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March, 2017 ~ Laurie Altman's newest CD project, "Sonic Migrations", a double CD just released by NEOS MUSIC GMBH. All of the compositions on the CD were written by Laurie Altman(spanning some 23 years) and will feature a remarkable group of musicians including;
Clipper Erickson, Piano
Matthias Mueller, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
Patrice Michaels, Soprano
Eugenia Molinar, Flute
Denis Azbagic, Guitar
The Manhattan String Quartet
Andrew Rathbun, Saxophone
Laurie Altman, Composer, Piano
Randy Bauer, Piano
Kuang-Hao, Piano
John Bruce Yeh, Clarinet

Review from Colin Clarke:
Previous experiences of Laurie Altman's music have provided a much varied experience, but an always stimulating and rewarding one. This twofer of World Premiere recordings, entitled "Sonic Migrations," is no exception. The Five Variations on Rachmaninoff of 1994 takes a theme from that composer's op. 35 Piano Sonata as its basis. Rather neatly, Altman takes the theme and asks what might he have done with it, had it been his inspiration? The result is an inquiry into the nature of the theme, initially taking a Rachmaninoff-like swirling gesture, then leading it more into jazz-like territory. The music then seems held in the middle of the two, pulled one moment towards one and then towards the other; Debussy gets added to the mix at one point. The piece speaks eloquently of Altman's polystylism, moving between musical languages with ease. The memorable opening gesture of Rachmaninoff's Sonata seems to act as something of an anchor for these explorations. Thrusting, impulsive gestures propel the music to its close, at which point Rachmaninoff's powerful language reasserts itself. Clipper Erickson is a fine interpreter, moving between the styles impeccably. The two-piano piece Filaments (2004) offers something of an analogous mix, with Latin and jazz musics enlivening the musical surface (Milhaud's Scaramouche came to mind). Randy Bauer and Kuang-Hao Huang seem perfectly attuned to each other; the result is seven minutes of sustained energy: Altman himself refers to this piece as a "sustained dance work." Scored for clarinet and piano, Through the Cracks (2015) is an intense conversation between the two instruments. Matthias Mueller and Erickson seem to inspire each other to keep up the standard of exactitude required by the music. A setting of Pablo Nerudo, No Hoy Olvido (There is no forgetting, 2014) is scored for the attractive combination of soprano, flute and guitar. Gentle dance-like rhythms allow the setting to unfold naturally. Patrice Michaels is a superb singer, her diction commanding and her delivery impeccably confident. The warmth of the opening of Brahms Takes is perfectly in accord with the introduction of that composer into the mix, the instrumental main body prefaced by a brief quotation from Clara Schumann in German read by Jeannine Hummel. The piece is essentially a deconstruction and Cubist rebuilding of Brahms' original (the G-Major Violin Sonata). The interaction and dialog of tonal constructs with a more dissonance-based language provides a rich musical canvas; nods to Schoenberg, presumably deliberate, seem to underscore the correspondence between those two composers and indeed remind us of Schoenberg's admiration for Brahms' methods of working. Clarinetist Matthias Mueller is superbly eloquent in his contributions; the Manhattan String Quartet offers razor-sharp reactions. There is even humor here in some of the exchanges of quirky, angular phrases. Another tribute closes the first disc, Selfless Gifts of 2012 for soprano saxophone and piano; this time the honored composer is Copland (his "Simple Gifts" theme). The two improvisatory sections included by Altman are a lovely touch, and beautifully realized by Andrew Rathbun. The composer accompanies, brilliantly. Altman's Seventh Piano Sonata (2011) is subtitled "Tanzania" and was in fact inspired by a trip to that country by the composer and his wife. Tanzanian hand and finger drumming informs the toccata-like first movement (brilliantly played by Erickson). The slow movement, "Legacy," is a meditation on Africa's past, contrasting its magnificent indigenous beauty with its history of "interlopers," to use Altman's (correct) term. Drumming returns in the brief third movement (essentially a scherzo) before the final "Song Dance," itself preceded by a recording of a folk tune sung by two members of the Hazda tribe. Propulsive and almost breathless at first, the finale offers a varied soundscape, always vibrant. Erickson is the perfect exponent. The return of the tribal singing at the close is markedly effective. Scored for soprano, clarinet and piano, the 1992 Lament of the Homeless Women sets a poem by David Sten Herrstrom, which itself is based on the actual words of a homeless woman quoted in the New Yorker. The wonderfully angular "Today I shall collect a look" finds Kuang-Hao Huang and John Bruce Yeh reacting off each other in quicksilver fashion. The transition between the second and third songs is impeccably done via Yeh's sensitive phrasing. The final "A Sidewalk Life" is poignant in the extreme, a mini-monodrama in its own right. Some explanation is perhaps necessary for the instrument used for the 2014 piece, Sea Drifts. The Sensor Augmented Bass Clarinet (SABRE) is a bass clarinet equipped with sensors linked to a computer, enabling a direct connection between acoustic and digital worlds, Composers such as Marco Stroppa, Thomas Kessler, Katharina Rosenberger and Jacopo Baoni-Schillingi have all written for this instrument, in addition to Altman. The sensor can actually be used for all clarinets and saxophones ( The additional sounds to the clarinet are really quite fascinating (one in particular is like a Skype sound); Altman also seems to ask for multiphonics at one point, while at another juncture it sounds like the clarinet is underwater. Inspired by a jog along the Shirakawa River, Kanezawa, Japan, Shirakawa River Song (2015) is a jaunty piece for string quartet that aims to reflect the clarity and freshness of the morning. And "fresh" is the perfect word for the Manhattan String Quartet's affectionate performance; the recording, too, is spot-on. A lovely highlight of this twofer. Finally, the 2009 Ten Miniatures for piano. Some gestures display a Webernian brevity; others seem to seek to expand but dissolve in the process of the attempt. The intense aspect to the music seems apt as an outro through: colorful and varied Altman's music may be, but one is never in doubt as to his seriousness of intent. Fabulous production values from Neos seal a great product. Recommended.

