I spoke at Carnegie Mellon last night, in the Humanities Center's "Music: Mind, Machine, and Milieu" lecture series. Many thanks to David Shumway, Richard Randall, and others for hosting me. This was my first visit to Pittsburgh since 2000, when I saw Mariss Jansons lead the Pittsburgh Symphony in Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra. Two strong recommendations: Caliban Books, where I picked up as many books as will fit in my luggage; and Crested Duck, where we ate after the lecture. I'm no professional foodie, but the latter seemed pretty extraordinary. Above, a musical stained-glass window at Heinz Memorial Chapel, with Wagner lurking on the left.
October 10, 2014 | Permalink
Last night at Powell Hall in St. Louis, just before a St. Louis Symphony performance of Brahms's German Requiem, a group of protesters staged a peaceful demonstration tied to the killing of young Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Positioned in various parts of the auditorium, the protesters unfurled banners and sang "Which Side Are You On?" They then walked out, chanting, "Black lives matter." Much of the audience, and some musicians in the orchestra, responded with applause. I've attached a snippet of audio of the broadcast, with commentary by Robert Peterson and Adam Crane, of St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Symphony, respectively. Note the moment when someone shouts, "Let's have some real music!" Crane thoughtfully adds, "That was also some real music we heard from passionate people in the audience."
October 05, 2014 | Permalink
The Atlanta Symphony musicians are holding an event tonight outside the Woodruff Center, where they have been locked out by a management that seems to have learned absolutely nothing from the recent debacle of the Minnesota Orchestra. Meanwhile, John Adams, John Corigliano, and other leading American composers have published an open letter at NewMusicBox; Robert Spano, Altanta's music director, speaks up for the musicians in an interview with the Times's Michael Cooper; and Donald Runnicles, the principal guest conductor, does the same in an interview with the Guardian's Tom Service. For a blistering series of posts on mismanagement in Atlanta, read Mask of the Flower Prince, the pen name of Scott Chamberlain, who sings with the Minnesota Chorale. On a happier note, the Minnesota Orchestra's new season opens tomorrow; Chamberlain conveys the atmosphere inside the building.
September 25, 2014 | Permalink
Judah Adashi, of the Peabody Institute, has put together a program of ground-bass works across the centuries, to transpire on Sept. 30 at Peabody. It includes his beguiling new piece my heart comes undone, inspired by a phrase of Björk's. Lavena Johanson is the cellist on the recording. I'm delighted to have provided a bit of inspiration for the concert, with my old "Chacona, Lamento, Walking Blues" essay.
September 25, 2014 | Permalink
Update: Sadly, Peter Jefferies has been denied entry to the United States on account of visa issues, and his tour has been cancelled.
September 24, 2014 | Permalink
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, an investment banker and political operative, struck a chilling tone at the protest against The Death of Klinghoffer yesterday: "You will be made to destroy that set before we're finished. We are going to be back here—everyone here and many, many more—every night of the Klinghoffer opera until the set is burned to the ground." (You can see and hear him in the second video embedded in Michael Cooper's piece, linked above.) In 2011, Wiesenfeld, who has a long history of belligerent pronouncements, drew attention for attempting to block the awarding of an honorary degree to the playwright Tony Kushner, whom Wiesenfeld compared to a "Kapo," or a Jewish concentration-camp functionary. Elsewhere, Justin Davidson and Philip Kennicott have thoughtful reassessments of the opera, which opens at the Met on October 20.
September 23, 2014 | Permalink
New and recent releases of interest.
