Next week I’m helping to put together the first iteration of the Cincinnati Symphony’s Proof series, which is happening Friday, November 22nd.
The idea behind Proof is to use careful musical curation, along with some tools borrowed from theater, to design a very intentional kind of concert. My favorite concerts, and the ones I’ve found most memorable, are ones where I’m not just entertained or even moved, but ones that have uncoverered something new for me, drawn connections between things I hadn’t seeen as related, helped me see the artist or work from a different perspective.
In the Proof show I’ve curated, which is called “American Perspective,” that means a couple different things. Most obviously, the audience will see the hall, concert stage, and orchestra from a literally new perspective—they’ll be right up there on the stage, all together. I’ve worked with the choreographer John Heginbotham and his company to find ways not only to express some of the music through dance, but to create a kind of seamless flow of movement across the entire program, involving musicians, singers, stagehands, lighting, and video projections—the whole machinery of a concert.
The show’s programming grapples with the idea of an American concert music tradition and sound, trying to unearth and highlight some of the threads that connect different kinds of music to each other. We’ll hear some 19th-century hymnody from the Cincinnati Sacred Harp singers, how Charles Ives fused that with (at the time) brand-new ragtime music, inventing a specific kind of American modernism. Tania León and Robin Holcomb take up that mantle and stack even more on top of it; León’s Indígena fractures and then reconstructs a Cuban street band, and Holcomb’s solo piano piece Wherein Lies The Good makes a beautiful quilt out of references to country music and American parlor songs. We’ll also hear my own Upstate Obscura, played by Inbal Segev, which imagines a 19th-century American artist struggling to sound American under the burden of European hegemony.
I’m incredibly happy to see the CSO really throwing their weight behind this series, and this show. It makes me optimistic to see a venerable orchestra pushing against the boundaries of what a concert can and should be.