Review from David DeBoor Canfield:
The present two-disc Neos set of 11 works by American composer Laurie Altman continues to cement my conviction that he is a major composer of our time. These works display a breadth of compositional prowess that is impressive and rewarding to listen to. Altman will never be a composer who puts all of his compositional eggs into one basket. The works heard herein require from one to four performers, and span a period of 25 years, a period of time sufficient to give an overview of Altman's compositional art. In a previous review, I had an opportunity to hear and review the composer's take on Schoenberg's Fantasy, Op. 19, and Stravinsky's Octet. Here, the program begins with another consideration of a work by a very different composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and the work that Altman puts under his compositional microscope is the Russian's Piano Sonata, Op. 36 (the booklet mistakenly refers to it as Op. 35). Altman has taken the theme of the second movement and composed a set of variations on it. His guiding principle was the thought, "What if these notes and themes were my own instead of Rachmaninoff's—where might I be inclined to take them and what shapes would such expressions take?" Consequently, after the initial original statement of Rachmaninoff's tune, Altman launches into a set of variations in which he retains Rachmaninoff's gestures and textures, but replaces the Russian's harmonies with his own tonally extended language. Along the way, he sneaks in other snippets from the master's Second Sonata, such as the opening downward arpeggio at around the eight-minute mark. The piece, one of the earlier-composed works in the program, is very effective, especially in the skilled hands of pianist Clipper Erickson, who brings the intensity and power needed in Rachmaninoff's music to Altman's as well. Through the Cracks is a five-minute work for clarinet and piano, with harmonies that veer very close to atonality. If you think you don't like atonal music, though, this is a work to change your mind. As is the case in much clarinet music, there is a good bit of jumping around in the clarinet part (and the piano, for that matter), and Altman's interweaving of the two instruments is nothing short of ingenious. Frequent changes of texture, articulation, and register add to the interest of the piece. No Hay Olvido (Sonata) (There is no forgetting) is based upon the eponymous poem of the outstanding Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. Like the poem itself, Altman's setting (for soprano, flute, and guitar) has a fair number of stops and starts, flitting around from one idea to the next. At around the seven-minute point, some Latin-infused rhythms are interjected into the musical texture. Soprano Patrice Michaels, a favorite singer of the composer judging by his use of her on a number of recordings of his music, extracts every ounce of drama from the text, and is sometimes called upon for special effects, such as extended trilled "R's;" the Cavatina Duo performs brilliantly as well. Jazz makes its first appearance in the recital in the following Filaments for two pianos, a delightful romp through rhythm and sonority. Pervading the piece are Latin and jazz dance rhythms, along with some more meditative sections. I cannot rave too much at the skill in which Altman combines jazz and classical ideas into a most arresting and satisfying synthesis. At the compositional antipodes is Brahms Takes, a work for bass clarinet and string quartet based loosely on the opening theme from the G-Major Violin Sonata of the German master. This theme undergoes all sorts of transformations, explorations, and reassignment of sonorities, and snippets of material from the original sonata are deftly manipulated, augmented, and diminished to produce a highly original work wherein Brahms's style goes in and out of focus. Selfless Gifts, a work for soprano saxophone and piano, closes off the first disc, and here, Altman brings back his penchant for writing jazz. Mind you, this piece isn't what I would call true jazz. However, it may be 80% of the way over towards the jazz end of the continuum, as there are plenty of jazz-like riffs and inflections to provide the flavor of the medium. There are licks that sound improvisatory, along with two actual sections of improvisation, adding to the effect. Altman describes the piece as a "commentary" on Copland's Simple Gifts, but the reference is more veiled than overt. Saxophonist Andrew Rathbun tosses off some tricky tonguing with ease, along with all the wicked licks, and Altman himself splendidly covers the piano part. The second disc opens with the major work on the program, the nearly half-hour-long Piano Sonata No. 7, "Tanzania" in a stellar performance by Erickson. In 2011, the composer and his wife visited Tanzania, and upon their return, Altman wrote this work as a sort of reflection on that trip. Its initial impetus was the drumming music of that culture, but the work also reflects (in its second movement, "Legacy") the assaults upon African culture by many of the people that occupied the continent over the centuries. Altman does this through a subdued atmosphere interrupted by dissonant ebullitions. The apotheosis of the Sonata may come at the opening of the fourth movement ("Song Dance") wherein the composer presents a Tanzanian folk tune through an actual field recording. When the piano enters after some