…highly anticipated West Coast premiere of Timothy Andres’ [sic] humorous Bathtub Shrine…
Humorous for an elegy written in memory of a conductor who died of AIDS at age 36, that is. Yup, a real laugh riot.
Absorbed on the train today by an unfamiliar word in this New Yorker piece on Britain’s outlaw egg collectors: Oology, meaning the study of eggs. First, I can’t imagine why the New Yorker didn’t spell it Oölogy; and second, this is a hitherto-unthought-of category of English words that look like what they mean. It’s perfect: a pictogram of an egg, followed by -ology. The closest thing in English to Ancient Egyptian! There must be a word for this species of word, something along the lines of onomatopæia. Also, do any fonts have an Oo ligature?
The article also made me realize that I may have a budding fixation on eggs, myself; why just the other day I doodled this logo, which I offer for free to anyone planning on developing eggs.com.
I’ve been doing a bit of late-Spring cleaning around the site—poke around for awhile, see if you don’t find something new.
The reason this tidying-up comes about so late is that I’ve been feeling a bit unsettled. Not in a bad way, just peripatetic, and for me, traveling does not condone any kind of web-work. I’m the sort of person who needs to have every stray file on the desktop accounted for, every implement on the actual desk set straight, before I sit down to do any Real Work. For this reason, the month of May was lost to any composing, and I’m now scrambling to make up for lost time.
The definition of Real Work seems to shift, too; it means the thing which I am not working on at the very moment, so while practicing, it is writing, and vice versa.
I’m writing a set of “work songs” at the moment, for three singers, all of whom are also composers and friends. The text on my screen right now is a poem called “To Whom it May Concern” by Andrea Cohen, which I think is just about the cleverest thing anyone’s ever set down on paper.
Here is something else stressful. I haven’t worked a lot with preexisting text—haven’t written much vocal music, period—and therefore don’t have much experience tracking down the permissions to set texts. The whole things is quite mysterious, and it’s different for everything; sometimes you ask the author directly, and sometimes they are lovely and friendly and say Yes, of course; sometimes you ask an agent; sometimes you ask a “rights management company”, whatever that is; sometimes they want a comically small amount of money, other times comically large. Sometimes it’s dead silence. And of course, once you get around to asking for permission to use a text, it means you’ve already got your heart set on it, in which case a “No” feels like a Major Artistic Setback.
I don’t have air conditioning in my new apartment, but I do have the next best thing, which is two of these:
I am indecently proud to announce the existence of my second album, which is called Home Stretch. The disc is a product of three years of work, for which I am heavily indebted to Andrew Cyr and the Metropolis Ensemble, stellar & stalwart collaborators through it all. It will be released by our friends at Nonesuch.
Home Stretch is also the name of the first piece on the album, a concerto for piano & chamber orchestra which I wrote in 2008. It’s joined by two pieces which are, in fact, not totally by me: a “re-composition” of Mozart’s Coronation concerto (K. 537) and a Paraphrase on Themes of Brian Eno. An excellent liner note by Daniel Stephen Johnson explains the connections these rather… different-sounding things.
When will I be able to buy it, I hear you asking yourself? July 30th is the answer. There will also be some sort of Event. More soon.
Deep inside the bowels of our great nation, I am revising my yMusic piece. There is a Steinway in front of me and beside me a machine that spits out passable coffee.
A couple of rather exciting premières coming up this week—unfortunately, on the same day—Wednesday, the 22nd. If you are in Washington, D.C., you may want to attend this concert by the Attacca Quartet at Library of Congress. They will be playing a little quartet I wrote them called Early to Rise.
On the other hand, if you’re in New York, you’ll want to find yourself at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, where yMusic will be playing new pieces by Mark Dancigers, Marcos Balter, Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Norman, and Nico Muhly (quite a list!) alongside my new piece for them, Safe Travels.
I want to issue my highest recommendation for the Living Earth Show’s May 12th concert at the Cell Theater. Travis Andrews and Andy Meyerson (electric guitarist and percussionist, respectively) have commissioned a remarkable body of work for themselves over the past few years, and they throw themselves into playing it with a gusto that is inspiring to behold.
And you needn’t take my word for it; their YouTube page features many compellingly-performed/produced music videos of their commissions. In this video, the duo performs Sam Adams’s Tension Study no. 2, with the fetching trapeze artist Deanna Hammond swinging overhead.
I recently had the good fortune of my name appearing on a poster in the NYC subway for the first time. More people in my own age bracket responded to this advertisement than to any other listing I’ve ever gotten—comprising the coveted “young people who don’t necessarily rush to buy every new David Lang album, and in fact may not have even heard of David Lang” demographic. And the audience ended up packed with those very people.
I’ve made fun of BAM’s subway posters in this space before (that’s because they were terrible), but I think they’re a great music-PR strategy, especially when deployed on the G line, where one is bound to spend dozens of minutes on the platforms staring at the advertisements. I remember seeing a Chamber Music Society subway poster a few years ago featuring the excellent cellist Nick Canellakis, and maybe one with Wu Han in a red drapery? Classical presenters should clearly be doing more of this!
Practicing Shostakovich this week, along with his comrade-in-angst Mieczyslaw Weinberg, for a concert with ACME. I haven’t much thought about Shostakovich’s musical language since sophomore year of high school, when my attractions tended toward the loud, the dissonant, the minor-mode. Shostakovich symphonies were just the ticket.
It’s presenting me with an interpretational challenge this time around—what to do with all the filler, the stuffing in between the themes. There’s so much of it, both in the Shostakovich and the Weinberg (which sounds a bit wackier, maybe just because I wasn’t familiar with it), page after page of passages like the following:
One of the first great mysteries of writing music was, for me, just this—how to stuff a piece so it wasn’t just a theme, repeated a few times. What was all that musical caulk filling in the gaps? What do you do after you’ve stated your theme (and restated it, in Weinberg’s case)?
It’s still kind of a mystery to me, what fills in the gaps in Shostakovich. We’re told the stuff is somehow “political”—that it’s purposely banal, or ironic—saying lots of words and meaning the total opposite. How to convey that in a performance, though? Powerless as music is to communicate a concrete thought, is it even worth trying? Maybe the best I can hope for is to shout “Loud, Dissonant, Minor”, and the rest will take care of itself.