Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Stanley Schumacher: Press/Reviews

RASA ENSEMBLE – WATCHUNG ARTS CENTER

RASA ENSEMBLE TREATS FANS OF NEW MUSIC TO ‘CONTEMPORARY’ SCENE

Within New Jersey, which has never been renowned as a hotbed of artistic provocation, pickings are pretty slim for fans of new music – slimmer, in fact, than they were in the 1970s and early 1980s, when major presenters were less risk-averse.  One remembers, with particular fondness, the excitement generated by the new-music and modern-dance series that were presented by the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in West Orange, back in the days when Stanley Weinstein was arts czar there.  Weinstein, who now heads his own arts management firm out in Hunterdon County, was the kind of guy who would scour New York City for up-and-coming ensembles and present them at the West Orange Y, as it was then called, along with some New Jersey-based ensembles, such as they were.  Weinstein would also pitch the press with an inimitable mix of verve and moxie.  In those days, any and all comers to the West Orange Y who were into “the shock of the new” could experience New York’s latest without paying a dime in tunnel tolls.

And then there was “Soundings,” the short-lived but precedent-setting attempt by Nancy Barry at Unity Concerts to rejuvenate and reinvigorate Montclair’s music scene, featuring Joel Thome of the Orchestra for Our Time as series director.  One can argue that this particular train failed to arrive at its announced destination (i.e., North Jersey’s torpor level remained substantially unaffected), but boy, “Soundings” did succeed in offering one helluva ride to its lucky passengers.  So whither now for New Jersey’s fans of new music?  There still remain the academic redoubts, of course – specifically, Princeton University, Rutgers New Brunswick, and William Paterson College in Wayne, home to the much-heralded New Jersey Percussion Ensemble, directed by Raymond Des Roches.  On the independent, unaffiliated front, there is the Composers Guild of New Jersey, indefatigable in its efforts to get new music – hey, better yet, music by New Jersey composers – performed.  And there is also the Rasa Ensemble, based in New Brunswick, which is that rarest of beasts – what used to called an “artists’ collective,” a creative association of composers, instrumentalists, poets, theater people, painters, and dancers, as available and as needed, under the artistic direction of Alan Wasserman of Edison.  Founded in 1980, Rasa has performed throughout New Jersey and in New York City and Pennsylvania, offering music involving “many styles of composition, ranging from conventional to graphic notation and improvisation,” with a particular emphasis on providing artists of other disciplines with the opportunity to experiment with musicians in rehearsal.  Improvisatory works are not as casual as the term may suggest.  “We spend months working on the kinds of sounds we want, and on timing,” Wasserman said.  Saturday’s program the Watchung Arts Center offered listeners a crash course in music-as-process, performance-as-process.  Common denominators among the new works performed were the rejection of time as a linear dimension (“time moves back and forth, pervading the essence of each piece,” Wasserman said), and a fascination with extending the timbral possibilities of voice and instruments.  One was impressed to hear, for instance, what Pierino Cipolloni was able to get out of electric guitar using palm slides and a traditional string bow (Stanley Schumacher’s “Desperate”), and to hear Schumacher breathe and voice-intone through his trombone.  Schumacher, a member of the New York University Contemporary Players who teaches trombone at Studio 46 in Hackettstown, contributed “Order,” a piece for narrator and “any number of brass” (in this case, the composer plus Peter Zummo).  The six-sectioned piece may be played in any order, with order flowing to chaos and chaos to order, and with the listener deciding which combination of order and chaos is preferable.  Perhaps the most accessible new work on the program was Wasserman’s “Tres Heridas,” based on a poem by Spanish poet Miguel Hernandez.  Patricia Donchez and Cecile Hopkins traded off Spanish and English versions of this short but intensely evocative poem, while a mesmerizing sonic environment was created by Schumacher on maracas, Pamela Taylor on flute, Wasserman on synthesizer, and Zummo on gong.  Although “Tres Heridas” works perfectly well on the purely musical level, this piece cries out for the loving explication that only the theater can give.  Choreographers, take note:  This piece has all the makings of a strong dance score.  Quite interesting on the conceptual level was Cecile Hopkins’ “Contra Nietzsche,” in which the composer takes issue with one of Nietzsche’s proto-fascist rants by imposing her own musical (and implicitly moral) order on an excerpt from the philosopher’s “The Genealogy of Morals” (1887).  Two of the pieces performed – “Three Poems,” with texts by New Brunswick poet E. T. Cecile Hopkins, and “Marine,” with text by Arthur Rimbaud, translated by Hopkins – were credited to the ensemble itself, since both pieces are collaborative works.  The creator-performers of these pieces, in which words become the conductors of the music, cuing the performers, were Patricia Donchez, voice (“sprechstimme” style), Schumacher on trombone, and Wasserman on synthesizer.

