Laura Kaminsky, Composer
“Kaminsky’s musical language is compounded of hymns, blues, and gestures not unlike those of Shostakovich.”
“Political and social themes are common in (Kaminsky’s) work. She wrote And Trouble Came: An African AIDS Diary after living in Ghana in the early1990s, working at the National Academy of Music in Winneba. Her Vukovar Trio for Violin, Cello and Pian’ was written in 1999 after a performance in that war-ravaged village in Croatia, and is dedicated to the victims of ethnic cleansing. She composed the string quartet Transformations II: Music for a Changing World in 2002, in the aftermath of 9/11…Innovative sound has been a driving force for Ms. Kaminsky since she was a child. Among her influences (are) Dmitri Shostakovich, Meredith Monk, Stephen Sondheim and Brazilian pop.”
“Triftmusik (1991) is a colorful and sharp-edged evocation of an Alpine climb.”
“A Dream Revisited for amplified flute and percussion is delicate and imaginative.”
From “Flautists’ Marathon” by Nancy Garniez:
“In a gesture of typical good will, Laura Kaminsky (the driving force behind Musicians Accord) presented this free concert while inviting attendees to make contributions toward the 9/11 Relief Effort via the Accord’s charitable status. Suitably enough she programmed the concert as a reflection of her own ¬ and surely others’ ¬ concern for humanity. Her own River Music could not have been more pertinent, as it suggests her wide travels and love for music rooted in the soil and in the heart, as the program title conveys to us. The 17-minute work for flute, percussion and piano is made up of five movements, with a traditional balance of tempo, dynamics, and general musical character throughout; it closed the first part of the program in a rousing fashion… Ms. Kaminsky can create soft, evocative moods as naturally as she writes music that moves with force.”
“In And Trouble Came: An African AIDS Diary, Kaminsky has fashioned a text that interweaves three poems and some brief Biblical fragments (from Job and the Psalms) with words of her own, the latter reflecting her experience living for a time in Ghana, where she had the occasion to meet a number of AIDS patients. The words are compellingly, simply, and movingly delivered by the actor/stage director Mark Lamos. The lesson this piece teaches is both simple and profound: to love the dying. This disc is crucial listening for anyone who values life and its meaning.”
“And Trouble Came: An African AIDS Diary is a narrative and a meditation, skillfully combining words and a wide range of musical styles in a moving and uplifting experience.”
“And Trouble Came: An African AIDS Diary comes slowly and fully ornamented with dramatic effectiveness and quiet boldness. Narrated by Mark Lamos (nothing is sung), the journal entries light places in the heart and later in the mind that resemble the humanness we seek and sometimes stumble on the way. Classical in its simplicity and texture, neither too dark and never audacious in effect, Kaminsky selection of poetry and scription set to her long smooth cello deserves mass attention.”
“Not only a tone poem of nature at day’s end, Twilight Settings also depicts a world where twilight, and the inevitable darkness which follows, are harbingers of death. The music is very spare and evocative; traces of gamelan flicker in the percussion ostinatos, and some folkish triads ¬ especially in the opening and closing songs ¬ warm the soprano lines. The work ends effectively and beautifully.”
“Ms. Kaminsky’s substantial duo, Interpolations on Utopia Parkway, reflected her contact with life in Africa, where the sense of how events move through time is so different from ours, and her piece engaged the listener in an unusual manner.”
Composer Laura, Wall Street Journal Sept 29, 2010
A Sonic Feast for Latin Lovers by Will Friedwall
The scope of Latino music in the Americas is vast: from mambo bands in Havana to street parades in Rio de Janeiro, from bandoneón players in Buenos Aires to symphony orchestras in Mexico City. The notion of representing all the music in this field seems more like a job for Google Maps than for a concert hall on the Upper West Side.
But that’s what Symphony Space is presenting in “Sonidos: A Celebration of Latino Arts,” a performance series launching Thursday, continuing through winter and spring, and then concluding with the hall’s annual “Wall to Wall” event on May 14. “I can’t claim 100% inclusivity,” says the Space’s artistic director, Laura Kaminsky, “but the idea was to do a pan-Latino celebration. We are looking globally at the wealth and exciting breadth and depth, and not focusing on any one particular culture or style.”
The Talea Ensemble, above, will be among the performers in Symphony Space’s Latin music program ‘Sonidos: A Celebration of Latino Arts. LATINO
Nearly every country in the region has a tradition of folklórica, as well as pop music, an equivalent of European classical music, and some relationship to jazz. Given the various strata of musical forms, as well as too many countries and local cultural traditions to count, deciding what to include must have been something like playing three-dimensional chess.
Many Latino musicians—from Carlos Santana to the late Tito Puente—are, obviously, internationally famous. The swinging ’60s melodies of the late Antonio Carlos Jobim made the Brazilian a superstar. But in the opinion of many critics, the greatest composer to come out of Brazil was Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), who wrote stunningly beautiful works in many formats. His work doesn’t fit into any convenient category, but the closest word to describe it would probably be “classical.” Symphony Space is presenting his “Brazilian Bachian-pieces,” a strikingly original work for soprano voice and eight cellos.
Although there is a pronounced emphasis on “concert” music (as opposed to, say, Jennifer Lopez), Ms. Kaminsky’s primary goal is to show the “connectivity within and across the continents and across the cultures.” She explains: “We do not segregate out the different types of arts. We are not saying ‘this is folkloric, this is jazz-oriented, this is classical and this is contemporary.’ There are evenings dedicated to each of those styles, but the festival as a whole over the course of the season explores the whole breadth of expression.”
Many musicians in the series are multicultural all by themselves, such as Argentine pianist Pablo Ziegler, whose music includes elements of jazz and whose program in April is titled “Beyond Tango.” Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, which has been in residence at the Space for the past several seasons, is, unto itself, a fusion of Pan-Caribbean rhythms and North American big bands. Perhaps the most unpredictably pluralistic presentation is that of the Talea Ensemble, a string-centric group from Mexico whose primary inspiration is ’70s punk rock. The focus of their concert will be a new take on the album “Never Mind the Bollocks” by the Sex Pistols, as well as the “Cobra” works of John Zorn.
For one evening, Symphony Space is even erasing the boundaries between performers and audience. “Salon: Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Jam” invites audience members to bring their own instruments and play. Ms. Kaminsky is most excited about the performance of Alberto Ginastera’s “Para América Mágica” featuring the soprano Lucy Shelton (singing a libretto based on pre-Columbian texts) with the Talujon Percussion Ensemble.
“That work is a searing, powerful and evocative, haunting piece,” she said. “It’s not performed that often because it’s hard to get 13 percussionists and 5,000 different instruments on a stage together. It literally requires a truckload of percussion.”
That show will be conducted by Tanya Leon, who, like Mr. O’Farrill, is a recurring character throughout the series. “Sonidos” encompasses some 30 events in all, including film and the long-running Book Club events. Near the end of the season, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas arrive to launch a citywide Cuban subfestival being mounted in cooperation with BAM and the Joyce Theater.