CD Release and Momenta Festival

We are thrilled to announce our debut full-length recording, Similar Motion, arriving October 1, 2015 on Albany Records. To celebrate the occasion, we will present the first-ever Momenta Festival at the Tenri Cultural Institute of New York, September 30 – October 4.

The title of Momenta’s debut album not only refers to the album’s opening track–a masterpiece of early minimalism by Philip Glass–but also metaphorizes the ensemble’s vision to broaden the repertoire and responsibilities of a 21st Century string quartet. Following Glass’ Music in Similar Motion (1969), the record offers the premiere recording of Arthur Kampela‘s Uma Faca Só Lâmina (‘A Knife All Blade,’ 1998), and ends with Claude Debussy‘s sole, staggering contribution to the string quartet repertoire: his String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 10 (1893). The album reveals unexpected connections between three stylistic hallmarks of the 20th century; amidst the disparate languages of Debussy’s sensuous impressionism, Glass’ monolithic repetitions, and Kampela’s wildman fusion, a unifying element emerges: the use of restricted material to create magical, hypnotic landscapes. Similar Motion will be issued as a CD and download on October 1st via Albany Records.


September 30- October 4, 2015

In honor of and coinciding with the release of Similar Motion, the Momenta Festival is a celebration of our unique musical personality, with each quartet member curating one of four concerts. The century-spanning repertoire ranges from Luigi Boccherini to Charles Ives, to Christian Wolff and Morton Feldman, and extending into the present, with works by DJ Sparr and Dan Visconti.

All concerts will take place at 8:00pm at the Tenri Cultural Institute, 43 West 13th Street in Manhattan. Tickets are $15, or you can purchase a full festival pass for $50, available at momentafestival.brownpapertickets.com. Each night features a brand new custom beer by Sam Burlingame of Brooklyn-based Brewheister with a taste profile corresponding to the evening’s program!

SEPTEMBER 30, 2015: Americana
Curator: Adda Kridler, Violin

DJ Sparr: Abhlach (2015) *written for Momenta
Morton Feldman: For Aaron Copland (1981)
Dan Visconti: Worn Surfaces (2014)
Philip Glass: Music in Similar Motion (1969)
Christian Wolff: Bread and Roses (1976)
Charles Ives: String Quartet No. 2 (1913)

Exploring various American sounds from violinist Adda Kridler’s childhood, the festival’s opening program begins with DJ Sparr’s Abhlach (2015), written for Momenta after a collaboration together at Avaloch Farm Music Institute in New Hampshire. In Irish mythology, Emhain Abhlach is an island paradise of everlasting beauty whose residents danced the days away. Morton Feldman’s solo violin miniature is a quiet, tender study in the open harmonies of the quintessential American composer Aaron Copland, while Dan Visconti’s Worn Surfaces is a sparse, quasi-aleatoric tapestry of sounds. Momenta will conclude the first half of the program with the (partial) namesake of their debut record, Glass’ Music in Similar Motion. The two pieces on the second half use American folk songs to explore political and social concerns. Bread and Roses (1976) is based on a song of the same title written during the great mill strike of 1912 in Lawrence, MA. Ives’ String Quartet No. 2 is subtitled: ‘S[tring] Q[uartet] for 4 men–who converse, discuss, argue (in re: ‘Politick’), fight, shake hands, shut up–then walk up the mountain side to view the firmament!’ It is thorny, confrontational and transcendent, using Civil War era tunes, quotes from Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Brahms, and famous church hymns.

