Field Reports

#Yeezus: Lessons in Contemporary Performance from the Stadium Set

Kanye: Yeezus Tour 2013

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.

SoundSpace: Graphic Notation

Tom Echols performs Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise Photo by Steve Sachse

What happens when musicians are asked to play from a page of notation that is not standard? How do they approach it? Curator Steve Parker’s latest installment in his SoundSpace series at the Blanton Museum featured several hours of folks doing just that.

Gloriously Messy Lodging: Zappa’s 200 Motels

Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels in LA

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.

Double Trio: line upon line and Konk Pack

The three-station setup for Kate Soper’s In the Reign of Harad IV

The irony of intimacy found in a giant old warehouse is not lost on me, but the cordoning off of spaces within these huge buildings makes for a very personal and connected chamber music experience.

From the Shed to the Stars: Reflections on the Boston University Tanglewood Institute

Nathan von Trotha practicing the cymbals outside at BUTI

Boston University is currently reviewing their financial stake in the program and its future—both as part of the larger university and as directly connected to Tanglewood itself. But cutting BUTI or relocating it from its current campus would be a sad erasure of a rich legacy that stretches back forty-five years and encompasses the early careers of many prominent musicians.

Ostrava 2013

Amelia Cuni

The Ostrava Days, an intense biennial in the Eastern end of the Czech Republic, has long been known for stretching into long nights across August. But this year seemed especially expansive: there were performances of Philip Glass’s four-hour Music in 12 Parts and Petr Kotik’s nearly six-hour Many Many Women before the official opening night.

Diligence is to Magic as Progress is to Flight

Austin Wulliman

In our contemporary music landscape, long-term collaborations can be logistically and financially difficult to achieve. Two weeks ago, I visited violinist Austin Wulliman and composer/bassoonist Katherine Young in their studio and was intrigued to see them working together in an entirely new context.

Austin Soundwaves: A Challenge Like Nothing Else

Austin Soundwaves rehearsal

When considering new directions in music education, examining how students are taught is important, but so to is developing ways to reach students who otherwise might not have the opportunity at all. Through El Sistema, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan musicians have been educated over the past three decades; El Sistema USA is now providing ensemble music lessons to thousands of underserved students throughout the US as well.

Iron Composer 2013

The Performance

For Iron Composer, an aural takeoff on the famed Japanese television cooking show, five finalist composers were each assigned a different form of audience participation as a “secret ingredient” and then were given a studio, an ensemble (a brass trio of double bell trumpet, horn, and trombone), and only five hours to compose a new work.

The Travis Weller Instrumentarium

The Bells with contact mics and mixer

Born and raised in Austin, Travis Weller came up playing violin and listening to all sorts of music, eventually gravitating to sounds and instruments that were well outside the norm. We’ve talked about composition, performance, and curation, but I’d never taken the time to speak with him about the instruments he builds. To remedy that, we sat down and talked about three of his creations: The Owl, The Skiffs, and The Steel Bells.