My latest(s)

I’ve had two feature articles published this week in the Boston Globe. One is an interview with soprano Kelly Kaduce, who captured my attention after her performance as a remarkable down-to-earth Mimi in Boston Lyric Opera’s “La Bohème” two years ago. I caught her in a break between BLO “Threepenny Opera” rehearsals to chat with her about preparing for new roles, planning childcare when both parents are performing opera singers, and why it’s easier to play onstage lovers with a stranger than with her husband. Read it here!

The second has to be some of the most fun I’ve ever had writing a Globe article. I wrote a preview of Celebrity Series of Boston’s experimental new music series Stave Sessions, which runs for five night next week. I talked on the phone with Shara Nova of My Brightest Diamond, a personal favorite of mine. (I’ve admired her ever since she sang the role of the imperious, terrifying Queen of the Forest on the Decemberists’ 2009 album “The Hazards of Love,” which came out when I was 15, during the height of my Decemberists fandom.) I also got to spend an hour observing the jawdroppingly impressive musicians of Boston experimental art rock sextet Bent Knee, and talk to them and their percussion mentor Samuel Solomon afterwards. I now know from experience that if you ask the six a question, you’ll get seven answers. You’ll probably also laugh. A lot. Read it here!

not a review: on music for 18 musicians, sicpp

cw: emetophobia

Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians wasn’t my first encounter with new music*, but it is the early encounter of which I have the most vivid memory. I was seventeen years old. The night was unseasonably warm. I had been admitted to the emergency room with a kidney stone, unable to keep food down, unable to sleep. I had never been in such intense, sustained pain in my life. Even the pain after the corrective surgeries I had on my legs earlier that same year was bearable compared to what I went through curled up in the waiting room chair, waiting to be called. There wasn’t much they could do about the kidney stone directly, so they gave me some intense painkillers and anti-nausea medications and stuck an IV in my hand to hydrate me because I wasn’t able to take anything by mouth.

When I woke up an hour later, the hydration bag drained, I was floating, the world nebulous around me from the fatigue and the pain and the disorientation. I bundled myself into the back seat of the car and my father turned on the radio. And there was Music for 18 Musicians, and it sweetly pulsed through me, reminding me to breathe in, breathe out, breathe deep, and move with something bigger than myself. It ebbed and flowed as the instruments entered, exited, adjusted. We got home, I went upstairs and tuned in on my computer, which I put by the side of my bed – the piece was still playing – and I let the waves of sound wash me out to sea. Everything still hurt, and somehow I knew everything was going to be okay.

Subsequent listenings never had anything close to the same effect until tonight at Jordan Hall, my first time hearing the piece live. Callithumpian Consort was performing Music for 18 Musicians, as well as John Cage’s Apartment House 1776, as part of the annual SICPP (pronounced Sick Puppy). Watching the tireless mallets keep the music coursing along, seeing the musicians interact with each other, and being completely immersed in the sound was a truly amazing experience. At times the sheer volume was almost too intense to handle, but every time that thought flickered through my head, I knew it would soon erode, and so leaned back into it and let it carry me.

It was so much easier to pick out individual instruments and ideas than it was on the recordings, and the bright/dark contrasts were much more vivid. My ears played tricks on me as the sound bounced around Jordan; I was convinced for a few seconds that Gabriela Diaz’s bow was drawing the sound of four human voices out of her violin strings. After reading the composer’s detailed note, I found that deep breathing itself is written into the phases and phrases, pulsating notes for the duration of one or two breaths, a slow rise and fall. Is it any surprise that this music came to me and reminded me to breathe, during that long night five years ago?

SICPP has five more free concerts this week. I plan on being at a few of them.

* here defined as “the kind of music ensembles that bill themselves as “new music” ensembles may play” – the Internet argument of the week seems to be about the terminology of “new music” versus “contemporary music” and I don’t have an opinion about it other than neither of them really work but I also want people to know what I’m talking about

My first encounter with new music that I can remember was a few months earlier. I discovered George Crumb’s Black Angels around the same time that I read Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves.  The piece and the book are forever paired in my mind.

Jagged Textures and Dreamy Supplications – The Boston Musical Intelligencer

“Program books for choir concerts are typically thick with texts, translations, notes, personnel and advertisements. As I’ve observed in my more than a decade of singing in choirs, listeners at said concerts often spend the entire duration with their noses buried in these weighty tomes. Boston Choral Ensemble has wised to this phenomenon, wants to save some trees, or both. There were no notes or translations to be found in the single-sheet program for Long, Long Night, the conclusion to their 2014-2015 season; instead, texts appeared and disappeared on a projection screen next to the singers. The fortunate audience in the South End’s Holy Cross Cathedral Sunday had no choice but to look up.

The auditioned ensemble’s approximately 35 members are mostly in their 20s and 30s. Since joining as artistic director four years ago, Andrew Shenton has built programs consistently been heavy on the music of his native England, but Sunday’s was by no means monotonous. The singers confidently presented the dreamily jagged textures of John Tavener (1944-2013) and the soaring supplications of John Taverner (1490-1545). If you’re feeling confused by those names, try teleporting from Art of Europe at the MFA to the fifth floor of the ICA, and that might produce a similar effect to that of hearing Taverner and Tavener back to back.”

Read the rest at Boston Musical Intelligencer!

Jagged Textures and Dreamy Supplications – The Boston Musical Intelligencer