Last summer I wrote about the threat of demolition hanging over the Thomas Mann villa in Pacific Palisades, the place where Doctor Faustus was written. At the end of a frightening week, the happy news arrives that the German government has purchased the home. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany's foreign minister, has declared that the house will become a cultural center and meeting place for young writers. “In stormy times like these we need more than ever cultural anchor points with our most important partner outside of Europe,” Steinmeier said. A not inconspicuous irony shadows the announcement. Mann left the United States in 1952 because he felt that the country was going the way of Nazi Germany. "Mann had intimate knowledge of how a civilized society could turn feral in an instant," I wrote in August, with the hateful demagoguery of Donald Trump in mind. The Mann house may be safe, but America is again poised at an ominous fork in the road.
November 18, 2016 | Permalink
November 18, 2016 | Permalink
Nothing seems less relevant at the moment, but I thought I'd offer a few more thoughts and pictures related to the Death Valley article that appeared in last week's issue of The New Yorker — the one that said "Oh, Sweet Jesus, Please God, No" on the cover. The piece is unlike anything I've done in my twenty years at the magazine, and I am intensely grateful to my editors — and to Daniel Zalewski in particular — for letting escape into the desert for a little while.
November 15, 2016 | Permalink
The new-music radio channel Q2 has asked me participate in a series called "Current Obsessions," in which I select one work a week for broadcast. The first is Jürg Frey's String Quartet No. 3, which I wrote about in my Wandelweiser column. It will be heard at 1pm Eastern today and several more times through the week. To come are works by Linda Catlin Smith, Liza Lim, Agata Zubel, Michael Pisaro, Scott Worthington, Ashley Fure, and others — twelve in all, through February.
November 01, 2016 | Permalink
Three new or newish operas can be seen in Chicago in the next week or so, as WFMT notes: Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman, Missy Mazzoli’s Song from the Uproar, and Nico Muhly's Dark Sisters.... This weekend the Stony Brook Symphony, under Eduardo Leandro, presents an adventurous program of Berio's Sinfonia, Ligeti's Mysteries of the Macabre, and Ken Ueno's On a Sufficient Condition for the Existence of Most Specific Hypothesis, the last with the composer performing.... Xian Zhang is making her debut as the New Jersey Symphony's new music director. Michael Cooper interviews her.... A new revised version of Andrew Norman's Play has its première at the LA Phil tonight. Also of interest in LA this weekend: Jacaranda's Finnish program; Peter Sellars's staging of Lassus's Lagrime di San Pietro, with the LA Master Chorale; live performances in conjunction with Rand Steiger and Yuval Sharon's NIMBUS installation at Disney; and Matthew Aucoin's score for Murnau's Nosferatu, at LA Opera. Phelim McDermott's staging of Glass's Akhnaten arrives at LA Opera on Nov. 5, with Anthony Roth Costanzo in the lead.... MEV, the legendary electronic improvisation trio of Curran, Teitelbaum, and Rzewski, is touring the US in coming weeks, marking their fiftieth anniversary. They will be at Western Front in Vancouver on Nov. 3; at the Wayward Music Series in Seattle on Nov. 5; at Redcat in LA on Nov. 9; and at National Sawdust in NYC on Nov. 13. In the spring they will appear at Big Ears.... At the KQED website, Sam Lefebvre has an excellent overview of the fifty-year history of Mills College's Center for Contemporary Music. A great quotation from the late Robert Ashley: "If you're not weird, get out."
October 28, 2016 | Permalink
— Chaya Czernowin, The Quiet: Works for Orchestra; various orchestras and conductors (Wergo)
— Meredith Monk, On Behalf of Nature (ECM)
— In War & Peace; Joyce DiDonato, with Il Pomo D'Oro (Erato)
— Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 6, Borodin, Polovtsian Dances; Iván Fischer conducting the Budapest Festival Orchestra (Channel Classics) [I observed the making of this recording in my Fischer profile]
— Iván Fischer, Composer's Portrait; Fischer conducting the Budapest Festival Orchestra (Channel Classics)
— Anthony Cheung, Dystemporal and other works; Talea Ensemble, Susanna Mälkki conducting the Ensemble Intercontemporain (Wergo)
— Edmund Rubbra, Tenebrae Nocturns, Missa Cantuariensis, Three Motets, Five Motets; Harry Christophers leading The Sixteen (Coro)
— Ethel Smyth, The Boatswain's Mate; Nadine Benjamin, Edward Lee, Jeremy Huw Williams, Odaline de la Martinez conducting the Lontano Ensemble (Retrospect Opera)
— Paweł Szymański, Lux Aeterna, Miserere, In Paradisum Deducant Te Angeli..., Phylakterion; Anna Szostak leading the Camerata Silesia (Dux)
— ism: works of James Tenney, Erin Gee, David Reminick, Morgan Krauss, Evan Johnson, Lee Hyla; Ryan Muncy, saxophone (New Focus)
October 25, 2016 | Permalink