Archive for February, 2011

Music without words is poop. Discuss…

Newspeak: Chamber ensemble most likely to steal your new metronome

(Reviewed in this post: eighth blackbird, red fish blue fish, Newspeak, Frederic Rzewski, John Cage, Stefan Weisman, David T Little, Matt Marks, Louis Andriessen)

Does music have the power to express anything? Igor Stravinsky says no. Chinua Achebe says if it doesn’t, it’s poop. Stravinsky says your MOM is poop. Achebe says is that the best you can do? Stravinsky says take THIS! and composes a piece entitled “Mrs. Achebe Smells Like Dog Poop.” Achebe says pretty expressive piece, Mr. Seewhatai Didthere. Stravinsky says D’OH and facepalms exactly 11 times.

OK, I’m paraphrasing a bit, but this is the conversation that eighth blackbird has been engaging in with their recent programs presented as part of the Tune In Festival at the Park Avenue Armory. The former concert, PowerFUL, makes the case for music’s ability to communicate directly and (lest it ends up in Achebe’s pooper scooper of history) politically. The latter, PowerLESS, is an exercise in absolute music, music that expresses nothing other than the music itself.

Looking at the programming choices, one notices immediately that almost all of the pieces in the PowerFUL program involve text, either spoken or sung, and those that don’t, Read the rest of this entry →


Feb 2011

If I Can Make It There…

Spontaneous co-location

Those of you following my twitter feed know that I’m just returning to SF after a whirlwind trip to NYC. I was lured out there by the Park Avenue Armory‘s Tune-In Festival which was curated by new music super-group eighth blackbird. As previously reported, back in 1989 I was a heartbeat away the presidency (of the Interlochen Arts Academy student council). Fortunately, president Matt Duvall made it through the year unscathed, so not only were my megalomaniacal tendencies kept in check, Read the rest of this entry →


Feb 2011

Jake Heggie explains it all for you

Jake Heggie is kind of a big deal. If his own story were made into an opera, it would be laughed off as contrived and unbelievable (even more so than most opera plots). A working stiff writing copy in the PR department of a national opera gets noticed by the right people and is launched to superstardom (by opera standards) by a series of highly successful commissions. But amazingly this story is true. From his first commission, Dead Man Walking, and to his recent triumph with Moby Dick, Heggie is one of a handful of living composers who actually get to see their operas produced multiple times.

Last night the San Francisco Opera hosted an interactive workshop with Jake Heggie as part of their Adult Education program. The stated goal of the workshop was to explore the evolution of new opera, focusing on the adaptation of existing works. Read the rest of this entry →