Ed. note: If you missed our first post earlier this week on New Amsterdam Records, be sure to check it out here. Part 2 in the mini-series, on Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, can be found this-a-way. Today, we continue with Part 3 by introducing you to another of New Amsterdam's exciting, new artists, Nadia Sirota.
If you live in NYC, or listen to WNYC online, and you are, like me, a night owl who loves to listen to the radio, you probably already know violist Nadia Sirota. She co-hosts Overnight Music, the midnight show on 93.9 FM. While she'll often play new recordings of big, famous symphonies, the best part of the show is when she promotes up-and-comers on the scene, local musicians like those we've been talking about this week in connection with New Amsterdam Records.
Sirota, herself, has a new album out on the label, First Things First, featuring new music by composers Nico Muhly, Marcos Balter, and Judd Greenstein, New Amsterdam co-founder.
Sirota commissioned nearly all the pieces on the album, including this cool track called entitled "Etude 1A" (there's a second, similar piece later on the CD entitled "Etude "¨1"). For these two pieces (an etude is traditionally a lesson piece, or a study piece) Sirota commissioned composer Nico Muhly. You can't help but hear the Philip Glass influence in"¨ these lovely little pieces, which shouldn't come as a surprise, as Muhly's day job is assisting Glass full-time (one of Muhly's jobs is "¨to feed Glass's manuscripts into a computer program that plays the scores back to the composer).
If you're wondering how she got the viola to sound like an organ, she didn't. That's a computerized organ accompanying her."¨"¨"¨
[Read on for more track excerpts and a short Q&A with Sirota where she unearths the origins of all those nasty viola jokes. Also, be sure to check out our contest at the end of the interview for your chance to win a copy of First Things First.]
While the majority of the tracks on First Things First feature Sirota alone, or with one other instrument, there is one larger work on the album, written by Greenstein, a piece for string quartet called "The Night Gatherers," featuring the Chiara String Quartet.
Pretty Romantic, with a capital R, eh? That's another thing that's so compelling about this debut CD: there's a little bit of everything, in a great, Post-Modern sort of way. Be sure to pick up a copy through New Amsterdam's site, or try for your chance to win a free copy below, after the interview.
Q&A with Nadia Sirota
DI: Talk a little bit about how your relationship with New Amsterdam Records came about and what the process of putting out your first CD with them was like.
NS: I've been thinking of putting a record out on New Amsterdam since the label was founded, a couple years ago, I think, by a few wonderful composers. One of them, Judd Greenstein, I had worked with extensively, and, in fact, is the composer of two of the pieces on this record. Judd and I met at an idyllic music festival in the berkshires in 2004. There were a lot of bourbon-inflected commissions and general contemplations about the classical music infrastructure as it stood. That kind of thing. When I heard about this label, it seemed like the perfect home for the sort of record I wanted to make. New Amsterdam is unique in that it's kind of a cooperative label. It offers the musician pretty complete artistic control and a lot of handy artist services, in addition to a lovely stable of label-mates. The handoff is that the projects are a bit more DIY than they might be on, say, Deutche Grammaphone, or whatever. What's great about that is that I really feel like I poured a ton of me into this album.
DI: What's the best part about having your own radio show?
NS: All the crazy programming I can dream up!
DI: What's the worst part?
NS: Scheduling. Free landing in music is a puzzle. Fitting in radio is a puzzle. I dig it, though!
DI: Some of our readers may know this already, but violists have their own immense category of jokes made about them, a tradition that's existed for decades. What do you know about the origin of this tradition? How does it make you feel when you hear a viola joke? What's the best viola joke you've ever heard?
NS: So yeah. Back in the day, the story goes, the majority of violists were violinists who'd been politely asked to consider another profession. The resulting violists were somewhat less than stellar. Viola jokes inevitably emerged. Most of them are punny, cheap, lewd, that kinda thing. But come to think about it, that's sort of how Jokes go. I'm happy to hear new ones! As for "the best I've ever heard," I don't think any of them really deserve a superlative in print, but here are couple of prime examples of the genre:
How do you know when the stage is level? The violist is drooling out of both sides of his mouth.
What's the difference between a violist an a prostitute? A prostitute knows more positions.
We're giving away a copy of First Things First to one, lucky, random winner. To qualify, you must leave a comment below telling us what your favorite orchestral instrument is, and why. No brownie points if your answer is the viola!
Check out past On Music posts here.