The Best Contemporary Classical Music on Bandcamp, November 2023

Exploring the Latest Composer-Driven Music on Bandcamp

In the ever-evolving landscape of contemporary classical music, Bandcamp continues to be a platform that showcases the best composer-driven music. From electronic experimentation to powerful renditions of old classics, this month’s selection offers a diverse range of compositions that push the boundaries of the genre. In this article, we will delve into some of the standout releases on Bandcamp in November 2023, featuring works by Jürg Frey, Linda Catlin Smith, Maja S.K. Ratkje, Eric Wubbels, Martin Arnold, Chris Fisher-Lochhead, Lea Bertucci, Cassandra Miller, Laurence Crane, Linda Catlin Smith, Ensemble Klang with Agata Zubel, and Carrie Frey.

Jürg Frey: Les signes passagers

Exploring the Fragility and Beauty of Solo Piano

Switzerland’s Jürg Frey presents “Les signes passagers,” a collection of solo works for pianoforte. Commissioned by Amsterdam-based pianist Keiko Shichijo, the album showcases the delicate and subtle nuances of the centuries-old instrument. Frey’s compositions allow for gentle overtones to dissolve, creating a rarefied atmosphere that invites contemplation. Each piece weaves together spartan yet lyric melodic shapes, offering a mesmerizing experience for the listener.

Linda Catlin Smith & Thin Edge New Music Collective: Dark Flower

Embracing Dark Harmonies and Sorrowful Melodies

Composer Linda Catlin Smith’s “Dark Flower” is a portrait album performed by Toronto’s Thin Edge New Music Collective. Smith’s music, steeped in dark harmonies, takes its time to unfold, reveling in a dusky ambience. The album features both previously recorded works and new compositions, including the titular centerpiece commissioned by the ensemble. With its slow pacing, discordant harmonies, and powerful silences, “Dark Flower” showcases Smith’s ability to create contemporary classical music that is rooted in tradition yet wholly unique.

Maja S.K. Ratkje & Nordic Affect: RÖKKUR

Breaking Boundaries Between Composer and Performer

Norwegian composer Maja S.K. Ratkje collaborates with the Icelandic ensemble Nordic Affect on “RÖKKUR.” Blurring the lines between composer and performer, Ratkje wrote or co-wrote all the material, incorporating the input of Nordic Affect in the arrangements. The album features improvisatory explorations, Baroque splendor, and experimental vocal experimentation, resulting in a collection of compositions that are both modern and timeless.

Eric Wubbels: if and only if

A Seamless Exploration of Tuning Systems and Harmonic Explorations

Composer and pianist Eric Wubbels presents “if and only if,” a remarkable piece of music written for violinist Josh Modney and cellist Mariel Roberts. The composition seamlessly flows through different tuning systems, showcasing the musicians’ mastery of their instruments. Wubbels incorporates harmonic explorations, scale variations, and dynamic arrangements, creating an absorbing hour-long journey that pushes the boundaries of contemporary classical music.

Martin Arnold: Flax

Bifurcating Tradition and Pulling It Apart

Canadian composer Martin Arnold’s “Flax” is a solo piano work that takes inspiration from the improvisation in jazz of the 1950s and ’60s. The composition features fluid yet halting melodies that interact with wobbly harmonic settings. As the piece progresses, the tonalities solidify into a more minimal and controlled terrain, creating a study in contrast that captivates the listener.

Chris Fisher-Lochhead: Wake Up the Dead

A Bracing Portrait Album Challenging Complacency

Vermont composer Chris Fisher-Lochhead’s “Wake Up the Dead” is a bracing portrait album featuring performances by various ensembles with ties to the Chicago new music community. The compositions challenge complacency and offer a feast of jagged stops and starts, striated timbres, and fleeting harmonies. Each piece reveals a genuine partnership between the composer and the performers, resulting in a collection of music that demands attention.

Lea Bertucci: Of Shadow and Substance

Exploring Liminal States and Deconstructing Hysteria

Lea Bertucci’s “Of Shadow and Substance” features compositions written for other ensembles, showcasing her growth as a composer. The album evokes a liminal state, both musically and thematically, as it explores the concept of hysteria in women. Bertucci’s compositions, performed by Quartetto Maurice and a group of improvisers, create a shimmering sonic fabric that feels simultaneously ancient and contemporary.

Cassandra Milller, Laurence Crane, and Linda Catlin Smith: Folks’ Music

Deconstructing Classical Tradition and Building Something Modern

The Louth Contemporary Music Society presents “Folks’ Music,” featuring works by Cassandra Miller, Laurence Crane, and Linda Catlin Smith. These composers expertly deconstruct classical tradition while creating sublime choral music. The compositions, performed by the Esposito Quartet and the Chamber Choir of Island, offer a fresh perspective on timeless string quartet cadences and explore the interplay between ancient and psychedelic elements.

Ensemble Klang with Agata Zubel: Laurence Osborn: Essential Relaxing Classical Hits

A Relentless Mixtape Reflecting Information Overload

Ensemble Klang and Agata Zubel tackle Laurence Osborn’s “Essential Relaxing Classical Hits,” a composition that recontextualizes classical pieces in a relentless mixtape format. The work reflects the information overload of the internet age, offering layers of melody and complexity. Zubel’s stunning vocals add a pop sensibility to the piece, creating an exhilarating yet exhausting listening experience.

Carrie Frey: Seagrass: Works for Solo Viola

Embracing Shifting Moods and Attacks

Violist Carrie Frey releases her first solo album, “Seagrass: Works for Solo Viola,” featuring compositions by various contemporary composers. The album showcases Frey’s activism in commissioning new solo works for her instrument, resulting in a collection of pieces that explore shifting moods and attacks. Frey’s warm and inviting performance style places the focus on her humanity, making for a captivating listening experience.


The world of contemporary classical music continues to evolve and push boundaries, as showcased by the diverse range of composer-driven music on Bandcamp. From delicate solo piano works to bold ensemble compositions, these releases offer a glimpse into the innovative and captivating world of contemporary classical music. As the genre continues to expand and experiment, Bandcamp remains a vital platform for discovering and supporting the best of composer-driven music.






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