SoNA releases first-ever album of cutting edge music

SoNA releases first-ever album of cutting edge music

“New Canons” is the first album ever for the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas — and the first commercial recording of each of the compositions included on it: “Latency Canons” by Ray Lustig, “In saecula saeculorum” by SoNA Music Director Paul Haas and “Cohere I” by Trevor New.

Prior to its release June 9, Haas and Riley Nicholson, the orchestra’s executive director, answered these questions for What’s Up!

Q. How did the idea for this album come about?

Nicholson: The idea came about rather organically. During the pandemic, we had produced “Latency Canons” as a virtual concert as we couldn’t perform in person. We were incredibly happy with the product, and when Ray asked us if we wanted to release it to a wider audience and/or as part of a commercial recording, we started brainstorming. After many conversations, we decided we wanted to make it a full album, not just a single release, so we researched and explored what pieces would pair well with “Latency Canons.” Ray’s idea was to work with Trevor New, which was truly the right choice, and Paul already had a chamber piece which stylistically and conceptually also was congruent with the other works so he adapted that into orchestral format.

Q. What made it the right time to create it?

Nicholson: There was no right time, or rather there were many right times, and we took advantage of all of them! By that I mean, we recorded this in pieces, taking time to do things right. We already had Ray’s piece from our virtual concert. Then, we wanted to work with Trevor New as part of a SoNA Beyond collaboration with Crystal Bridges in June of 2022, so while he was in town for that concert, we recorded his work. Then we included Paul’s piece on our mainstage symphonic season in spring of 2023, so we recorded his work then. Now two-plus years in the making, we’re thrilled to bring it all together.

Q. Seems like you’ve stepped as far away from traditional music as possible for this album! Why choose to make your debut with new music instead of classics?

Haas: There are tons of recordings out there already of the classics, so it made a lot more sense for us to feature truly contemporary, previously unrecorded music. We wanted this album to be an expression of how we all are integrating the events of recent years, to make it a musical journey we can all relate to. These pieces all speak a universal language about the human need to communicate — across space and time, and across large distances — even when it seems impossible to do so.

Q. What changes for SoNA because of this recording?

Haas: SoNA has proved time and again over the past decade that we can deliver unmatched quality at every concert. We rival our peers in much bigger cities. Now it’s time for us to become part of a larger conversation that is taking place at the national and even international level, and this album is a wonderful way to speak with our own voice in that context.



The Compositions

‘Latency Canons’

By Ray Lustig

“I wrote ‘Latency Canons’ back in 2013, and I was very happy that Paul [Haas] heard it and was enthusiastic about it,” Lustig says. “The piece was an experiment for me in trying to conceive of a kind of music making that could work between people not in the same place, using the then-budding teleconferencing software options. Despite the 2013 premiere performance going very well, the challenges and potential problems of trying to make a real musical event, a concert, with an audience, while working with very new, buggy, unstable, delay-ridden, low-sound-quality and imperfect technology made it very difficult to gain the interest of any other orchestra in a reprise performance of the work.

“But Paul, whose music has always boldly experimented with challenging spatial setups, was not only unintimidated, he actually led the charge in trying to do more experimenting with internet music making. Along with the recording’s producer Paul Fowler, the three of us experimented for hours and months, and even put together a live house concert between our three homes, my apartment living room in upper Manhattan, Paul Fowler’s home and studio in Boulder, Colo., and Paul Haas’shouse in upstate New York. It was a wonderful, nail biting, disastrous, success…”

‘Cohere I’

By Trevor New

“My piece uses connections that are available all around us all the time to briefly create a musical network that allows musicians who are in-person and around the world to make music together live and synchronously,” says New. “Some parts of the technology have been expanded with developing this piece during covid, but the spirit of this piece is about how we are together no matter where we are, whether we’re in-person or connected through technology.

“SoNA is a bold and skilled ensemble supported by an amazing staff and led by a fearless conductor. Working with SoNA has been really fulfilling and special, but also really supportive of the artistic vision that I have for my piece.”

‘In saecula saeculorum’

By Paul Haas

Originally commissioned in 2016 by the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design as a site-specific musical installation at the University of Arkansas, the work highlights Haas’ interest in site specific works that celebrate space and our place within it, according to the SoNA press release.

“Haas was inspired by the relationship between teachers and students, and how those students in turn teach further generations of students – the cycle continues eternally. Each movement is a different chapter of this unfolding.”

A digital release only, “New Canons” is available June 9 on Spotify and other major streaming platforms.

Recorded at the Walton Arts Center and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Mixed, edited and mastered by Joe Hannigan at Weston Sound. “Cohere I” mixing and editing by Trevor New.

Categories: Cover Story