The New York-based mini-orchestra yMusic champions music by young composers whose work combines the complexity of classical music and the tuneful, rhythmic energy of pop. The ensemble consists of six virtuosos: Hideaki Aomori, clarinet, bass clarinet; CJ Camerieri, trumpet, French horn; Clarice Jensen, cello; Rob Moose, violin; Nadia Sirota, viola; and Alex Sopp, flute, piccolo. Each of these players is often busy playing with orchestras, chamber groups, and cutting-edge pop acts such as Bon Iver, The National, Björk, David Byrne, Grizzly Bear, Antony and the Johnsons and Sufjan Stevens. In this session, recorded in the WNYC Studio for our program Spinning On Air, yMusic performs some of the pieces that appear on its album Beautiful Mechanical.
The group takes its name from the fact that the musicians in the ensemble were all born in the early 1980s, placing them in Generation Y. For quite a bit of the 20th Century, "contemporary" music was synonymous with difficult music. The sincerity of composers' modernism was often measured by the degree to which they shunned tonality and rhythmic pulse. But yMusic has inspired compositions that thrive on consonance and rhythm — music that's joyful and smart in equal measure.
As they explained to me during this session, they chose to commission instrumental pieces from composers who are best known for their intriguing songs. So this session includes music by Annie Clark (who records and performs as St. Vincent), Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), and Ryan Lott (Son Lux). In February 2011, All Songs Considered challenged Son Lux to create an album in a month, which he did with the help of yMusic. You can read about that process and hear some of the results here.
Here's music by composers stretching into new territory, played by musicians who care passionately about challenging themselves. The result isn't daunting — it's fun.