quartet Repexus II commissioned and premiered by ACME, solo pieces for guitarist Daniel Lippel, percussionist Haruka Fujii, and cellist Sumire Kudo, as well as ensemble compositions for the Boston Conservatory Saxophone Ensemble and BoCo Wind Ensemble, Bacchae Fragments for 12 percussionists which was commissioned by the Lucerne Festival Academy's percussion ensemble, and the new music collective counter)induction of which he is a member.

Besides composing concert music, Ryan has scored two short films, designed sound for over a dozen theatrical productions in and around New York, played electric guitar and percussion in bands, and collaborated with other artists in music and multi-media performances and recordings ranging from pop and rock to experimental and jazz.

As an audio engineer and producer, Ryan co-owns and operates Oktaven Audio in Yonkers, NY. He has worked with numerous artists and ensembles on hundreds of live and studio recording projects, including CDs released on the New Focus, Kairos, Tzadik, Naxos, New Amsterdam, Mode, Innova,ryan_streber-1.jpg

Hot Cup, Albany, Carrier, CAG, New Dynamic, Bridge, GM, Rune, Centaur, Neuma, Capstone, and Arabesque labels.

Ryan received his BMA with Distinction and MMA from The Juilliard School, studying composition with Christopher Rouse and Milton Babbitt. He served as the director of Juilliard's Composers Forum and coordinator for the composition department from 2005 to 2012, and he has also taught composition in the school's Evening Division. He is a recipient of the ASCAP Morton Gould award and Juilliard's Palmer Dixon prize.

Born in 1979 in Rochester, NY, Ryan currently resides in Yonkers, NY.

19 Apr, 2021

New Focus featured in Print and podcast

New Focus has been featured recently in some great contexts: Vanessa Ague wrote a label profile for Bandcamp Daily https://daily.bandcamp.com/label-profile/new-focus-recordings-label-profile?utm_source=notification Seth Boustead featured New Focus on two episodes of his Relevant Tones …

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If I say that the best thing about Concentric is the performances by its musicians, that could be construed as a tactful way of downgrading Ryan Streber's abilities as a composer. Of course, such an interpretation would be inaccurate. Streber's a perfectly credible composer, and no better argument in support of the claim is needed than the recording itself, which features eight mixed chamber pieces, the earliest of them written in 2003.

Works by the Yonkers, NY-based Streber (b. 1979) have been performed by The American Composers Orchestra, The Lucerne Percussion Group, The Juilliard Orchestra, The New Juilliard Ensemble, and many others, and Streber's also produced scores for short films, designed sound for theatrical productions, and played electric guitar and percussion in bands. He also, it's worth noting, studied composition with Christopher Rouse and Milton Babbitt.

Performed by counter)induction (violinists Miranda Cuckson and Erik Carlson, violist Jessica Meyer, and cellist Karen Ouzounian), the simply titled String Quartet locates itself firmly within the string quartet tradition, advancing as it does through passages of dramatic contrast over the course of its twelve minutes. Despite its single-movement structure, the composition does enter into a hushed, quasi-improvised episode halfway through that in its quiet yet lyrical way proves to be the most memorable part of the piece. In contrast to the string-based opener, the percussion-only Cold Pastoral, an unhurried nine-minute exploration of subtle, dream-like character, is given a nuanced reading by the Line C3 Percussion Quartet (Haruka Fujii, Chris Thompson, John Ostrowski, and Sam Solomon).

The three-movement Shadow Etudes strips Streber's music down to clarinet (Ben Fingland) and viola (Jessica Meyer), an effective combination for not only the timbral contrast between the instruments but the clarity with which the interactions between them can be heard. At album's close, yMusic members Nadia Sirota (viola), Clarice Jensen (cello), and Alex Sopp (flute) tackle the three-movement Dust Shelter, which, like Shadow Etudes, satisfies for the musicians' stellar rendering of Streber's material.

Perhaps the most arresting of the album's six instrumental performances is Descent, an eleven-minute excursion executed by electric guitarist Daniel Lippel. Pastoral and delicate in its opening moments, the piece gradually broadens out when amplification and distortion boldly expand the sonorities of the instrument. Streber digs in himself on Compassinges, a richly coloured and emphatically pitched dialogue between seven interlocutors, on which his electric guitar's augmented by aggressive percussion playing, spectral wordless vocalizing, and electronically-manipulated strings.

