At LA’s Union Station last Sunday, I saw composer Christopher Cerrone’s opera based on Calvino’s novel, also called Invisible Cities. The production managed to be at once extravagant and subtle, with the audience listening to the live performance on wireless headphones while wandering freely through an actual, historically scenic train station.
Boston Musica Viva, the city’s oldest new music group, might have been tempted to, say, recapitulate its first program from February 1970. Instead, the year’s concerts are filled with relatively recent music, with a premiere for each—the kind of inner effort, one might say, by which new music stays new.
After four decades, Kronos is still a new music group that takes its citizenship in the new music community seriously: show me another ensemble that has given more composers both the opportunity and the benefit of a meticulous, passionate performance. The music they cultivate might be geared to what they do well, but what they do well, they do better than anyone.
Ten x Ten: 2013 is a collaborative venture between ten Chicago visual artists and ten composers. Working in pairs, they crafted joint “statements of intent” and created pieces of music and art which speak to each other. Andrew Tham and Edie Fake speak here about their journey from collaborative “blind date” to finished piece.
Described as a “spatial symphony” composed and directed by Lisa Bielawa, Crissy Broadcast involved hundreds of musicians drawn from a dozen or so local ensembles, including middle school and high school bands and orchestras, adult amateur musicians, two choruses, a traditional Chinese instrument orchestra, and a gaggle of electric guitarists with portable battery-powered speakers slung over their shoulders.
New York Festival of Song visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Calderwood Hall with a program celebrating Ned Rorem’s 90th birthday. The frame—the tonality, the lyricism, the elegant hedonism—is obvious; but what’s contained within the frame, what is and isn’t there, is something considerably more elusive.
It was a massive interdisciplinary art, music, and sound event produced on a scale large enough to successfully fill an arena—something intense, interesting, challenging, interdisciplinary, and yet totally accessible. Perhaps we need to admit to ourselves that people like to be challenged, that people want to dive into wild and contemporary imagery and messages, but that our success in that mission may not come from our own backyard.
Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels is a glorious mess. In some ways this makes it the perfect thing to put on to celebrate the 10th anniversary of LA’s Walt Disney Hall and its already turbulent history. As for the score itself, it is—how should I put this?—spectacularly over-orchestrated, bordering on near-cacophony with unsettling frequency. I mean this as a good thing.