I was reminded of the composer/performer dichotomy last night, watching Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark. I’m of three minds about the movie, and I think this (sometimes yawning) gap is at the crux of my mixed feelings. Dancer a quite self-serious attempt at a tragic movie-musical, and the heroïne (as well as focus of the camera 95% of the time) is none other than Björk. She also wrote the musical numbers. (I’m about to do that thing where I conflate a fictional character, Selma, with a real, live actor, which I know is sloppy of me, but I think the movie invites it.) I love me some Björk, but here’s where things fall apart for me: only Björk can pull off singing Björk’s music. Especially in the context of a movie-musical going down inside her own imagination. The moment Peter Stormare breaks into song I just want to die, or at least check my email. Lumbering, repressed Scandinavian men cannot convincingly sing cross-barline tuplets against an electronic beat consisting of sampled factory noises. At least, they should not attempt to do so.
How does this reflect on my own life experience? I’m not sure, as I’m neither a slightly creepy and possibly retarded lovelorn drifter or a down-on-my-luck corrupt policeman. After devoting in the past few months entirely too much time writing and performing my own music, I’m shifting gears entirely to the “interpretive” side of things. I like that my various jobs go through peaks and valleys; by the time I’m done with one phase, the next feels welcome and refreshing.
Things begin in earnest on Thursday, March 24, when I venture back to New Haven to perform the great Ingram Marshall’s Authentic Presence. The very next day, I’ll be joining vocalist Mellissa Hughes for a concert back in Brooklyn. Mellissa is a musician I’ve admired since way back in college, when I saw her perform Pierrot Lunaire, at midnight, to an overflowing crowd in Branford College common room. Since then, she’s gone on to become a central and much-adored figure in the “new music scene” (whatever that is—not going to write about that just now), throwing herself into projects as both a theatrically wild diva and a self-effacing ensemble member. We’ll be collaborating on songs by three good friends— Ted Hearne, Eric Shanfield, and Gabriel Kahane.
Then it’s off to Houston for a week, where my plan is to woodshed the 300 or so pieces I’ll be playing on the 21c Liederabend, which is actually drei Liederabends, at The Kitchen. There are so many reasons to be excited about this truly epic event, including many a friendly face— ACME! David Kaplan, my pianistic partner-in-crime! Mellissa, Ted, and Gabe again! The quantity of music is just overwhelming, though I’m especially looking forward to playing Greg Spears’s ravishing settings of Wilfred Owen poems, Ted’s Is it Dirty?, Julia Wolfe’s Carbon Copy Building, and Phil Kline’s Zippo Songs (another college favorite).
OK, that was a whole bunch of plugging. I apologize; it’s because I haven’t written here for weeks. Again: peaks and valleys. Speaking of which, you are probably going to want some gears for those:
It’s true, I bought another bike last time I was in Houston. It’s a beautiful, chroméd Schwinn Super Le Tour 12.2 from 1978. And yes, those shift levers are downright rococo. I’m looking forward to upgrading it to my satisfaction— new tires, saddle, pedals, and bar tape to start with. I just have to remember not to look down at the thing when I’m riding under the Texas sun.