March 5th, 2020 7pm Stage 2
Now in their second decade, yMusic, “Paul Simon’s genre-crossing chamber ensemble of choice” (Rolling Stone), hasn’t worried too much about what to call the music that they play. “You’re supposed to have an elevator pitch — a succinct way of describing what you do, and every time we try and describe it, it’s five minutes later and we’re still talking,” says yMusic trumpet and horn player CJ Camerieri.
No matter how you describe it, yMusic, “one of the groups that has really helped to shape the future of classical music,” (Performance Today) has certainly made an impact on the music world, recently bringing their unorthodox instrumentation (trumpet, flute, clarinet and string trio) to projects ranging from a world tour with Paul Simon to sold-out programs of commissioned music at Carnegie Hall, and collaborating with iconic artists such as choreographer/dancer Bill T. Jones and singer/songwriter Anohni.
If there is a common thread that runs through yMusic’s many projects, it’s the ensemble’s exquisite taste in collaborators, and this 4th album is no exception. The five pieces on Ecstatic Science (Feb. 14, New Amsterdam Records)retain the ensemble’s signature sound while pushing the group to new artistic heights.
Some of the names on the record will be familiar to many fans of contemporary music -- Pulitzer Prize-winner and Kanye West collaborator Caroline Shaw, and first-ever female Metropolitan Opera commissionee Missy Mazzoli. Paul Wiancko provides a wonderful set piece, Thous&ths, which shows the true symphonic potential of yMusic’s mixed instrumentation. Notably, the ensemble performs two tracks by Gabriella Smith, whose propulsive, unusual textures and tight structures are surprise standouts on the album. “We are all massive Gabriella Smith fans,” says yMusic violist Nadia Sirota. “We are so excited to see where her career takes her over the next few years.”
yMusic’s work with artists across many genres has influenced them in countless ways, but perhaps most surprisingly, “these artists are drawn to the thornier stuff we do,” explains violinist Rob Moose. “Their admiration for our own work renews our interest in commissioning music and this album is a reflection of all of our experiences together in our first decade as a group.”
The admiration goes both ways. “I feel like the group has benefited so much from things as simple as being on a rock tour,” says Nadia. “Nothing compares to weeks and weeks of tightly-spaced performances for getting a group vibe together.” Ecstatic Science puts that vibe on full display.
The airplane-themed cover art for the record was created by yMusic’s flutist Alex Sopp. She likens flying, one of yMusic’s favorite activities, to the theme of the record itself, saying “the act of flying in a hulking metal contraption, weightless with the clouds, is itself an ecstatic science, just as the thought patterns and accessibility to emotion that I feel up there are. Being a person and seeing the tops of clouds is ecstatic science.”