MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Happy Birthday, George Walker!

The wonderful American composer George Walker turns 96 today. And he’s still very much at work, with a symphonic world premiere coming up in the new Seattle Symphony season: Sinfonia No. 5, in which he reflects on the massacre at a Charleston church in 2015.

The clip above is from a 2012 interview, just before George Walker reached the age of 90.
Happy Birthday, George!

Filed under: American music, George Walker

Ellen Reid: Excavating American Dreams

Here’s the piece I wrote for the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s world premiere of reams of the new word by the team of composer Ellen Reid, librettist Sarah LaBrie, and researcher Sayd Randle.

“In classical and concert music right now, a lot of people are trying to think of how to reflect the world we feel we are living in and the world we want to be living in,” says composer and sound artist Ellen Reid…

more

Filed under: American music, commissions, Los Angeles Master Chorale, new music

Harry Partch Fest at the University of Washington

I was lucky to catch last night’s concert, part of a weekend festival exploring the music and ideas of Harry Partch at the University of Washington.

Here’s a video of curator and professor Charles Corey introducing the Harry Partch instruments collection at UW.

Here’s a video of the final part of Partch’s The Wayward, his collection of hobo-themed pieces set during the Great Depression:

Filed under: American music, Harry Partch

Iced Bodies at Dartmouth

Iced-Cello

Seth Parker Woods

Here’s a terrific story by Britta Greene for NPR on the Iced Cello project by cellist Seth Parker Woods and composer Spencer Topel, which they recently performed at Dartmouth College.

My profile of this amazing cellist for Strings magazine is here.

Some more Seth Parker Woods (with R. Andrew Lee, playing music of Michael Vincent Waller):

Filed under: American music, Michael Vincent Waller, Seth Parker Woods

George Walker’s Piano Sonatas

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The Eastman School of Music celebrates the 95th birthday year of one of its illustrious alumni, the composer and pianist George Theophilus Walker (’56), with a special recital this evening. At 7:30 p.m. EST, the Albanian pianist Redi Llupa will perform all five of Walker’s piano sonatas, which span a half century, from 1953 to 2003.

The concert will be streamed and made publicly available here.

Filed under: American music, George Walker

“Become Desert” from John Luther Adams

This week brings the world premiere of the new large-scale orchestral work from John Luther Adams, which Seattle Symphony and Ludovic Morlot will perform Thursday and Saturday. My preview for The Seattle Times:

“Close your eyes and listen to the singing of the light,” exhorts Octavio Paz in “Piedra Nativa” (“Native Stone”)….

continue reading

 

Filed under: American music, John Luther Adams, Ludovic Morlot, Seattle Times

Pure Imagination: The Music of Augusta Read Thomas

My profile of Augusta Read Thomas is the cover story for the April edition of Strings magazine — part of its ongoing American Masters series.

It was a genuine pleasure to have this opportunity to write about such a wonderful and engaging composer — and committed musical citizen.

continue reading (opens as PDF)

Filed under: American music, Augusta Read Thomas, Strings

David Lang World Premiere at Seattle Symphony


Tonight brings the world premiere of David Lang’s new opus, symphony without a hero, on tonight’s Seattle Symphony concert at 7.30 pm (PST). Ludovic Morlot also conducts the work to which it responds, Richard Strauss’s magniloquent Ein Heldenleben.

Here’s the Anna Akhmatova poem that inspired Lang:

Poem without a Hero

I have lit my treasured candles,
one by one, to hallow this night.
With you, who do not come,
I wait the birth of the year.
Dear God!
the flame has drowned in crystal,
and the wine, like poison, burns
Old malice bites the air,
old ravings rave again,
though the hour has not yet struck.

Dread. Bottomless dread…
I am that shadow on the threshold
defending my remnant peace.

Let the gossip roll!
What to me are Hamlet’s garters,
or the whirlwind of Salome’s dance,
or the tread of the Man in the Iron Mask?
I am more iron than they.

Prince Charming, prince of the mockers —
compared with him the foulest of sinners
is grace incarnate…

That woman I once was,
in a black agate necklace,
I do not wish to meet again
till the Day of Judgement.

Are the last days near, perhaps?
I have forgotten your lessons,
prattlers and false prophets,
but you haven’t forgotten me.
As the future ripens in the past,
so the past rots in the future —
a terrible festival of dead leaves.

All the mirrors on the wall
show a man not yet appeared
who could not enter this white hall.
He is no better and no worse,
but he is free of Lethe’s curse:
his warm hand makes a human pledge.
Strayed from the future, can it be
that he will really come to me,
turning left from the bridge?

From childhood I have been afraid
of mummers. It always seemed
an extra shadow
without face or name
had slipped among them…

You…
you are as old as the Mamre oak,
ancient interrogator of the moon,
whose feigned groans cannot take us in.
You write laws of iron.

Creature of special tastes,
you do not wait for gout and fame
to elevate you
to a luxurious jubilee chair,
but bear your triumph
over the flowering heather,
over wildernesses.
And you are guilty of nothing: neither of this,
that, nor anything..

Besides
what have poets, in any case, to do with sin?
They must dance before the Ark of the Covenant
or die! But what am I trying to say?

In the black sky no star is seen,
somewhere in ambush lurks the Angel of Death,
but the spices tongues of the masqueraders
are loose and shameless
A shout:
“Make way for the hero!”
Ah yes. Displacing the tall one,
he will step forth now without fail
and sing to us about holy vengeance…

There is no death, each of us knows —
it’s banal to say.
I’ll leave it to others to explain.

Is this the visitor from the wrong side
of the mirror? Or the shape
that suddenly flitted past my window?
Is it the new moon playing tricks,
or is someone really standing there again
between the stove and the cupboard?

This means that gravestones are fragile
and granite is softer than wax.
Absurd, absurd, absurd! From such absurdity
I shall soon turn gray
or change into another person.
why do you beckon me with your hand?
For one moment of peace
I would give the peace of the tomb.

~Anna Akhmatova (trans. Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward)

 

https://www.kanopystreaming.com/product/anna-akhmatova-life-poet

Filed under: American music, David Lang, Seattle Symphony

R.I.P. Barbara Cook

Filed under: American music, Bernstein, music news

Profile of Cellist Seth Parker Woods

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Seth Parker Woods; photo by Michael Yu

My profile of the cellist Seth Parker Woods is the cover story for the August issue of Strings magazine:

“Question authority” isn’t just a political slogan. This quintessentially Socratic imperative is also characteristic of visionary artists who are drawn to challenge cultural assumptions that put a damper on the power of the art they practice. For Texas-born cellist Seth Parker Woods, pushing boundaries and definitions comes naturally—both for his own creative development and for his overall sense of mission.

continue reading

Filed under: American music, cello, profile, Strings

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