Ludovic Morlot, the incisive thirty-six-year-old French conductor who has made several notable appearances with the New York Philharmonic in the past four years, will be the next music director of the Seattle Symphony, according to an announcement that came over the wires a few minutes ago. A generational turnover at American orchestras continues: two weeks ago, the thirty-five-year-old Yannick Nézet-Séguin was chosen to take the reins of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Both appointments seem sound choices for ensembles that have gone through lean years: Seattle has long been treading water under the artistically uneven Gerard Schwarz, while the fabulous Philadelphians have experienced a well-publicized bout of financial, administrative, and artistic turmoil. If Nézet-Séguin has the edge in charisma, Morlot seems livelier in his tastes, having delivered lucid, vivid accounts of dense modern scores such as Tristan Murail's Gondwana. At Mostly Mozart this summer he will lead the International Contemporary Ensemble in a program of Purcell, Bach, Benjamin, Birtwistle, and Lachenmann; at Tanglewood he'll conduct Golijov's Three Songs. Seattle, no less than Los Angeles or New York, has a huge potential audience for adventurous programming — Morlot's task is to make the connection.
Photo: Jean Radel
June 29, 2010 | Permalink
The New York Times has a profile of Jón Gnarr, the Icelandic actor, comedian, conceptual artist, and sometime punk rocker, who last month was unexpectedly elected mayor of Reykjavík. I met Gnarr in 2004, when I went to Reykjavík to interview Björk. As the Times piece points out, Gnarr is married to Björk's close friend Jóga Jóhannsdóttir, who inspired the song "Jóga." Einar Örn, Björk's former bandmate in the Sugarcubes, also gained a seat on the city council in the recent election. Here is the relevant passage from that 2004 article, which is republished in my new book Listen to This:
On the day I was to leave Iceland, Björk decided that I should see something of Reykjavík’s art scene. Jóga, one of her oldest friends, is married to the actor and artist Jón Gnarr, who was having an opening that afternoon. We drove in another taxi—if Iceland has limousines, Björk does not use them—to an old Lutheran church in the center of town. The show was titled INRI, and it consisted of a series of photographs of G.I. Joe and Ken dolls acting out the Stations of the Cross. The resulting evocation of Christ’s last days was unconventional—only four of the attendees of the Last Supper wear clothes, and the best-dressed one, in khakis and a sweater-vest, is Satan—but if any conservative Christians were scandalized they did not make themselves known. The mood of the piece was whimsical rather than provocative. “Judas looks like a rave kid,” Björk said, giggling approvingly.
In the church, everyone seemed to know Björk, but no one made a fuss over her. I had a hard time telling whether the people who greeted her were relatives, old friends, fans, or simply extroverted strangers. At one point, a blond boy walked up to Björk and said “Hi, Björk!” Björk said “Hi!” in return, whereupon the kid casually sauntered away. Two older teens were dressed in tattered, oddly festooned military-style greatcoats; they looked like stylish deserters from the final Army of the Tsar. Outside the church, a television reporter was interviewing Gnarr. On a nearby lake, swans made a noise that sounded like an anarchist brass band, or so it seemed in this context. The snow and ice melted in the weak glare of the sun. I said goodbye to Björk and took a cab to the airport.
My incoming flight had landed after dark, and I had seen nothing of the landscape around the city. Now I stared in wonder at the miles of blackish lava, at the volcanic boulders that had dropped from the sky, at the conical peak of Mount Keilir, in the distance. I had gone from a fashionable modern place into a charcoal sketch of an unfinished world.
June 26, 2010 | Permalink
Die Zeit has issued a charming video in which three brass players from the Berlin Konzerthaus Orchestra, led by Helge von Niswandt, give a mock-solemn demonstration of the musical properties of the vuvuzela. They do their level best with the chorale theme from Brahms's First Symphony — "the famed vuvuzela chorale" — and a bit of Ravel's Boléro.
Update: Now available with English subtitles.
June 25, 2010 | Permalink
New York is cloudy at the moment, with storms threatening, but the forecast for tomorrow remains sunny, boding well for Make Music NY. Some events that seem promising:
12:30PM: Yale Percussion Group plays Xenakis at the Naumburg Bandshell.
12:30-2:30PM: Second-line parade from the Kaufman Center to Columbus Circle (other parades in Hudson Square and Harlem).
1PM: Mobile-phone rendition of Terry Riley's In C at the corner of 14th and Ninth (you can download an app; also at 5PM).
4PM: Loop 2.4.3 leads a Mass Gong event at the Merchants' Gate in Central Park.
4:15, 5:45PM: Performances of Xenakis's Persephassa on Central Park Lake. Limited rowboat availability.
4:30PM: Gamelan Son of Lion plays in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
6-7:30PM: Mass Tuba event outside Lincoln Center.
6PM: A rival In C, with Composers Collaborative on Cornelia St.
9PM: The last of four marionette renditions of Xenakis's Oresteia in the Swedish Marionette Theater.
June 20, 2010 | Permalink
June 20, 2010 | Permalink
June 19, 2010 | Permalink
June 18, 2010 | Permalink
The Minnesota Orchestra, which has hit an artistic peak under Osmo Vänskä, is getting into the live-recording business. They're presently offering two free downloads, of Stravinsky's Petrushka and Bruckner's Seventh Symphony.... Make Music NY happens on Monday. I have a preview at the New Yorker blog, focusing on the lakeside Xenakis happening.... Happy news for the contemporary-opera fancier: the Met has added John Adams's Nixon in China to its HD Live schedule. The broadcast is on Feb. 12, 2011.... The annual League of American Orchestras conference is underway in Atlanta. The League has set up a densely packed online site to accompany the event, with blogging coordinated by Doug McLennan of ArtsJournal.... Bang on a Can has posted the schedule for its 2010 marathon. A few highlights: the JACK Quartet performing Xenakis, Gamelan Galak Tika performing Ziporyn, SIGNAL doing the Bang team's Shelter, and a late-in-the-evening manifestation by the amazing Burkina Electric.... In the LA Times, Ann Powers offers a pop critic's perspective on the Ring. In the same paper, Jon Burlingame addresses Wagner's effect on film music.
Some readers may be wondering just what is going on with my various blogs. Last fall I announced that I was moving to the New Yorker's bustling site, which generously offered me a base. Lately, though, I've found myself gravitating back to the present site: it's somehow irresistible to post here at all hours of the day and night. What we've decided is that The Rest Is Noise will remain my main base for shorter, breezier matter—news items, links, tidbits, audio clips, cat pictures, etc., as well as, of course, material related to my books—while Unquiet Thoughts will feature, on a more occasional basis, slightly longer pieces related to my magazine writing or musical matters of the day. I'm not sure whether anyone out there cares one way or another, but I thought I'd clear things up.
Charles Didbin's "Tom Bowling," arr. Britten; Gerald Finley, baritone, and Julius Drake, piano; Hyperion CDA67778.
Britten and Pears performed the original version of the song on Dec. 14, 1941, at a recital at Southold High School, on Long Island. Perhaps Pearl Harbor was on their minds.
My book (the old one) has been receiving some nice attention in France since Actes Sud published it last month; there is a very kind review in the current Nouvel Observateur. Laurent Slaars, my brilliant French translator, went so far as to play my Stravinsky-Lachnenmann-Bieber dance track, "Ritelachen," on France Culture radio (about two-thirds of the way in; brief excerpt above). Donc je voudrais saluer cordialement mes lecteurs français! On peut trouver ici un "Audioguide" avec nombreuses illustrations sonores.
In other overseas news, I'm tremendously honored and gratified to be receiving the Premio Napoli.