Memory is a tricky thing – one reason why critics often abstain from speaking in absolutes. You might witness a live event of seemingly ineffable magnitude. Yet assuming there’s no recording immediately available, no dispassionate document by which to check your instincts once the moment of initial contact cools and fades, who’s to say whether you overreacted?
About Steve Smith
I've been involved professionally in music and media for close to 30 years, and personally for perhaps a decade longer. Apart from a two-year sojourn in Boston, I've been based in or around New York City since June 1993. After a long string of roles and positions in mass media, I've recently taken up the role of director of publications at National Sawdust, a revolutionary young performing-arts venue and incubator in Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn. You can learn more about that venture at nationalsawdust.org.
My work email address, for press releases, pitches, potential contributions, and whatnot, is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prior to joining National Sawdust, I spent just over two years as an assistant arts editor at the Boston Globe, where I had the privilege of overseeing that esteemed newspaper's coverage of music and the visual arts. Before that, I served for 13 years as a music editor (first classical music, and then everything) for Time Out New York, and for seven years concurrently as a freelance classical-music reporter and reviewer for The New York Times.
While nearly all of my work is now focused on National Sawdust, I continue to contribute interviews and concert and CD reviews for RollingStone.com. My writing has appeared previously in the Washington Post, Village Voice, Billboard, Musical America, The Wire, Signal to Noise [RIP], Decibel, Jazziz, Jazz Times, Down Beat, Chamber Music, and Symphony magazines.
Before turning to journalism full time, I was a classical radio DJ in Houston, and then worked as a publicist at BMG Classics, the Knitting Factory, Third Floor Media (representing the Columbia Records jazz roster, the Village Vanguard, select projects on Blue Note Records, and more), and other NYC organizations. Artists with whom I worked directly include Tim Berne, Bobby Previte, Dave Douglas, and Ellery Eskelin.
I trained formally as a classical percussionist, and then put those skills to use with jazz and rock bands in Houston and New York. I graduated from Clear Creek High School in League City, TX, in 1984, and from Trinity University in San Antonio, TX, in 1988. I'm married to Dr. Lara Pellegrinelli, an accomplished journalist, critic, and academic. Our daughter, Annina, is a budding singer, dancer, painter, and social-media superstar.
If you want to send something to me via snail mail, please drop me a line via email first to determine the best destination.
Entries by Steve Smith
As both a member of the highly regarding Mivos Quartet and as a solo artist in her own right, cellist Mariel Roberts has demonstrated an affinity for uncompromising music and a capacity for making even the most challenging works sing. Composer Eric Wubbels is among the numerous beneficiaries of Roberts’s advocacy – his gretchen Am Spinnrade, a duo for cello and piano, is featured on Roberts’s new CD, Cartography, with Wubbels himself at the piano. In advance of an album-release concert at National Sawdust on May 19, as well as a New York Philharmonic Contact! program that includes Wubbels’s katachi coming up at National Sawdust on May 22, the two sat down recently at a neighborhood café to compare experiences and agendas.
Bill Rieflin, Jaimie Branch, Roscoe Mitchell, Ben Richter, Alice Coltrane, Threefifty, Erkki Kurenniemi, and other striking sounds heard lately at Night After Night HQ.
For all that his large-scale works have commanded the spotlight over the last decade or so, David Lang initially burst into the public eye and ear with pithy, concise, and clever chamber works… On ‘thorn,’ an appealing new CD by flutist Molly Barth, Lang’s puckish instrumental miniatures assume center stage.
Igor Levit, Aaron Dilloway, Zeal & Ardor, Vanessa Rossetto, Kara-Lis Coverdale, Félicia Atkinson, Daniel Corral, and other striking sounds heard lately at Night After Night HQ.
Everything that’s erased leaves its trace of its passage behind: a point as familiar to the manuscript recyclers of antiquity to modern-day digital data-recovery sleuths. Deletion rarely amounts to a positive thing, but on ‘erased de kooning,’ one of two recent recordings by Vanessa Rossetto, an act of bulk erasure results in an absorbing new piece surprisingly rich in ghostly associations.
Though it’s not exactly a case of “opposites attract,” those who know the music of composer-performers Tristan Perich and Christopher Tignor might not automatically pair the two creators despite a shared association with electroacoustic music and technical ingenuity. Yet in a recent interview in advance of their joint appearance at National Sawdust on May 5, they discovered a healthy amount of overlap in their working methods and philosophies.
How do you invite an audience into an opera that has no characters to relate to, no story to follow? The inventive director RB Schlather, mounting A Madrigal Opera as the final entry in his engaging, productive National Sawdust residency, approached that challenge in an artfully literal-minded way, mingling members of the stellar vocal ensemble Choral Chameleon among the audience and engulfing them all within an elegantly simple, smartly realized common frame of reference.
The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Mark McGuire, Leyland Kirby, Marco Fusi, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Alex Mincek, and other striking sounds heard lately at Night After Night HQ.
With no disrespect to any of the superb recordings that preceded it, self-released or otherwise, Vol. 0 is the ideal entry point for anyone not yet acquainted with Yarn/Wire, as well as an essential acquisition for those who follow and admire the group already.