21 May, 2008

New Life Goal

If I can continue to write pieces that make performers look this rockstar, I will die a very happy composer.

James Bobick singing Soldier Songs at the sitzprobe for VOX 2008. Photo (c) Jane Kung for New York City Opera

18 May, 2008

post-Vox tidbits

Many Thanks to Peter Matthews at Feast of Music for the kind words about the recent performance of Soldier Songs at Vox. There are some interesting bits about the piece that I thought I would mention here, just to provide a little background.

In his post, Pete talks about the final song heard at Vox, Two Marines. Like all the movements of Soldier Songs, Two Marines is based on a true story, although it is unique among the movements, in that the story was not culled from the interviews I conducted. Rather, it is based on a news story I heard in 2004 about Carlos Arredondo. I won't recount the story here, but you should check it out. Suffice it to say, it moved me deeply.

At the end of Two Marines, a quotation emerges on the piccolo, glockenspiel, and toy piano. A lot of people seem to think that they know the song was, but no one's quite guessed it yet. The song is, in fact, a World War One protest song, from 1915, called "I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier." I included this quotation, first for what it brings to the subtext of Two Marines, but also for its suggestion that protest has always been as much a part of war as fighting, killing, dying, and mourning.

You can listen to the original here, in all it's crackly glory.

Photo (c) Carol Rosegg for New York City Opera

13 May, 2008

"Modern musical technique is for use. ...

... The revolutionary composer inherits it, it is his jumping-off place. He should no more scrap it than a socialist society should scrap a machine because its functioning in a bourgeois system meant abuse or persecution or unemployment. ... I am as aware as anybody that the new music of the masses is not going to be the music of Schönberg or Stravinsky or Hindemith. But they were preparing the way. ... That they were unconsciously preparing the way, beginning something whose counterparts and possibilities they did not dream of, was none of their business. It is distinctly ours, who appraise them in order to use them; who digest in order to eliminate, but also to absorb."

- Marc Blitzstein, 1936

08 May, 2008

mp3s at wnyc

Terrance McKnight over at WNYC Fm has a recent post about the assorted Rzewski happenings around the city last week. Included in the post are live recordings of Newspeak playing Coming Together and The Price of Oil. I am listening to it now, and all I can think is: Mellissa Hughes is pretty bad-ass. Having seen her in a number of contexts over the last year, I am totally convinced.

The recordings up on WNYC are live, so, you know, there is some noise in there, but you get the idea. I am really happy with our version of Coming Together, but man, The Price of Oil is as ugly as, well, the price of oil. I wish the drums were louder in the recording for this latter piece. Not because I love drums...although I do love loud drums--something I hope to write about at some point--but rather because I know that in the space, the drums were REALLY loud, so I feel like you, the on-line listener, might not be getting the full, painful, effect.

Anyway, try to imagine really loud drums as you listen.

(And special thanks to Terrance McKnight for all his helping in bring our show to life!)

***Update: The video component has now been added to the page linked to above.***

06 May, 2008


Well, it's happened. I've been memed. Many thanks to Steve Smith for the much appreciate blogospheric exposure.

Here is where I explain the rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

Here is where I follow said rules:

"The lackeys that entered the office were five or six in number and the men in the shop were helpless onlookers while the scuffle went on, as their slightest move was met with a gun pressed to their ribs, no one being able to raise a hand, contrary to what the papers say. Ricardo and Enrique were literally dragged to a waiting auto, a block away, Enrique bleeding profusely from head to foot. The comrades were called yesterday for preliminary hearing, but not being yet represented by a lawyer, they refused to plead."

from A Letter from Maria Magon to Alexander Berkman
Life of an Anarchist: The Alexander Berkman Reader

And my tagged five:

Melly's Blog Mellissa keeps it real.

thank you campaign, Andrea has assured me that the posting hiatus will soon end. Judd also contributes.

ACB, So we all know that she's fantastic. You should read her blog.

Ted, Concert reports and posts on new pieces and various projects. Also, a fantastic picture of JC (no, not that JC) Check it.

The Motion Sick, Boston indie rockers, ex-band mates, d-list celebrity stalkers, occasional advice columns.

*So, apparently I don't read ACB's blog enough to know that she has been now hit thrice with this thing. Shame on me. So in this light I offer her an out, should she want it, and off as a fine replacement, Judd.

05 May, 2008

of Fred and Ted.

Ted, who I didn't know had a blog until just now, has an accurate telling of our show Friday night. And let me just say, if you thought listening to that conversation was strange...trying being in the middle of it! There were seriously points where I had no idea what was going on! Birds were singing; cats were purring; impersonations were being done. It was totally surreal.

The conversation itself has apparently become known as "the most tense and uncomfortable twenty minutes in the history of concert going." (...and the concert on the whole was also called "controversial," in addition to the "innovative" New York Magazine gave us in their listing. - Awesome.) This is not a quotation from anyone in particular, but rather one culled from assorted buzz, and while it is no doubt hyperbolic, I can't help but wonder if, from a concert going experience, this is a good thing.

I mean, why shouldn't there be moments of tension at events like these? I am honestly pretty tired of everything being so nice all the time, because, you know what, that's fakery. I secretly love it when these "old coots" as C>T> called them, like Rzewski and even Andriessen are interviewed, and just sort of give the interviewer hell. I have learned, through spending time with both of these gents, that this apparent aggression is really just a high level intellectual discourse, where you speak your mind, freely, disagree openly, and then move on to the bar. Passion lives neatly alongside detachment. For example, for however much we disagreed during our talk, Frederic was lovely and grateful after the show, as well as the next morning when I saw him. (Oh, and hey Park Central Hotel: get your act together! You are a drunken mess! But I digress...)

And to be honest, when you call an event "Which Side Are You On? - Music By, For, and Against Frederic Rzewski" - you are sort of inviting confrontation. As for Frederic talking through the second half, what can you do? I think that that's one of the things that we relinquished when we left the strictly-classical world. Ted hits is just right in his post actually. And it's not like you couldn't hear the music over it. Trust me, you could. It was loud. I just hope that the recording doesn't pick that up in Ted's piece, which has some wonderfully delicate bits.

As for his notion that there are no boundaries to be obliterated, I'll save that for my forthcoming New Amsterdam post. All I will say for now is that I cannot imagine Rzewski's The Price of Oil, or really many of the pieces in our rep at a classical venue. Not that we wouldn't love to play there. I just suspect that these venues might just not know what to do with us. I feel like we'd be too loud for their resonant spaces and they'd want us to turn down. (We've been there before...) Plus, where would they place us in their elaborate marketing schemes?! Either way, I guess time will tell on this one.

04 May, 2008

One Nation Under Dog...(groan.)

But seriously, sometimes I can't help but think that we'd be better off...

if the Bush Family's Scottish Terrier, Barney, were running things.

03 May, 2008

How Last Night Began...

So last night, Newspeak presented a concert of music "by, for, and against" Frederic Rzewski. Frederic was in attendance, and was to participate in a discussion/interview with Terrance McKnight from WNYC and me just before intermission. While the whole evening was a hit I'd say, it started off curiously, so I thought I would recount it here.

Me: Hi Frederic! Thanks for coming!

Frederic: Bronstein!

Me: Excuse me?

Frederic: Bronstein! You know?

Me: [blank stare]

Frederic: Bronstein, pen name: Trotsky! You look like Trotsky!

Me: Oh, right. Of course. I do?

Frederic: Yes, you do!

Me: Oh, okay. Well, awesome. Thanks! (?) Should we talk about the interview...?

(...more to come)