seconds, Altman's music seems to be almost an extension of what was just sung. The style of the first and third movements, both entitled "Drumming," is naturally quite rhythmic, and the "Legacy" movement paints a rather acerbic portrait of the various injustices perpetrated by foreigners upon the people of the continent. Thus, the final "Song Dance" movement presents the other side of the coin, namely the unbridled spirit of the Tanzanian people through its unrelenting vigor; the movement concludes with a reiteration of the folk tune which then fades to nothing. There is nary the slightest hint of jazz to be found in this work. The austerity of the Piano Sonata dissipates in Laments of the Homeless Women, a song cycle for soprano, clarinet, and piano on a poem of Californian poet David Sten Herrstrom, who was born in 1946. The mellifluous opening song yields to a rather pointillistic second in which the level of pathos is augmented significantly. Occasionally a line, e.g., "I offer my eye to those beyond fear," is spoken rather than sung. The titles (including "Condemned" and "A Sidewalk Life") and texts portray various aspects of the lives of those caught up in the widespread homelessness that exists in our affluent society. Altman's music underscores the plight of those so entrapped, although his music is by no means unrelentingly gloomy, and most often is cast in terms of simple lines and sparse harmonies. Perhaps the most unusual work in this program is found in the Sonic Drifts for Sensor Augmented Bass Clarinet, a bass clarinet played in the normal manner, but one that has sensors connected to it and to a computer that produce electronic effects. See the above interview for a fuller explanation of the instrument by the composer. The piece is a delight, with the electronics serving as a kind of commentary on the bass clarinet's wandering line. The piece is gently atonal at times, and obliquely tonal at others. Considerable virtuosity is demanded of the soloist Matthias Mueller, who adroitly handles every challenge. Portions of this nine-minute work seem rather humorous to my ears, although like the bassoon, I think the bass clarinet is a naturally humorous instrument, the electronics simply enhancing this characteristic. Shirakawa River Song is scored for string quartet, its idea coming to the composer during a jog along the river of the same name in Kanazawa, Japan. In this work, he has sought to intertwine elements of light, bird sounds, and the rippling water of the river. Needless to say, the piece is so well-written, that the listener can enjoy it on purely musical grounds, which include the leaps and rhythmic angularity of much of Altman's music. Other effects including senza vibrato and sul ponticello are utilized to spectacular effect in this rather brief work. The Manhattan String Quartet plays this work with absolute mastery. The program closes with Ten Miniatures for Piano, a series of charming and contrasting vignettes that are meant to say what the composer intends quickly and directly, with little or no development of their ideas. There is a wide variety of emotion to be found in these divergent miniatures, although if there is an idée fixe, it would be Altman's rhythmic vitality. Pianist Kuang-Hao Huang plays these pieces as if he had been born to them. In addition to the unfailingly superb music found on these two discs and the equally superb rendition of it by each and every performer involved, the sonic quality of this Neos set is worth mentioning. I have seldom heard such life-like sound emanate from my speakers, even though there were a number of engineers and venues involved here. This is a sine qua non acquisition for anyone interested in the music of our time. Review from Forced Exposure:
Laurie Altman's musical compositions on Sonic Migrations represent, in some way, a passage: A passage through places (globally), history and events, words, sonic environments, people's lives and their mutual emotions. The pieces are the by-product of a time span of some 25 years, encompassing diverse ensembles and sonic frameworks, far-flung influences, textures, and feelings. There are some outstanding artists playing, like Clipper Erickson (piano), or the Manhattan String Quartet, to name a few. And there is a technical innovation: The Sensor Augmented Bass Clarinet (SABRE) is a bass clarinet, playable in the customary way, and equipped with various sensors with which a computer can be controlled. The original qualities of the instrument are retained, and through the connection to the computer a whole new field of possibilities and areas of application is opened up. With the SABRE, a musical instrument is available for the first time with which a direct connection between acoustic music and the digital world can be realized. The musician on stage can directly control this with his/her instrument, thus spontaneously placing the electronic music into a musical context. Moreover, other media such as visuals, light or video games can be controlled. "No Hay Olvido (Sonata)" features a poem by Pablo Neruda; "Laments of the Homeless Women" features apoem by David Sten Herrstrom. Personnel: Laurie Altman - piano; Randy Bauer - piano; Kuang-Hao Huang - piano; Clipper Erickson - piano; Patrice Michaels - soprano; Matthias Mueller - clarinet, SABRE; John Bruce Yeh - clarinet; Andrew Rathbun - saxophone; Cavatina Duo (Eugenia Moliner - flute; Denis Azabagic - guitar) and Manhattan String Quartet.