Michael Redmond - Newark Star-Ledger
I'd love to play with you - you've got a tremendous range, a very creative mind, and loads of dynamics
Andrew Eisenberg - Percussionist, improviser
NO TECHNIQUE

I am the Classical Music Director here at KSPC, Pomona College's radio station. I just wanted to let you know that we received the copy of No Technique that you sent to us and I am really enjoying it! Please feel free to send us any other compositions or new releases that you may have, as I would love to get more of them on the air here!
Zach Schwartz - KSPC (Pomona College)

WAY COOL

Hey Stanley,
Thank you so much for sending us your cd Way Cool.  Its awesome and is being added to the stacks.
Can't wait to receive more music

Tali Link - KDVS (Davis, CA)

HAVE YOU SINNED? (ESSAY BY PROFESSOR MUSIKMACHER)

Oh my god, that cracks me up! Does the Professor have any more essays at this point in time?

Donna Knudson - Flutist (Bethlehem, PA)

JIVE AT 5:05

I've enjoyed the record, and I've played it on the show, and plan on doing it more!

Andrew Weathers - WUAG, Greensboro, NC

 DON'T ABANDON YOUR BABY

I enjoyed your cd - I guess you have a strong affinity with Arnie Schoenberg and his Pierrot Lunaire - well I heard some historical links anyway.

Jon Rose - Violinist (Australia)

JIVE AT 5:05

Trombonist/composer leads quintet through an odd mix of “art music”, free-bop, blues & avant jazz. Sabir Mateen shines on reeds & plays off well against trombone

Eleff - WRUV (Burlington, VT)

MUSIC NOW ENSEMBLE

Wow, I am sorry to say that I was unfamiliar with your work until now; I'm really liking what I hear.

Gabe - Toledo Bellows/Robinwood Concert House

SOUND TEXTURES

. . . . . listening to your cd. WoW! super stuff!!!

Hans GrĂ¼sel - Electronic Music Improviser

UBER BRASS

You made a wonderful "Uber Brass" CD. Although only 3 brass instruments, the cd is rich on colours and alternations. It’s hard to mention some favorites but I love your lyrical solo on "New Idiom Now II" and "Heterodoxy".

Christofer Varner - Trombonist

SOUND TEXTURES

Wow! Now that was something else!  I really really enjoyed this CD.  Talk about shapes, and colors and movements and all kinds of sensations going through the body when listening to it!  And it's hard not to listen to it without what you see visually and and feel tactiley mixing in with it all.  I felt a sudden breeze through the window and I thought it was part of the music, or I thought it *was* the music.  And no I'm not on drugs or schizophrenic.  It's just that this music lends itself to these kinds of experiences for me and it was great.

I loved Stanley Schumacher's vocal stuff.  Ending that one piece with the snoring was hilariously funny, and I thought the vocal sounds Stanley made while playing the trombone were really neat.  Some of it reminded me of some of the vocal stuff I used to do while improvising.  Where it just happens and you aren't doing it anymore. 

And the last one was such a powerful way to end the CD.  Really really neat.  All of it.  I'll definitely listen to it again.  What a trip.

Donna Knudson - Flutist

MUSIC NOW ENSEMBLE

“. . . sincere, creative music . . .”

Chris Cogburn - No Idea Festival

MUSIC NOW ENSEMBLE

For all you impatient types: the Red Room presents the "Music Now Ensemble". Stanley Schumacher- trombone, Todd Whitman- reeds/saws/etc and bassist, Evan Lipson. This energetic improvisational group is organized by Schumacher whose performances (along with Whitman’s), in last year’s High Zero festival were incredible standouts. One time Baltimore native, Evan Lipson has appeared several times at the Red Room and can play with as much power- and humor as Whitman and Schumacher. The guys are sure to rip it up.

