Tag Archives: international contemporary ensemble

TCO Profile: Gareth Flowers

Trumpeter Gareth Flowers seems to perceive no bounds to his creativity.  With years of intense study under his belt, stints with orchestras from here to Seoul, and a deep interest in electroacoustic music, Gareth is at home with just about any artist or project in need of his skills.  If you’re in NYC, see Gareth present his Acousmatic project at The Tank on November 17 (keep reading for more info).

How did improvisation become part of your musical experience?
I became really aware of improvisation for the first time  when I moved to New York in 2000 and began listening to pretty mainstream jazz such as the Mingus Big Band, or Dave Douglas‘ many ensembles.  But I guess improvisation wasn’t really part of my own musical experience until I became aware of my peers such as Nate Wooley and Peter Evans.  Hearing the way that Nate and Peter approached improvsation really opened doors in my mind.

Gareth Flowers

What composers/musicians most influence your work?
From a strictly musical perspective: Ligeti, Kurtag and Webern.  From a sonic perspective: Flying Lotus for his sampling artistry and deft production work, and Noisia for their detailed, overloud productions.

What current projects/ensembles are you involved in?
 I released a solo recording called Acousmatic in June I really enjoy playing solo (though I rarely have the opportunity).  For this project, I layer and resample myself until it sounds really dense and confusing.  I also co-lead a production/live duo called Batteries Duo with Josh Frank, a fellow trumpeter and producer of quirky music.  Frank and I recently completed a remix of some chamber music by Lisa Bielewa, completely re-contextualizing her work.  I also play regularly with, and am a member of, the International Contemporary Ensemble.

What recent releases or upcoming events do you have on the horizon?
I am playing a solo Acousmatic set at The Tank on November 17.  But first, on November 13, I am playing Copland’s Quiet City at Copland House in Westchester.  This in itself isn’t all that remarkable, except that the restored, chamber version for saxophone, clarinet, trumpet and piano that we will perform that evening is wildly different from the score that most people are familiar with.  Also on the 13th, the guitarist/composer Ben Frost is playing at the New York Public Library.  I organized a brass sextet for that show, and I’m really looking forward to hearing how the music comes together.

What are you currently listening to?
Tokimonsta, Jeff Mills, early Chicago house, Dorian Concept, Daedelus, Big Boi – nothing too cerebral.

How has working with Anthony Braxton shaped your musical experience?
Well, I think that his music works on such a deep conceptual level that hearing it has really made me understand the importance of concept prior to writing music, or prior to improvisation.

What impact has the Tri-Centric Orchestra had on your concept of the orchestra as an entity?
It has certainly expanded my mind – I see more possibilities for the ensemble than I could hear before.

What’s your favorite food?
Too many… maybe a hamburger, or a sausage… Pumking by Southern Tier Brewing Company for the fall…

Gareth Flowers on the web:


TCO Profile: Cory Smythe

Lauded by his peers (Jason Moran, Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman) as well as critics (Steve Smith), TCO member Cory Smythe is an accomplished pianist, an inventive improviser and composer, a sought-after chamber musician and a pioneering performer of contemporary classical music.  Smythe’s debut recording, (“Pluripotent”) released on March 14, 2011, is a concise flow of newly composed and improvised music for solo piano, with occasional voice and electronics (also supplied by Smythe). Its originality, poetry, and virtuosity have earned it underground, online recognition among forward-looking jazz and classical musicians in New York City and beyond.

Cory Smythe

When did you start playing?
My parents say I started playing Beatles songs by ear when I was two… but isn’t that exactly the sort of thing parents can’t be trusted to report accurately?

How did improvisation become part of your musical experience?
I think composing (like, pop tunes, not string quartets), playing radio hits and movie themes by ear, ‘soloing’ over chord progressions — all these things were a big part of my piano playing when I was a kid, and probably all remain at the heart of my improvising today in one way or another.

Which composers/musicians most influence your work?
Lately, a few of the people I find myself thinking about the most are Fats Waller, Gerard Grisey, Andrew Manze, and Neil Young.

What current projects/ensembles are you involved in?
My main group is the International Contemporary Ensemble, but I’m fortunate to play a part in some other new music groups, including the Firebird Ensemble in Boston, Present Music in Milwaukee, and the New York Miniaturist Ensemble.  Fellow Braxton experiencer, Chris DiMeglio and I recently started an experimental electronic pop duo called Twice Kitten.  I do a fair amount of canonic classical chamber music and (less frequently) solo recitals.  But for the next few weeks, I’m mostly at home fiddling around with my computer in the hopes of fleshing out a new collection of pieces for piano and electronics.

What recent releases or upcoming events do you have on the horizon?
I just released my first album, “Pluripotent”, available online (for free… or any price you wish) at corysmythe.bandcamp.com.

What are you currently listening to?
Literally, right this second,  Scriabin’s Prometheus


Peter Evans, “Ghosts”
AGF, “Westernization Completed”
Benoit Delbecq, “Circles and Calligrams”
Some improvisations on progressively disassembled piano by Gust Burns (http://www.rasbliutto.net/artists/gustburns.html)
…and the new Paul Simon.

How has working with Anthony Braxton shaped your musical experience?
I think it’s tempting when you work with someone legendary to become a bit ridiculous with awe.  And I hate being ridiculous!  But Braxton makes it so difficult…

There’s something ineffable going on with that guy.  I don’t know how he does it – realizing one inspired idea after another, seemingly unfettered by doubt, by practical concerns, by the laws of physics…  But when I’m in the same room with him, I feel like I might be able to do it, too.

What impact has the Trillium-Tri-Centric Orchestra had on your concept of the orchestra as an entity?
If I understand correctly, the Tri-Centric group is only just beginning to explore all of Braxton’s ideas about the orchestra (and this is after having recorded an entire opera).  I’m sure I’ll have a different answer a year from now, but at present I’m still just really enjoying the musicians, themselves — all amazing people from a wide variety of backgrounds.  The new music groups I’m in would never play Braxton’s music the way Braxton’s group does, and I find the difference really exciting.

What’s your favorite food?
Currently can’t get enough coconut water!

(Ed. note: I was curious about the meaning behind “Pluripotent,” so I just had to ask…)
Pluripotent is (for me) a (dimly understood) term from biology referring to a kind of stem cell that can become any other type of cell in the adult body.  I wanted the music on “Pluripotent” to seem like that sort of charged raw material, or for its forays into song and abstraction to seem rooted in the same mutating collection of ideas.  And I guess at another level I wanted the album to suggest vague, almost magical thinking about biology, about single cells becoming complex organisms.

Visit Cory on the web:  http://www.corysmythe.com