At seventy-three minutes, Concentric provides a comprehensive portrait of the composer. Based on the evidence at hand, Streber comes across as no grand theorist or iconoclast but someone working within the music's traditions whilst also trying to impose an individual stamp upon it. As credible a composer as he is, however, it's the diversity of the performances that is Concentric's best selling point. His music benefits significantly when everything from a percussion quartet to an electric guitarist are involved in its presentation.

- January 2015


Second Inversion - KING FM

Math and music have always been intertwined. In fact, numbers pervade nearly every aspect of music—form, rhythm, meter, even intervals. But while mathematical studies such as arithmetic and algebra have often been linked with music, few composers have explored the relationship of music to geometry.

New York-based composer and audio engineer Ryan Streber is changing that.

In Streber’s new album, he experiments with a unique geometrical concept as it relates to music: concentricity. The album, titled “Concentric,” explores ideas of shape and symmetry through sound.

“The intimation through musical time of such a non-temporal idea as concentricity is something that fascinates me, as is the way in which a piece can simultaneously tell a linear narrative while still invoking a cyclical or center-oriented continuity,” Streber said. “In their own ways, all of the works on this album engage in this interplay.”

Each piece is inspired in some way by notions of concentricity, whether through symmetrical musical forms, experimentation with visual and spatial orientation (both in performance and in the stereo field), or the permutational patterns of pitch and rhythm structures used.

Streber studied composition with Milton Babbitt at Julliard, as evidenced in the modernist and experimental aspects of his work. However, he avoids characterizing his music as belonging to any particular aesthetic school, instead focusing on exploring his own musical voice by creating compositions which engage the listener in multiple ways.

Streber’s commitment to new and innovative music is further exemplified in his recording studio, Oktaven Audio. He is the engineer and owner of the studio, which specializes in classical, jazz, and acoustic music recording. In fact, Streber recorded, edited, mixed, and mastered “Concentric” himself at Oktaven.

He also enlisted the help of a few local friends in order to bring his musical vision to life. These include his close colleagues and collaborators, the New York-based ensembles counter)induction, Line C3 Percussion Quartet, and musicians of ACME and ICE, all of whom are featured as performers on the album.

The album begins with Streber’s single-movement String Quartet performed by counter)induction. The piece begins with snarling string melodies creating a dramatic and restless musical atmosphere. This tension eventually gives way to a slow and intimate middle section, which features a delicate violin melody flowing sweetly over a variety of quasi-improvised string backdrops. The music then returns to the drama and tension of the beginning, thus framing the middle section and creating a concentric musical form.

Concentricity takes on both a physical and visual form in “Cold Pastoral,” a much more ambient and translucent piece performed by Line C3 Percussion Quartet.  The piece is performed with all four musicians oriented symmetrically around a small collection of shared instruments. Each note lingers in the air long after it is played, expanding outward from the concentric circle in a series of widening sound waves.

Streber switches gears in “Compassinges,” where he explores the unique instrumentation of electric guitar, violin, viola, cello, percussion, and voice. The piece features a short song setting of A. R. Ammons’ poem, “Love Song (I).” The vocal part is an ethereal melody drifting in and out of the musical forefront, often hiding just behind the electroacoustic accompaniment. Short melodic motifs from each instrument encircle the delicate vocal part, creating a constantly shifting musical texture.

Streber’s three-movement “Dust Shelter” explores the rich timbral and textural possibilities of flute, viola, and cello. The first and third movements are an enchanting ebb and flow of different musical textures, with angular and aggressive motifs building in intensity and then flowing back to soft and peaceful melodies. The second movement features a gorgeously expressive viola cadenza, thus creating a delicate, intimate central movement framed by two bold and dynamic movements.

Streber’s “Concentric” succeeds in exploring a wide circumference of musical ideas and forms, but at its center, the album showcases his true commitment to following his own creative voice and expanding the boundaries of his musical language.

- Maggie Molloy, Second Inversion, Classical KING FM 98.1

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