“New York was incredibly rich, although I felt that everything was very centered,” said composer John Morton in an interview with American Mavericks. “There was a certain school here and a certain school there and you could expect this here and could expect this there and because it’s so big and there’s so much music maybe that’s the way it has to be.” The composer was speaking about the city itself; his words, however, have a nice resonance in relation to a collection in which he appears featuring New York New Music.
The NYFA Collection marks twenty-five years of fellowships that the New York Foundation for the Arts has granted to composers and musicians. These tracks are not necessarily the works that grew out of the funding, some being new; but all the artists and their fifty-two tracks come under the NYFA umbrella. There are jazzy pieces, new-music pieces, lighter tonal music, and electroacoustic works. The collection’s curators, Cristian Amigo and Philip Blackburn, do a good job making such a disparate group of styles into a cohesive collection. Each of the five discs has an accompanying booklet with text on the artists and their works. Unfortunately, these write-ups are uneven and often provide poor context for the artist or work. Gee, thanks for telling me everyone who David van Tieghem has worked with. It’s very cool that he’s played with both Arthur Russell and Duran Duran. But what of his song “Waiting for the Gizmo?” I’m guessing the title is a reference to the mogwai in Gremlins. This collection is more valuable as an introduction to New York’s new-music scene for the new listener, rather than something for those who are after a new Pauline Oliveros or Monteith McCollum joint. As such, the notes are lacking.

But the music . . . The standouts include Morton’s The Parting, composed for music box and electronics. Aside from any real or imagined Gremlins reference, Teighem’s minimalist percussive track is great. Jose Halac’s BLOWN 2 is full of frantic instrumental mutterings with dubby rumblings. Raphael Mostel’s Dawn beautifully captures the mood of its eponymous time of day. As with the city that acts as the focal point for these works and the forty-eight others on this compilation, there is lots to go back to.