— La Fauvette Passerinette: Peter Hill plays Ravel, Stockhausen, Anderson, Benjamin, Dutilleux, Sculthorpe, Douglas Young, Murail, Takemitsu, and Messiaen [including the première recording of the title work] (Delphian, available October)
— Tchaikovsky, The Seasons and Six Morceaux; Pavel Kolesnikov (Hyperion)
— Sibelius, Lemminkäinen Suite and The Wood Nymph; Osmo Vänskä conducting the Lahti Symphony (BIS)
— Stella di Napoli; Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano, with Riccardo Minasi conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra de Lyon (Erato)
— Gerald Barry, The Importance of Being Earnest; Barbara Hannigan, Katalin Károlyi, Hilary Summers, Peter Tantsits, Joshua Bloom, Alan Ewing, Thomas Adès conducting the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (NMC)
— Helen Grime, Night Songs and other works; Mark Elder and Jamie Phillips conducting the Hallé Orchestra and Hallé Soloists (NMC)
— Feldman, String Quartet No. 1, Structures, Three Pieces; FLUX Quartet (Mode)
— Unsuk Chin, Piano Concerto, Cello Concerto, Šu for sheng and orchestra; Sunwook Kim, Alban Gerhardt, Wu Wei, Myung-Whun Chung conducting the Seoul Philharmonic (DG)
— John Harbison, String Trio, Four Songs of Solitude, Songs America Loves to Sing; Camerata Pacifica (Harmonia Mundi)
— Wagner without Words; Llŷr Williams, piano (Signum)
September 21, 2014 | Permalink
September 20, 2014 | Permalink
Tertulia is a new NYC chamber-music series combining the pleasures of sound and food. Opening night, Sept. 29, is at Harding's, with excellent young players from Decoda.... Composer-percussionist Andy Akiho is the winner of the 2014 Underwood Emerging Composers Commission, his sharply playful Tarnished Mirrors having won over many ears at last spring's NY Phil Biennial.... The Phil's very welcome Carl Nielsen Project comes to a close Oct. 1-3, with the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies. Before that, we'll have the American première of Unsuk Chin's Clarinet Concerto, with Kari Kriikku as soloist. A recording of Nielsen's First and Fourth is out now on Dacapo.... Chaya Czernowin appears in Miller Theatre's Composer Portrait series on Oct. 23.... The site-specific opera collective The Industry is preparing its next project, a car-bound work called HOPSCOTCH.... The Carlsbad Music Festival runs this weekend, with David Lang occupying the lead spot and Dawn of Midi supplying high-end pop flavour.... Mark Swed has an early report on Esa-Pekka Salonen's latest creation, Karawane, a choral-orchestral setting of a canonical Dada text by Hugo Ball. For the moment, you can see and hear the première here.... The international new-music collective Wandelweiser, about which Steve Smith and Tim Rutherford-Johnson know a great deal more than I do, is gaining visibility on these shores, with the S.E.M. Ensemble presenting a Dante Boon recital this Sunday; a Chicago Wandelweiser Festival running this weekend; and various Wandelweiser composers featured in St. Paul Sept. 27-28. Irritable Hedgehog, whose Eva-Maria Houben disc was one of my favorites of last year, is releasing a new Jürg Frey album, again with R. Andrew Lee.... Open letter to Yale University Press: Let Kyle Gann's Ives book be published as he wishes it!
September 19, 2014 | Permalink
This superb, wide-ranging volume, edited by Nona Willis Aronowitz and published by University of Minnesota Press, gives me the chance to quote again from Willis's 1969 essay on Woodstock, one of the sharpest pieces the New Yorker has ever published: "What cultural revolutionaries do not seem to grasp is that, far from being a grass-roots art form that has been taken over by businessmen, rock itself comes from the commercial exploitation of blues. It is bourgeois at its core, a mass-produced commodity, dependent on advanced technology and therefore on the money controlled by those in power. Its rebelliousness does not imply specific political content; it can be — and has been — criminal, fascistic, and coolly individualistic as well as revolutionary. It can simply be a more pleasurable way of surviving within the system, which is what the pop sensibility has always been about. Certainly that was what Woodstock was about: ignore the bad, groove on the good, hang loose, and let things happen. The truth is that there can't be a revolutionary culture until there is a revolution. In the meantime, we should insist that the capitalists who produce rock concerts offer reasonable service at reasonable prices."
September 12, 2014 | Permalink