Author Archives: Matthew Guerrieri

New England’s Prospect: Takeoff and Landing

There’s a certain phase in the career of a composer when a commission or a request for a piece of music reverses time and causality: what seems like a hire actually ends up feeling more like a job interview. I think almost all composers have been faced with writing a piece in which there was also the pressure to prove oneself, to work in a complete survey of the composer’s skill set.

New England’s Prospect: Reactor Corps

The HONK! Festival identifies itself as a festival of “activist street bands,” and while some participants still fit squarely in that category—preaching revolution, buoying the oppressed, putting the call-and-response of political protest to a drumline beat—others seemed fired up less by demonstration than by musical immoderation: the sheer multiple-forte thrill of brass and percussion with the leash off, or the welcome-all-comers triumph of volume over precision.

New England’s Prospect: Talking Cures

Carter and Dargel make a virtue of musical disruption, showing that the most interesting narratives don’t necessarily project well onto music of smoothness and ease. The characters might vary—Carter’s voluble and acerbic, Dargel’s defiantly damaged—but both dramas spring from the same conviction: that the get-together only starts to be really interesting once things get broken.

New England’s Prospect: Tracking Devices

The sound of trains runs through Harry Partch’s music, the wheeze and whine of whistles drifting over and beyond the settled grid of equal temperament, the percussive cycles phasing in and out like the rods and wheels of a locomotive.

New England’s Prospect: Cottage Industries

The Festival of Contemporary Music produces an annual, temporary, vibrant community—at times, it feels like a new music networking event with added concerts—but one set apart from the customary Tanglewood crowds. It’s genial to outsiders, but also prone to bewilder them.

Sounds Heard: Anthony Paul De Ritis—Devolution

Questions of “real” or “fake” are dialectically put aside on the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s new recording of music by Anthony De Ritis, music in which, in a way, everything is real and fake all at the same time. Or, more precisely: this is music which is constantly, enthusiastically directing your attention to the materials out of which it’s fashioned.

New England’s Prospect: Output and Gain

Amplification, it turns out, is a fine line, and the amplification of this particular concert left me in the position of feeling critical towards a program on which, paradoxically, I actually liked a lot of the music itself.

Sounds Heard: John Luther Adams—songbirdsongs

There’s a tension between the natural world songbirdsongs is meant to evoke and the artificial means of the evocation that gives the music an interesting texture. Lovely things happen in every movement of the piece, but in a way that is meant to feel accidental and found, rather than designed and anticipated.