This fall—which has felt, in characteristic New York fashion, more like Summer XL, and now Deepest Depths of Winter—has been something of a whirlwind for me and for the New Music Community At-Large. I wrote some music for Palladium Percussion which they’ve been doing a bunch and of which they just did a studio recording; I prepared an hour’s-long concert of my own music for my degree; a metric tonne of planning for Pulsing & Shaking’s sophomore year has been happening. On that last point: this year we’re going hard. There will be music by a whole bunch of young New York-based composers, some Reich, some Gordon-Lang-Wolfe, outrageous Julius Eastman played on four (4!) marimbas to close the whole thing. Watch this space for more about all that, mark your calendars for February 23 and 24, and also go check out our web presence. For the diehard New Music Folk among us, I’ve been doing fun little interviews with some of the composers involved, which we’ll be releasing slowly but surely over the coming weeks.
Also, Death of Klinghoffer happened! After what seemed like endless amounts of bickering in the press, the thing actually opened, and I couldn’t be happier. Regardless of what you think about the opera itself, I hope you all went and supported the home team; it was a stellar rendition of one of Adams’s most affecting and beautiful works. Perhaps this isn’t the venue to discuss the politics of the opera, however I will just say that, for all y’all who think it is anti-Semitic (or know people that do), send them an MP3 of Marilyn Klinghoffer’s final aria. Not only is it incredibly affecting—much more so than most Adams arias I can think of—it gives her the last word on the whole situation, roundly condemning the events. How this is not anything but respectful, I can’t quite imagine. In fact, the Met’s trailer for the opera offers a pretty nice smorgasbord of everything offensive in the work, and puts it all in context. It seems most of the anti-Kling press didn’t do their homework!
I just finished reading this excellent book, Modern Music and After, by Paul Griffiths, which I am goading everybody I know into reading. It’s a bit heavy on the European modernism (one particularly notable section was the ten-page exegesis of Ferneyhough), but on the whole very well-researched and a good refresher on, well, modern music; it starts with Boulez!
One result of this has been my current obsession with Claude Vivier, spectralist and crazy gay Canadian, with a particular knack for ending pieces abruptly. I can’t stop listening to his last work, Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele, which notably predicts his own death by male escort! It’s outrageously expansive; the music sort of envelopes one whole, especially in the second half (which feels eerily like the Bed aria in Einstein, right?), in which our protagonist—also named Claude—declaims a story in which he meets a man that he is romantically interested in, who lures him into his bedchamber, and then stabs him to death (at which point the piece, you guessed it, ends abruptly). Amidst all of this, a choir is ululating in an imaginary language, and a soprano unfolds a beautifully barren poem about death in winter. There are tuned gongs! And weird synths! Anyway, I can’t get enough of this thing. Go watch this utterly bizarre staging of the piece:
Finally, in light of what’s going on, I’d encourage everybody to go listen to the aforementioned Julius Eastman. His indelibly political music—a gay, black, occasionally-homeless composer!—seems the most appropriate at this moment. Here’s some.