Press Room

Electric violinist Tracy Silverman in NYC this Saturday & Sunday

Tracy Silverman – the musician BBC Radio has called “the greatest living exponent of the electric violin” – will demonstrate the full range of his very 21st-century art over the course of four concerts in New York City in May and June, with the events ranging from concert halls to clubs, from orchestral to trio, duo and solo performances. The violinist comes to town hot off the release of his album Between the Kiss and the Chaos (Delos), which the New York Times praised for the way it “conjures expansive, colorful sound worlds” and Audiophile Audition for being “evocative” and “passionate.” Two of the concerts will see Silverman showcase his own music, including pieces from Between the Kiss and the Chaos. For the first of these, on May 18, he teams with acoustic violinist Mary Rowell – a founder of the new-music quartet Ethel – at the salon-like club the Cell to cap the Tribeca New Music Festival with a program called the “Devil’s Duo,” which will include the world premiere of the duo version of Silverman’s suite Axis and Orbits. On June 23, Silverman appears again at the Cell to perform “Concerto for One,” his mind-blowing solo showcase for the virtuoso possibilities of electric violin and looping pedals. The two other New York concerts feature Silverman in league with other great performers. On May 17, Silverman joins the Little Orchestra Society of New York under James Judd at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall to give the New York premiere of Kenji Bunch’s Embrace, a concerto for six-string electric violin – the latest in a sequence of works written for Silverman and his groundbreaking instrument by the likes of Pulitzer Prize-winner John Adams and minimalist icon Terry Riley. And on June 20, Silverman teams with Riley and his guitarist son Gyan as the Terry Riley Trio, performing a special concert at Federal Hall as part of the River to River Festival.
A longstanding Silverman fan as well as a colleague, Terry Riley describes Between the Kiss and the Chaos as “an absolutely fabulous album – especially the powerful effect of ‘Sacred Geometry,’ which has a fresh, original way of shifting notes around.” John Adams has called the violinist’s playing “a marvel of expressiveness.” For his part, Silverman defines his aim as a performer by underplaying the electric aspect, saying: “My focus is on the emotional impact of the music. I prefer music that makes a direct visceral communication with the listener, and this happens best when it speaks in the vernacular musical language of our time and place – rock, hip-hop, jazz, etc.” You can see a compilation video of various Silverman performances here.
May 18: “Devil’s Duo”
Writing about Silverman’s sonic signature, Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times described the electric violinist as having “fleet agility and tangy expressivity, with wailing hints of Jimi Hendrix.” On May 18 at the Cell – the closing night of the Tribeca New Music Festival – Silverman teams with fellow cutting-edge violin pioneer Mary Rowell for a rare mix of electric and acoustic violins. Along with duo works, they will each play solo pieces. Silverman, on electric violin and looping pedals, will play excerpts from the concertos written for his instrument by Adams, Riley and Nico Muhly; the pair will also play a duo composition by Rowell, who will perform a few solo works as well. The program’s centerpiece will be the world premiere of the duo version of Silverman’s suite Axis and Orbits, a work that he recorded solo on Between the Kiss and the Chaos.
Silverman says: “I’m excited to be working with Mary, who has been so influential as a trendsetter in the world of new music. As a founding member of Ethel, one of the most important contemporary music string quartets, she was groundbreaking in her embrace of non-classical idioms. Mary shares my vision of liberating the violin from the conventions of its European past and reinventing it for the 21st century.”
June 23: “Concerto for One”
In its review of Between the Kiss and the Chaos, WTJU-FM Virginia said: “Electric violinist Tracy Silverman manages to not only bridge the worlds of classical music and rock, but does so in a way that makes the blending sound effortless and natural.” Perhaps nowhere does this come alive more than in the solo programs that Silverman dubs “Concerto for One,” which see him utilizing electronics and live loop recording for a virtual symphonic experience. Silverman calls his looping devices his “electronic band mates.” He explains: “By overlapping loops of differing lengths, it’s possible to construct pieces so that there is inherent unpredictability to the way the music unfolds. The harmonies can change in surprising ways and I have to respond creatively in the moment, almost as if I were playing with other musicians.”
Silverman’s “Concerto for One” performance on June 23 at the Cell in Manhattan will serve as an album release concert for Between the Kiss and the Chaos. Joined by some special guests, he will perform music from the album, as well as arrangements of excerpts from the concertos by Adams, Riley, Bunch and Muhly; also on the program will be excerpts from Silverman’s own two concertos for electric violin, as well as pieces by J.S. Bach, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Wonder. Silverman’s work with the six-string electric violin synthesizes an eclectic background – not only in classical and rock but also in jazz and world music – into genre-defying performances of stylistic breadth and emotional depth. He says: “These concerts are an opportunity for me to demonstrate the range and versatility of the six-string electric violin and what I refer to as 21st-century violin playing – which is fully immersed in and reflects the popular, multicultural landscape of contemporary American musical life.”
