Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 4/15/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Thursday’s song is #105:

The Boomtown Rats – Watch Out for the Normal People

The artsy Irish punk rockers open the song with one of the most savagely beautiful guitar hooks ever recorded, then tease the listener til they finally bring it back at the end. In between there’s some tasty, stomping riff-rock. “Watch out for the normal people, there’s more of us than there’s of you.” From the British version (and also the late-90s cd reissue) of their classic 1978 lp A Tonic for the Troops.

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April 14, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The New York Philharmonic’s Contact! Demystified

The New York Philharmonic’s debut performance of Contact!, their new series dedicated to cutting-edge music by contemporary composers got off to an auspicious start at Symphony Space last December. They’re doing another program at Symphony Space featuring pieces by Nico Muhly, Matthias Pintscher and Sean Shepherd this Friday, April 16 at 8, which we’ll be liveblogging (wave to us up in the balcony but please don’t disturb your neighbor). The program repeats at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 7 PM on the 17th. John Mangum, the orchestra’s Artistic Administrator, didn’t let a computer crash stop him from helping us shed some light on what promises to be an equally auspicious performance:

Q: The first question is the most crucial one: are tickets still available for the April 16 show at Symphony Space and the one on the 17th at the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

A: Yes.

Q: The New York Philharmonic are not strangers to championing contemporary composers. Other than the fact that Contact! so far has featured pieces for smaller ensembles, what differentiates this series from other programs featuring the avant-garde?

A: The Contact! series for the current season, 2009/10, features exclusively commissioned works – each program is comprised entirely of world premieres. In future seasons, we’re looking at expanding the series’ mandate to make room for some of the classics from the last two decades. For example, in November 2010, we’ll have a program pairing a world premiere by Magnus Lindberg with the “Quatre chants pour franchir le seiul” (“Four Songs for Crossing the Threshhold”), the last work of Magnus’ teacher, the pivotal French composer Gerard Grisey, which he completed in 1994.

Q: Is there a common link between the composers that led to their selection for this program? Or a common thread, musical or thematic, that links the compositions?

A: They’re all crucial voices from among the younger generations of composers living and working in the New York area – both Matthias Pintscher and Nico Muhly are here in the City, and Sean Shepherd, who recently graduated from Juilliard, is working at Cornell with Steven Stucky and Roberto Sierra. The striking thing is how different each composer’s approach is, and that really comes to the fore when their works are placed on the same program. It makes a strong statement about the variety and vitality of music today.

Q: What criteria and whose decisions determine who gets a commission from the NY Phil as Muhly, Shepherd and Pintscher have here? Is there a line around the block, or is is the secret star chamber that decides immune to persuasion?

A: We try to be really aware of who is out there. Members of the Orchestra, Magnus Lindberg (our Composer-in-Residence), Alan Gilbert (our Music Director), and I all play a part. We meet, talk, look at scores – both those we’ve requested and those that have just come in unsolicited – and make the decision based on what turns us on. It’s exciting to be part of creating new art, and we want to share that excitement with our audiences.

Q: The debut of Contact! had minimalism, an intricate rondo, horizontal music, orchestrated Mongolian throat-singing chants and a jungly thicket of Brazilian percussion. What do audiences have to look forward to in this program?

A: Matthias’ piece is a wonderfully refined, tremendously thoughtful setting of sacred Hebrew texts for our Artist-in-Residence Thomas Hampson. There are strikingly beautiful sonorities, and really sophisticated use of the instrumental ensemble. Sean’s work is very energetic, full of all sorts of references to itself and other pieces. It’s a piece in seven sections, with a real arc, a real shape to it, and the use of the ensemble is, like Matthias’ work, again very sophisticated, though the result is different. Nico’s piece also has that same sense of energy and structure – there seems to be something about New York that brings this energy, this life out in composers.

Q: The ensemble was divided into unusual permutations last time around – for example, one of the pieces featured four string quartets with a bass at each end of the stage. Can the audience expect any such thing like on this bill?

A: The ensembles for these three pieces are similar, so there won’t be that kind of contrast like we had last time, with Lei Liang’s piece for four string quartets and two double basses. The contrast in this program comes from the different styles of the three composers, and it is striking.

Q: This is the first time Contact! has featured vocal music – will there be vocal music at upcoming performances?

A:Yes. On the November program next season, the Grisey work is for high soprano and ensemble.

Q: Why do this at Symphony Space and the Met? Why not just stay home at Avery Fisher Hall?

A: We really wanted to take this project out into the city, and after considering several different venues, these two proved ideal for a variety of practical and artistic reasons. At Symphony Space, the programming is a good fit with the work Laura Kaminsky, their artistic director, is doing there. It’s also right in the heart of the Upper West Side, close to Columbia as well. At the Met Museum, I like the statement it makes – we’re putting contemporary music on stage there, streaming new art into the flow and tradition of millennia of artistic achievement. That you literally go from ancient Egypt to New York, 2010 – I think that’s pretty cool.

April 14, 2010 Posted by | classical music, concert, interview, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 4/14/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Wednesday’s song is #106:

Otis Rush – Double Trouble

The original 1956 Willie Dixon-produced single with a big horn band might be the eeriest noir blues song ever. Yet in the decades that followed, the lefty guitar legend has outdone himself at every turn – a ten-minute live version from Chicago Blues in New York as recently as 2000 (which we had the good fortune to get our hands on) is transcendent, as are probably hundreds of other bootlegs. Look ’em up.

April 14, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Having Conquered Los Angeles, Polish Artists Invade Brooklyn

Thursday night, while the Komeda Project provided murkily beautiful ambience, the art show at the Polish/Slavic Center at 177 Kent St. in Greenpoint was similarly intense and intelligent – and covered a vastly wider emotional spectrum. Two Los Angeles-based groups, Krak Art and the Emotionalists joined in the exhibit – it wasn’t clear who was who, but pretty much everyone on display made an impact. Janusz Skowron, who seemed to be the ringleader, explained how their initial LA show “proved the critics wrong” – it was a smashing success. As this one ought to be as well. He brought his own oils, including both intricately textured, allusive portraiture and lushly layered geometric work, one a study in horizontality and the other the opposite.

Anna Zatorska’s haunting, intense housefront tableaux followed specific color themes: pensively autumnal red, hypnotic nightmare scarlet, wistful blue/grey with a clothesline in the background. Arthur Skowron evoked Arthur Robins with ominous, fire-licked, stormy waterfall and whirlpool scenes, while Kinga Czerska’s abstract, fun work playfully juxtaposed casually colorful curves against linear astringency. That playfulness took on added irony with Artur Popek’s genial overhead views of a strangely industrial resort in the offseason, as well as a main-street scene offering an understatedly pointed contrast between the bustle of technology and older, less worldly comforts.

The textural star of the show was a vividly composed, intensely layered acrylic work by Kasia Czerpak-Weglinski making striking use of both enamel and tile accents. Zbigniew Nowosadzki’s paintings also made use of rich background layers, most notably in a hazy view of birds above a ship. And the most evocative work of all was by Piotr Betlej, whose portraits’ finely drawn, minutely nuanced expressions emerged, worn and weary, out of an ominous, chaotic morass. Some, possibly many of these artists will be famous well beyond their own Polish-American community: get to know them before that happens and your life will be enriched.

April 14, 2010 Posted by | Art, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment