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Matthew Cmiel

Matthew Cmiel holds degrees in composition from The Curtis Institute of Music and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He has received numerous commissions, including one from Maestra Marin Alsop for the Cabrillo New Music Festival. Founder of the ensemble Formerly Known as Classical and The Hot Air Music Festival, he is currently the Director of Orchestras at San Francisco's Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, and co-director of the ensemble After Everything.

Articles by this Author

Modern Classical Review
April 30, 2012

The S.F. Contemporary Music Players wrap up its season with a range of challenging works, both new and old, brilliant and quietly glowing.

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Upcoming Concert
March 20, 2012

Get plugged in and turned on at Switchboard’s annual genre-busting music fest.

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Festival Review
March 1, 2012

Sound worlds are fervently explored at the 17th iteration of a new-music festival.

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CD Review
February 10, 2012

A ground-breaking new-music ensemble is still epically cool, releasing its first CD set in four years.

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CD Review
December 5, 2011

Although benefitting from the usual excellent performance by eighth blackbird, Rinde Eckert and Steve Mackey’s Slide is still uninvolving.

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Chamber Music Review
September 10, 2011

Concerts around the Bay Area often achieve an incredibly high quality. We should go to more of them, to experience things outside our comfort zone.

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Feature Article
June 10, 2011

No joke: At a concert showcasing new music for viola, an instrument was shattered — but not the spirits of the musicians or most of the audience.

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CD Review
May 24, 2011

Julia Wolfe's latest CD Cruel Sister is yet another example of how spellbinding and consistently engaging the composer is, this time in works fueled by a powerful story.

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Chamber Music Review
May 15, 2011

Jennifer Koh and Anssi Karttunen joined the brilliant Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg in piano trios, and duos, that knocked everybody’s socks off.

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Chamber Music Review
April 1, 2011

Provocative as usual, the Del Sol Quartet jumps cultures, continents, and even musical temperaments in its brilliant recital.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra Review
March 5, 2011

Last week’s Other Minds Festival showcased world musicians doing wild and crazy, and often enjoyable and inventive, things.

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Chamber Music Review
February 28, 2011

The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players ensemble continues to evolve and explore new music, as evidenced by its Monday concert that displayed rich variety.

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Feature Article
January 11, 2011

SFCV asked composer Matthew Cmiel, who came of age in the “aughts,” to write about what the musical revolution caused by music sharing and “handheld computer devices” means to him. Here is his response, along with an annotated playlist.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra Review
January 8, 2011

I rarely feel surprised by programming at a concert. Normally, by looking at the repertoire and the performers, I have a good idea of the type of event I’m in for because I go in ready and prepared. So I was eager to hear some of the three-night San Francisco Tape Music Festival at Fort Mason last weekend, with its surround-sound system supporting 16 loudspeakers.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra Review
November 11, 2010

The San Francisco Symphony last week tried to attract a younger audience, with a populist bent. While I applaud the idea, the success lay in increased ticket sales, not in delivery of a pleasing aesthetic experience.

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Chamber Music Review
October 29, 2010

Besides impeccable musicianship, Kronos offers up socially aware compositions.

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Feature Article
August 31, 2010

A sample of genre-bending, new-music concerts that will expand your horizons — innovative works at the S.F. Electronic Music Festival, a hot new commission at the Berkeley Symphony, and John Adams double-your-pleasure at the S.F. Symphony.

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CD Review
August 24, 2010

A Crimson Grail was premiered at the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur, after a commission by the city of Paris. Rhys Chatham’s piece consciously makes use of the architecture’s 15-second reverberation time. The musicians surround the audience, creating a live, surround-sound experience. The Paris-based Chatham wrote the piece for a variable number of electric guitarists and bassists (astonishingly, up to 400), plus a single percussionist. The Nonesuch recording captures the work’s Lincoln Center performance.

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Upcoming Concert
July 8, 2010

I became a fan of Peppino D’Agostino, who will be performing July 11 at the Mendocino Music Festival, through the world of classical music. In 1998, D’Agostino met David Tanenbaum at the Schorndorf Gitarren festival in Germany and received such positive feedback from the encounter that they decided to work together.

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Upcoming Concert
April 20, 2010

On May 2 and 4, in Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts, the California Symphony will present its season finale, a concert featuring Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Tchaikovsky’s Pezza Capriccioso for cello and orchestra, both performed by the same 14-year-soloist, Sarina Zhang, on two different instruments. Also on the concert is a new piece by the Symphony’s composer in residence, Mason Bates.

Bates is a member of the Symphony’s Young Artist Composer in Residence program, which enabled him to work with the California Symphony and Music Director Barry Jekowsky for three years. “The program has been wonderful,” Mason says. “It’s great to have access to an orchestra of this caliber.”

Bates fondly remembers his earliest work for the program, Music From Underground Spaces, and clarifies that this concert will be quite different. “In Music From Underground Spaces, I used electronics integrated into the ensemble. I worked to make the low end of the orchestra sound like the motion of tectonic plates.” His Silicon Blues, premiering on May 2 and 4, is a very different animal.

“I wanted to write a piece,” he remarks, “that had a lot of the rhythms and sonic elements of my electronic music, but with it ‘unplugged’.” In this sense, Bates has used many electroniclike sounds, though they’re achieved naturally, using prepared piano, flutter-tonguing in the brass, or an old typewriter (to name a few examples). “In a sense, it’s very much aligned with my integration of electronic sounds and acoustic ones, just with fewer extension cords!” he continues.

Silicon Blues, which runs 13 minutes, begins with a section that the composer describes as having a “propulsive, sardonic, or slightly dry humor.” As the piece progresses, it moves into more lyrical material. “I love the journey of getting from one section to the next,” Bates says.

Barry Jekowsky, whose young composer residency program has nurtured a remarkable string of first-rank composers over its history (Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Theofanidis, Kevin Puts among them), is particularly effusive about Bates. “Even if he never wrote another note of music, he'd be one of the important composers of the 21st century,” he says.

“When I looked at the scores he submitted [for the program] what I found remarkable is the way he integrates the sound of the electronics. It was evident that here was a real composer who just happens to be interested in electronics.

“Then his popularity began to grow, but he came to me this year and said he wanted to experiment with the orchestra, to try to get at the sounds in his head without using electronics. And that fascinates me about Mason – it's his imagination. He's really taken advantage, in his time here, of the orchestra as laboratory."

Later this week, the Chicago Symphony, where Bates begins his next residency next fall, will perform his Music From Underground Spaces, which the California Symphony originally commissioned and premiered. His projects from here are very much a part of his life, even when he is thousands of miles away at another concert.

So check out the California Symphony and Jekowsky’s season finale. Silicon Blues will take you on a journey between the worlds of the acoustic and the electronic.

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