[From a Room is a series from architecture and classical music critic Justin Davidson that examines how people and spaces work together to create great venues. Read parts one and two. — Ed.] The cruelest thing you can do to a note is to play it outdoors. Inside, it bounces merrily around walls before it hits the ear, acquiring character, depth and resonance. Outside, it just floats away like a helium balloon, never to be heard… more »
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In 1987, David Lang was a 30-year-old composer and doctoral student who, with his Yale buddies Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe, founded Bang on a Can, a scruffy organization dedicated to the proposition that all musics are created equal. These days, Lang is an eminence: Pulitzer Prize winner, member of the Yale faculty, and composer in residence at Carnegie Hall for 2013-14. Justin Davidson talked with him midway through "collected stories," a six-concert festival he… more »
Only a minute or so into our phone interview in late April, I realized that talking with Meredith Monk wasn't so different from listening to one of her recordings. And not merely because the singer-composer-dancer-filmmaker will often adorn phrases with a thrilling and wordless vocalization, just like she does on most of her classic albums. In her casual speech, Monk is as emotionally direct — and as capable of elegant, quick movement between radically different… more »
New + Noteworthy
Spotlight: Louis Andriessen
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Upon discovering that composer Louis Andriessen’s massive two-hour setting of Dante’s Divine Comedy was conceived as a “film opera,” there may be a temptation to throw up one’s hands. (This was the reaction some in the audience had at the New York premiere of this music, in 2010, at Carnegie Hall, where no images were provided on stage.) Learning that the libretto is in four languages probably won’t contradict this mood — nor will news that the DVD version released by Nonesuch Records is directed by American indie auteur… more »
Meredith Monk avoids easy pegging: She dances, she makes films, she stages non-narrative opera and invents new extended-vocal-technique languages. Her albums of contemporary classical music, issued through ECM’s “New Series” ever since 1981′s Dolmen Music, have been an influence on contemporary musicians like Bjork, among others. She presents a lot for music fans to process, and if you find yourself intimidated by the breadth of her three-dimensional artistry but still seek a way in…well, then you might need this album.
Piano Songs is the first-ever album to feature Monk’s music,… more »
A Basho haiku was the central prompt for Jacob Cooper’s new song cycle Silver Threads: “How delicately/ the silver threads of rain/ sew sky to the earth.” The Brooklyn-based composer asked several poets to respond to the haiku with their own poems, as well as to the work of the other poets and to Cooper’s preliminary musical sketches. The work that emerged out of this labor-intensive process deals with themes of love and isolation, and is set against a natural landscape distorted and sexualized by the psyches of the ambiguous… more »
Fans of John Adams’s 2000 Nativity oratorio El Nino might be automatically inter-ested in the minimalist’s latest biblically inspired work, while others may look at the summary — another update of the Jesus narrative that folds in contemporary settings and themes — and think it’s a pass.
That would be a mistake. Packed with some of the most ear-catching and dramatic music of Adams’s career, this two-hour stage piece easily surpasses the recent Adams opera Doctor Atomic, and belongs with Nixon and China and The Death of Klinghoffer as one of… more »