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Chicago’s New Music Groups Fundraise for Sandy-Destroyed New Amsterdam Records

Eighth Blackbird, Ensemble Dal Niente, and more join together at the Empty Bottle this weekend to raise money for the Brooklyn-based New Amsterdam Records, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy destroyed New Amsterdam Records’ six-month-old Red Hook headquarters.
Hurricane Sandy destroyed New Amsterdam Records’ six-month-old Red Hook headquarters.
 

The New York-based New Amsterdam Records created a fresh model for recording and distribution of new music where the artists retain their copyrights and pocket a higher percentage of sales than with most labels. It had so much success that in May it relocated to a new 3,000-square-foot headquarters in Red Hook.

And then the label saw its spiffy new headquarters wrecked by Superstorm Sandy last month, destroying 70 percent of its CD stock under four feet of floodwater.

In Chicago, the Spektral Quartet violist Doyle Armbrust and the composer Marcos Balter organized a fundraiser for the label called (Re)New Amsterdam, a special offshoot of the (Un)familiar Music Series, a new-music concert series Armbrust spearheads at The Empty Bottle. After the Bottle’s fee for things like paying the doormen is covered, 100 percent of the concert proceeds will go to rebuilding the new-music champions.

The lineup Armbrust and Balter booked reads like a who’s-who of Chicago new music, including Eighth Blackbird, Ensemble Dal Niente, Fulcrum Point New Music Project, Third Coast Percussion, Access Contemporary Music, and CUBE. “One of the wonderful things about new music in Chicago is how DIY and collaborative the scene is here,” Armbrust says. “I think Chicago is unique in the way the groups champion each other. Not that it’s without competition, but there’s plenty of room for everybody.”

Most of the participating groups will play one or two pieces in their sets. Third Coast Percussion will play John Cage’s “Third Construction,” a track from the group’s recent all-Cage album. Access Contemporary Music contributes “Momentary Moments,” a piano-cello duo by the group’s indefatigable founder, Seth Boustead, who will play the piano part. Balter’s composition “Ear, Skin, and Bone Riddles” features on Dal Niente’s program.

The event also includes a silent auction of manuscript pages from new-music composers, including Balter, Augusta Read Thomas, Nico Muhly, and Anna Clyne.

The new-music communities in New York and Chicago don’t always see eye-to-eye aesthetically, Armbrust says, but “somebody gets in trouble, all those things disappear.” Solidarity of purpose wins out. “They’re our fellow musicians who have the same struggles we have. It’s a fringe community. We’re working hard to promote the music we all believe in. That’s the message.”

(Re)New Amsterdam runs from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, December 16 at The Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western. Minimum donation for tickets is $10, or $5 for students. For info, head to Facebook.

Graham Meyer is Chicago magazine’s contributing classical music critic.

 

Photograph: David Andrako

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