In a recent column on the Prototype Festival, I worked in an all-too-brief mention of Kate Soper's remarkable theater piece Here Be Sirens, which had its début at the same time as Prototype but wasn't part of the series. Fortunately, Steve Smith was also there, and wrote a typically comprehensive, perceptive review for the Times. Soper also has a new CD on the Carrier label, devoted to an eight-movement piece called Voices from the Killing Jar.
The formidably gifted composer-vocalist, whose website is here, just performed Fausto Romitelli's An Index of Metals at On the Boards in Seattle, with the Seattle Chamber Players. Above is Zubel's own work Not I, based on the Beckett monologue. More on contemporary Polish music in The New Yorker next week.
The New Yorker website has posted this reporter's obligatory end-of-year list. Emily Nussbaum, our television critic, is probably right in decrying such lists as an intellectual mistake, especially as they pile up in unreadable heaps. Still, it's always a pleasure to review the year and savor a few memorable moments. Also on the website: an interview with Esa-Pekka Salonen about Patrice Chéreau, the year's most painful loss. Already posted below is a list of notable music books.
I am pleased to announce that the Rest Is Noise Person of the Year is Joyce DiDonato. She is a model artist of our age, an enlightened politician of beautiful sound. She's also great fun to drive across Kansas with, although this was not necessarily a deciding factor. The Medal of Musical Valor goes to the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians, who turned down what many considered an acceptable offer in the name of preserving their dignity. In an unprecedented repeat performance, the Turkey of the Year Award goes once again to the Minnesota Orchestral Association, which, it seems to me, has no business running a lemonade stand, much less a symphony orchestra.
As in past years, I'll add some items outside my area of nominal competence. In another Wagnerism-saturated year — if you saw some fool reading Huysmans on the subway, it was probably me — I did find time for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's marvelous Americanah. My favorite film of the year was Terrence Malick's To the Wonder. Richard Brody, one of very few critics who understood Malick's vision, wrote beautifully about the movie here and there. (The fact that the soundtrack made profound use of the Parsifal Prelude may have affected my response.) As for TV, household favorites were Veep, Breaking Bad, and — forgive me, Emily — The Walking Dead. Happy holidays!
Marco Blaauw, the high-flying hero of Ensemble musikFabrik's Michaels Reise at the Lincoln Center Festival last summer, has a riveting new CD called Angels, containing "sound images of winged creatures" by Liza Lim, Richard Ayres, Rebecca Saunders, GF Haas, Carl Ruggles (supplying the title), Agata Zubel, Martin Smolka, Martijn Padding, the jazzman Jimmy Rowles, and Blaauw himself. There's a preview on SoundCloud.