May 17: Embrace
When Silverman performed the concerto that John Adams composed for him and his electric violin – titled The Dharma at Big Sur – critic Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times called the violinist “inspiring – in a class of his own.” Silverman went on to record the work with the BBC Symphony under the composer for Nonesuch. Kenji Bunch’s Embrace – commissioned by a consortium of nine orchestras – is the latest work created especially for Silverman and his unique instrument. Silverman gave the world premiere of Embrace last spring with the Champlain Philharmonic in Vermont, and it will be the New York premiere of the piece when he plays it on May 17 with the Little Orchestra Society at Avery Fisher Hall. About Embrace, Silverman says: “It’s a joyful, beautiful work with plenty of room for me to improvise and rock out.”
June 20: Terry Riley Trio
Terry Riley composed his concerto for electric violin – The Palmian Chord Ryddle – expressly for Silverman, who premiered the work at Carnegie Hall in 2012 with the Nashville Symphony under Giancarlo Guerrero. (Silverman also recorded the work live in Nashville, for an album to be released on Naxos; in the meantime, the Carnegie Hall performance of The Palmian Chord Ryddle can be streamed at NPR.) With Riley and his guitarist son, Gyan, Silverman has toured the U.S. and Europe as a chamber trio, performing a range of the composer’s pieces. The group is honed from their decade of performances together to a seemingly telepathic edge, something they will demonstrate June 20 at Federal Hall in downtown Manhattan as part of the River to River Festival.
About Tracy Silverman
A native of New York state currently based in Nashville after years in the Bay Area, Silverman was a longtime member of the Turtle Island String Quartet and was recently named one of the Juilliard School’s “100 Distinguished Alumni.” Upon graduating, Silverman designed one of the first-ever six-string electric violins and set his own course as a pioneering performer, building a repertoire for an instrument that did not previously exist. The sound Silverman has developed on his instrument is like a cross between the acoustic violin and the electric guitar. He has been inspired by the legato richness and kaleidoscopic colors of such Indian violinists as L. Shankar and L. Subramaniam, as well as electric guitarists from Hendrix to Robert Fripp. There’s also the influence of what Silverman calls the “deep emotion” and “gypsy fire” in classical concertos by the likes of Brahms and Sibelius. The quicksilver subtlety of Miles Davis and the raw humanity of singers like Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles have also been keen inspirations. Silverman says: “My voice on the instrument, my sound, comes from years of imitating singers and trying to achieve a kind of abstract human communication, a cry or song on the violin, something we understand viscerally and emotionally, the way we understand the tone and intention of a human voice. I’m not going for pretty or fast, I’m going for honest.”
John Adams has written about Silverman’s inspiring, one-of-a-kind quality as a performer, saying: “Tracy has developed his own unique style of violin playing – a marvel of expressiveness, the product of his having digested everything from Stéphane Grappelli to the Indian sarangi to bluegrass, Robert Johnson and Terry Riley. Hearing Tracy Silverman play his six-string electric violin immediately reminded me not only of the great jazz and rock performers and Pakistani qawwali singers like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (where the real music is in the slide between the notes), but it also made me think of the prose style of Jack Kerouac, so deeply influenced by his listening to the rhythms and melodic arcs of improvised jazz.”
MusicWeb International had this to say about Silverman’s Between the Kiss and the Chaos album: “This recording of works for electric violin demonstrates both his performing and composing chops. … Highly approachable and hugely enjoyable…with a wealth of vibrant color and the intelligence of a brilliant performer behind each track. ‘Axis and Orbits’ is a complex sequence of loops with multiple layers in an endlessly fascinating and groovy sound.”
Upcoming engagements
May 17
New York, NY
Avery Fisher Hall
Little Orchestra Society of NY; James Judd, conductor
Kenji Bunch: Embrace (Concerto for Electric Violin and Orchestra)
May 18
New York, NY
The Cell
Tribeca New Music Festival
“Devil’s Duo” – Tracy Silverman and Mary Rowell
Works by John Adams, Terry Riley, Nico Muhly and others, including the world premiere of the duo version of Tracy Silverman’s suite Axis and Orbits
June 20
New York, NY
Federal Hall
River to River Festival
Terry Riley Trio with Gyan Riley and Tracy Silverman
Works by Terry Riley
June 23
New York, NY
The Cell
Tracy Silverman solo: Between the Kiss and the Chaos album release show with special guests
Works by John Adams, Terry Riley, Kenji Bunch, Nico Muhly, J.S. Bach, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder and Tracy Silverman
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© 21C Media Group, May 2014





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