Laurie Altman will have two new CD's out this fall. The first one, produced by Judith Sherman, will be a double CD released on NEOS, the Munich based company which already released Altman's Convergence and Divergence CD's. Recorded in New York City and Chicago, it features some of the finest musicians that those two cities have to offer. Plans are underway for a fall release, followed by concerts in Switzerland and Munich.

The second Altman CD, will be with Guitarist(13 String Acoustic) Anders Miolin, and two vocalists, Irina Ungureanu and Isabel Pferrkohn. Recorded in Zurich in the studio's of Radio Station SRF 2, it is a follow-up to the very successful Miolin/Altman CD on Guild Records called, "Danza, Danza". A fall release on a Polish label is expected. The Producer is one of Europe's finest, Malgorzata. More details will follow.

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Altman On Course  

On Course

The works from 'On Course' represent a broad cross section of sonic and stylistic moments created over an almost 24 year period by composer Laurie Altman. The generative links between all the pieces seem to be an overarching lyrical sentiment coupled with the interplay of animation, dance and drama.
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On Affeto Records 0401, feautring Ed Schuller on Bass and Laurie Altman on Piano.
All Compositions and arrangements by Laurie Altman.
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  Part of Me

Jackie Jones (vocals), Laurie Altman (piano),
Greg Bufford (drums), Brian Glassman (bass),
Bob Hanlon (sax).
Vocalist Jackie Jones on TSE Records, featuring the compositions and arrangements of Laurie Altman, who plays the piano as well.
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For Now at Least
Laurie Altman, Quintet

Progressive Records 7066 (1981)
Featuring: Mack Goldsbury, George Naha, Tom Marvel, Bill DiMartino and Laurie Altman.
All Compositions by Laurie Altman

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  Carnival of Crime
by Mark Twain

For Spencer Entertainment Enterprises, Inc (1990).
Performed by Larry Kenney, Music by Laurie Altman

Music for Two Pianos
Barton & Lehrer

Featuring the Barton/Lehrer Duo.
Featured on the CD is Altman's composition "Theme and Variations for Two Pianos"

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  Sophisticated Lady
Altman Classical Progam

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