John Berndt - redroom.org

SOUND TEXTURES

“. . . .overall I liked what I heard. I feel the pieces are very well put together and the sounds complement each other throughout the pieces. Nice Work”

Christy Nixon - Ohio State University

MUSIC NOW ENSEMBLE

Pointallistic? Contrapuntal? Metatextural? Klangfarbenmelodie? Contrapointallistic? No thanks, I'll just take that ham sandwich over there, I don't need anything fancy. Well, GET LOST. This concert is extremely fancy improvised music.


The MUSIC NOW ENSEMBLE (convened by avuncular white gloved new music hero, trombonist Stanley Schumacher from Pennsylvania) sports the powerful minds of Evan Lipson (bass) from Philadelphia and Rosie Hertlien (violin, voice) from NYC. This is a "high action" ensemble.

John Berndt - redroom.org

SOUND TEXTURES

“It's a cool cd. . . . “

Wilbo Wright - WPRB (Princeton University)

UBER BRASS

Ahh, just finished listening--for the second time, mind you--to Uber-no-umlaut Brass. And a fine time was jihad by all! Just for my own edification, I made some notes on the tunes, and please correct me if I got anything wrong.

For sure, the tone of the CD is set by the audio logo, whose simple logarithmic melody haunts me even now. Then Reddy Teddy's homage to Bugler's Holiday quickly whisks me off into new, tertiary-themed territory.  Familiarity returns, however, when Victor Herbert meets William Grant Still in Heterodoxy. I had to listen to Uber-no-umlaut Brass three times before I finally sussed the mensuration canon (and an effective one) on the 13th century Dies Irae motif, well done! My CD player thought Try Try Again was a large jpg file, and tried (and tried again) to render it into a Photoshoppe image--one of your quirky touches, no doubt! I'm guessing NIN's first movement was a variation on the Czardas from Delibes' Coppelia Ballet (Act 1), yes? I seem to recall you were fixated on the melody thirty-some years ago. I had to play the second movement a dozen times just to make sure my ears didn't deceive me: every other time you play it, the melody is inverted. Now, that's clever! And that third movement? All I can say is "Sibelius." But in a GOOD way! The reprise of Uber-no-umlaut brass instantly brought to mind a question that has haunted me for ages (much like I suspect the audio logo will from now on): "A U.S. or foreign flag vessel that does not comply with the Officers Competency Certificates Convention of 1936 may be detained by which designated officials?" Sure, I know one is a Coast Guard petty officer, but what are the others? And lastly, if Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys had a trombone in the band, they'd sounded like Double Trouble, which is a nice way to bring this CD to a mellow close.

 In a nutshell, thanks oodles!

David Gunn - Composer

SOUND TEXTURES and UBER BRASS

“Thanks for sending us your albums.  They were both added to our night rotation.  I really appreciate you sending them to us, they were both really strong.”

Chris Pool - WREK (Georgia Tech)

DON'T ABANDON YOUR BABY

“nice one stanley”

Phil Minton - Vocalist

DON'T ABANDON YOUR BABY

“. . . .Your ensemble is really great at performing improvised music. . . .I tell my ol’ buddy to visit me and we will listen to Robert Ashley’s ‘Wolfman’ and eat ice cream with small spoons.  Now, I will tell him that we will listen to Stanley Schumacher’s ‘Don’t Abandon Your Baby’ and eat ice cream with small spoons.”

Gerald Plain - Composer

DON'T ABANDON YOUR BABY

“. . . .the playing technique was truly excellent.”

Lloyd Kaplan - Professor Emeritus, Community College of Rhode Island

DON'T ABANDON YOUR BABY

love your cd have had occasion to play it several times on my sun night improv jazz show

love it sounds great

Kenn Michael - WDIY (Bethlehem, PA)

MUSIC NOW ENSEMBLE

I'm listening to you now and loving it.  It makes me happy to imagine you creating this music.  It's heartfelt and that means it's the best.

Ron Pellegrino - Composer
<< Previous Page