MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

The Routes of Slavery Traces a Musical Journey of Resilience

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Performers in The Routes of Slavery, which comes to Seattle on Tuesday, Nov. 6. (Foundation Centre Internacional de Music Antiga)

My Seattle Times story on the upcoming Seattle performance of Jordi Savall’s The Routes of Slavery is now online:

Joined by a global array of musicians, music researcher and virtuoso Jordi Savall traces the relevant story of the African diaspora and its musical legacy across centuries and continents in The Routes of Slavery.

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Filed under: early music, Jordi Savall, Seattle Times

Measure for Measure: 18th Tokyo International Music Competition for Conducting

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From left to right: Kanade Yokoyama, Nodoka Okisawa, and Masaru Kumakura
(c) Min-On Concert Association

Here’s Part One of my report on the 18th Tokyo International Music Competition for Conducting. (Part Two, an interview with first prize winner Nodoka Okisawa, is here.)

Competitions have become an essential rite of passage for professional classical musicians. Take a look at the artists’ biographies in a random program and lists of victories occupy a prominent position. The premise of powerful young talents finding the entrée to recognition through a public showdown has inspired art itself — think Wagner’s Die Meistersinger — and even ancient mythology (things could go very badly when daring to vie with the gods, as in the contest of the satyr Marsyas with Apollo).

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Part Two, a focus on the first prize winner Nodoka Okisawa, will be published shortly.

Filed under: conductors, music news

Im Abendrot

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Filed under: photography

Sheku Kanneh-Mason Makes His American Orchestral Debut

Beethoven Symphony #1 & Tchaikovsky

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello, with Ruth Reinhardt conducting the Seattle Symphony Orchestra; photo (c) Brandon Patoc

My review of Skeku Kanneh-Mason’s appearance with Seattle Symphony led by Ruth Reinhardt is now live on Musical America‘s site:

SEATTLE, WA—Last May, when he performed three pieces at the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markl, the cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason enchanted a global audience, piquing the interest of many listeners new to classical music. That engagement compelled him to cancel a previously scheduled appearance with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, with the result that his American orchestral debut was postponed until last Thursday (October 18), when he appeared with the Seattle Symphony under guest conductor Ruth Reinhardt.

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Filed under: Musical America, review, Seattle Symphony

RIP Randolph Hokanson

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Last night, at the age of 103, the pianist Randolph H. Hokanson died in Seattle. Randy’s passing marks the end of an era, but he lives on in the artistry and creative spirit he imparted to generations of pianists.

I was incredibly fortunate to get to know him in his final years, starting with my interviews to prepare this profile in 2014 — when he was a young buck of 98:

“I’ve seen it all!” announces Randolph Hokanson before losing himself in a mischievous gale of laughter. With someone else, you might be tempted to indulge that as hyperbole. With Hokanson, who was born in 1915 in Bellingham, it’s tempting to take it literally.

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Filed under: pianists, Randolph Hokanson

Satyagraha Comes to LA

My article on the production of Philip Glass’s sublime Satyagraha is here (starting p. 24).
The production, directed by Phelim McDermott and conducted by Grant Gershon, runs till November 11. (Video above from its first staging at English National Opera.)

Filed under: essay, Grant Gershon, Phelim McDermott, Philip Glass

Intermission Over

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Filed under: photography

Another Tokyo Night

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Filed under: photography

Andrew Norman’s Sustain

I finally had a chance to listen to Sustain, the major new Andrew Norman piece, thanks to the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s online, on-demand (free) broadcast of the 4 October 100th-anniversary season kickoff concert, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.

The entire program is terrific: Esa-Pekka Salonen’s LA Variations and the Beethoven Triple Concerto on the first half, with Sustain, an LA Phil commission and receiving its world premiere here, filling the second. But you should especially get excited about Norman’s composition. It’s a big piece, ambitious, visionary, otherworldly, spun from fascinating aural patterns that seem to wormhole and teleport across vast astronomical spaces.

Such purposeful originality here: the multilayered connotations of the title are by no means merely incidental. There’s no question now that Norman is a major, significant voice. Especially given its spatial conception, Sustain obviously has to be experienced live. But I highly recommend checking out the broadcast while it’s still available as a temporary compromise.*

Mark Swed writes: ” In an exceptional feat of musical transformation, we wind up in an indefinable new dimension. This is something new.”

And in the New York Times, Seth Coulter Walls discerns “a sublime new direction for the composer”: “Over the final third of ‘Sustain,’ this unusual merger between restraint and hyperactivity could hypnotize … Even when the dynamic level increases to an undeniable roar, there is a smoothness to the piece.”

*Look for the little link button (a bit hard to find) on this page, right below the words “in case you missed it – or want to relive the magic – we’re bringing it to you here on KUSC.org on demand!”

Filed under: Andrew Norman, Los Angeles Philharmonic, new music

Within and Without: Addressing Citizenship through Artistic Engagement


Cal Performances at Berkeley has an especially compelling season lined up and is genuinely engaged with issues critical to our time — including the premiere of a new work commissioned by composer Jimmy López and writer-playwright Nilo Cruz. Here’s my preview:

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Filed under: Cal Performances, Jimmy López, Uncategorized

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