“A kind of acoustic acupressure.” 

—Mark Swed, “In Fluxus — making sense of the amorphous anti-art movement’s arrival in L.A.” [on the first movement of Carson’s ‘Wonderment and Misgiving’, commissioned by Reidemeister MoveLos Angeles Times Critic’s Notebook, October 12, 2018

 

Recordings 

COMING SOON: Ben Leeds Carson: String Quartets (forthcoming LP featuring the Del Sol Quartet, April/August 2018). My first string quartet, Rites, was written on the occasion of Circadian Quartet’s string quartet and percussion arrangement of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, and takes contrary inspiration from Debussy’s quartet Op. 10. Modes (of resistance) is my second string quartet, but also a solo work for viola accompanied by strings. It is a work concerned with some unusual, marginal possibilities of rhythm, and with some relationships between noise and counterpoint, but also a send-up of classical forms. Its ‘modes’ are both ‘types of melody’ and approaches to self-presentation; its values are both note-values and ‘interests or priorities’. Both quartets try to resist not a specific kind of authority or regime but something more compelling and toublesome, something intangible but discrete, something in the law of language, something in me.


A thread of piano music runs through my work since 1999, focusing on small pieces that, through their associations with texts, reflect a wandering and sometimes weird experience of history and the world. Centaur Records has released representative works from this collection in Pieces, Threaded: 1999-2009 (CRC3105, 2011), as a part of its distinguished catalogue of American piano music. My “piano music” page also features video of Jacob Rhodebeck interpreting “Fors Seulement…” fors seulement condition, and Coda: “You Are Not I”, at UC Santa Cruz.

 

Music for Percussion (Albany Records TROY1225, 2011) is focused on my 2007 work A is for Azimuth and Arnica, commissioned by Chris Froh. The composition is designed to be re-shaped in multiple ways, depending on which objects and texts the performer “finds” for the work. The disk features five different interpretations, including two by Froh, and others by percussionists Ian Antonio, Russell Greenberg, and Aiyun Huang. Please also have a look at video of Antonio & Greenberg’s Santa Cruz performance of Mediations, Tenors

 

 

On March 26th, 2009, the Music Performance Program at Columbia University presented Anahistoric: Music of Ben Leeds Carson—a dynamic and unusual concert at Philosophy Hall. New York piano and percussion quartet Yarn/Wire led the evening with several works, including Anahistoric, joined by cellist Katie Schlaikjer of New York’s CORE Ensemble. Distinguished soloists included saxophonist Rhonda Taylor, trumpeter Glen Whitehead, and contrabassist Christopher Williams.

 

 

Rhonda Taylor’s Interstice (2012) is a selection of world-premiere recordings of saxophone works by Ben Leeds Carson, Justin Rubin, Avi Tchamni, and Ben Grosser, and an improvisation with Ron Stabinsky. Includes Carson’s Anonyme, a solo work for alto or tenor saxophone, inspired by a false myth of the origin of sea anemones, and by the complex rhythms that relate the shoreline’s moon-influenced tides to the passing of days and nights, and the inchoate rhythms of animal colonies that respond to both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 (In progress) MENAGERIE: THE TRIAL OF SPOCK
Between 2011 and 2015, I collaborated with Linc & Lee Taiz (Flora Unveiled: the Discovery and Denial of Sex in Plants, New York: Oxford, 2017), and Perre DiCarlo (Kick Litter, Los Angeles: Chen Designs, 2008; Hippogriff Cookbook, Los Angeles: Chimera Verité 2012), and actor/director John de Lancie (Star Trek: the Next Generation, Breaking Bad, & acclaimed guest director of Santa Fe Opera and Atlanta Opera), on an ‘Orpheus’ libretto based on Gene Roddenberry’s teleplay “Menagerie”, which consists of the pilot and the 11th & 12th episodes of the Star Trek series’ first season. In June of 2015 we produced a workshop performance of the first act in 2015, starring Sheila Willey in the central role the Vulcan Commander Tor, Aleksey Bogdanov as Captain Kirk, David Cushing as Spock, and Emily Sinclair as Vina. We have consulted with CBS Television on securing rights for collaborations with larger opera companies.

 

Reviews

“For the first movement of Ben Leeds Carson’s Wonderment and Misgiving, short bursts of low bass and tuba energy act like a kind of acoustic acupressure.”

—Mark Swed, “Critic’s Notebook: In Fluxus — making sense of the amorphous anti-art movement’s arrival in L.A.” Los Angeles Times, October 12, 2018

Carson’s ‘Piece for Four Strangers’ was a fun introduction to the symposium…and brought out a range of concepts around performance: being in a system in the moment that produces contemporary visibility; engaging a process to test the way something works or develops … and transitions [in states of consciousness] as a way of forming a sense of self.

—Gretchen Till, “Loose Ends: Writing Texts” (Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art Nature and Dance <http://iLandart.org>, March 31, 2012)

[Carson’s] ideas…the establishment and erosion of musical boundaries, the evolution/devolution of melody, and the use of silence as a structural component…take shape in swiftly scurrying flurries, motifs fast or slow…sudden fortes that produce an impact out of proportion with their amplitude. To say that [Persistent Names of Lost Spaces] is too long…would be paraphrasing the prince … chiding Mozart for writing ‘too many notes.’

Robert Schulslaper, Fanfare Magazine July/August 2012

In this music … each element in a false dichotomy defines and becomes the other… [offering listeners] the opportunity and responsibility to navigate our own uniquely useful paths.

—Christopher Williams, ”On the Piano Music of Ben Carson”, in The Open Space Magazine, Issue 5, December 2005