OCTOBER 1, 2015: The Concert from Hell
Curator: Emilie-Anne Gendron, violin
Guest Artist: Gilbert Kalish, piano

Eugène Ysaÿe: Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 27 No. 2 (1923)
Julián Carrillo: String Quartet No. 8 (1959)
Philip Glass: String Quartet No. 2, “Company” (1983)
George Crumb: Black Angels (Thirteen Images from the Dark Land) (1970)
Charles Ives: Hallowe’en, from “Three Outdoor Scenes” (1906)

“The Concert from Hell” explores the dark, disturbed, and deranged corners of the string chamber repertoire. The centerpiece is George Crumb’s iconic Black Angels, a harrowing portrayal of the coexistence of good and evil, inspired by the Vietnam War. The composer refers to it as a “parable on our troubled contemporary world.” Armed with an impressive arsenal of percussion, extended techniques, and verbal-theatrical instructions, Momenta is elated to present this visceral and transportive experience. Julián Carrillo’s String Quartet No. 8 will open the program–this microtonal composer is a cult favorite in his native Mexico, and his signature “Thirteenth Sound” is sure to immediately set the evening’s spine-chilling tone. Other highlights include Philip Glass’ String Quartet No. 2, “Company,” written as incidental music for a staging of Samuel Beckett’s eponymous prose poem. Beckett’s novella unfolds from the perspective of an old man lying infirm in a dark room as he reflects upon his ever-fading existence, trapped in the hellish existential despair of his own head. Uncontrollable dark thoughts are a central feature of Eugene Ysaye’s second Violin Sonata from the Op. 27 set, which obsessively revolves around Bach quotations and the famous liturgical chant theme “Dies Irae,” before finally descending into Hell in a fiendishly difficult finale. Momenta and eminent guest pianist Gilbert Kalish will conclude the evening with Charles Ives’ Hallowe’en, which, according to Ives, was “written for a Halloween party and not for a nice concert.”

OCTOBER 3, 2015: Memory Palace
Curator: Michael Haas, cello
Guest Artist: Marcy Rosen, cello

George Crumb: Sonata for Solo Cello (1955)
Michael Small: Memory Palace (2014-15) NYC PREMIERE *written for Momenta
Luigi Boccherini: String Quintet in C Major, Op. 28 No. 4, G. 310 (1779)
Tomas Luis de Victoria: Quam pulchri sunt (1572)
Claude Debussy: String Quartet in G minor Op. 10 (1893)

Crumb’s early Sonata for Solo Cello opens the comparatively mellow third program, “Memory Palace.” The piece occupies a much less abrasive and more mystical space than the second program’s Black Angels. While works from the classical and Renaissance periods provide sharp contrasts to the rest of the program, Michael Small’s eponymous Memory Palace precariously sways back and forth between soft flutterings and searing cries. Debussy’s beloved String Quartet concludes the program, just as it does the album whose release the festival celebrates.

OCTOBER 4, 2015: All Blade
Stephanie Griffin, curator
Guest flutist/composer: Wilfrido Terrazas (Mexico)
Guest pianist/composer: Gordon Beeferman (USA)

Borey Shin: Trio for Bass Flute, Viola and Cello (2014) NYC PREMIERE
Wilfrido Terrazas: The Life in My Viola (2014) US PREMIERE
Gordon Beeferman: Tunnel Visions (2015) WORLD PREMIERE
Yusef Lateef: String Quartet no. 3 (2013) WORLD PREMIERE
Viola / Flute Improvisation
Arthur Kampela: Uma Faca Só Lâmina (‘A Knife All Blade,’ 1998)

Outside her activities with Momenta, curator and violist Stephanie Griffins’s main musical interests lie in the realm of improvisation, and the intersection between the aesthetics of avant-jazz and fully notated compositions. A shining example of this crossroads is Uma Faca Só Lâmina (‘A Knife All Blade,’ 1998) by improvising guitar wizard and self-proclaimed “Brazilian madman” Arthur Kampela. Momenta spent four years learning this extremely complex quartet, which Kampela waited fifteen years to hear, and Momenta’s debut album Similar Motion features its world premiere recording. The program will also include premieres of three pieces written for Stephanie by her improvisational colleagues, Borey Shin, Wilfrido Terrazas and Gordon Beeferman. Also on the program is the posthumous world premiere of jazz visionary Yusef Lateef’s String Quartet No. 3 (2013). After hearing Momenta premiere his String Quartet no. 2 in 2013, Lateef gave Momenta the score and parts to his most recent string quartet and said he would be honored if they would give its world premiere.