MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Tuning Up!

My preview of Seattle Symphony’s upcoming festival of American music, from Charles Ives to Julia Wolfe and John Luther Adams:

“There are as many sides to American music as there are to the American people,” Leonard Bernstein remarked in one of his popular Young People’s Concerts devoted to the topic “What Is American Music?”

“Maybe that’s the main quality of all — our many-sidedness. Think of all the races and personalities from all over the globe that make up our country. We’ve taken it all in,” he said.

Bernstein broadcast that message almost six decades ago in 1958. Since then the musical landscape has become vastly more diverse, many-sided and multi-layered. The old-fashioned image of the melting pot seems quaint compared to the dazzling, complex intersections and border crossings that make today’s musical scene so vibrant and self-aware.

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Filed under: American music, Ludovic Morlot, Rhapsody, Seattle Symphony

Opera Thrillers and Chillers

After recently covering a  powerful Flying Dutchman production and the world premiere of The Shining, a new opera by Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell based on the Stephen King novel, I decided to look a little more into the intersection of opera and ghost stories.

Here’s my new piece for Rhapsody. It’s a fascinating but enormous topic. I focused on the early German Romantic lineage, without even broaching the enormous popularity of Walter Scott-inspired Gothic opera (Lucia, etc.). Debussy’s Poe fixation, early Strauss/Hofmannsthal, Expressionism and other Modernist strains, and later manifestations are other topics I didn’t have space for here.

The Shining and Other Opera Thrillers and Chillers

Perched in the Colorado Rockies in the dead of winter, the Overlook Hotel is the setting for Stephen King’s 1977 breakthrough novel The Shining. It is during the off season at the vast resort that King’s fictional aspiring writer, Jack Torrance, takes up residence with his wife and son. He hopes to work on his latest opus in the peace and quiet, with minimal responsibilities as caretaker of the presumably emptied-out hotel to distract him.

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Filed under: essay, new opera, Rhapsody

Classical Editor’s Picks: April 2016


Here’s my list for Rhapsody for this month:

On top of being the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, April 2016 is when the world marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Rufus Wainwright pays tribute to the poetry of the Bard with one of his most beguiling albums to date: Take All My Loves, a project years in the making that sets nine of Shakespeare’s sonnets to music.

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Filed under: editor picks, Rhapsody

Classical Editor Picks: March 2016

kholodenko-prokofievHere are my top picks for this month, now posted on Rhapsody:

Music for the keyboard launches this playlist, and starting us off is Ukrainian pianist Vadim Kholodenko in a pair of neglected but fascinating Prokofiev piano concertos. Even being a Van Cliburn Competition gold medalist (Kholodenko won in 2013) doesn’t guarantee the chops needed to take on Prokofiev’s fiendishly difficult challenges, but Kholodenko dazzles and astonishes from start to finish. Seong-Jin Cho, who won last year’s Chopin Competition, has just released his debut solo album — fittingly, of Chopin. And the homage to the late Pierre Boulez continues with a superb set of his complete solo piano music performed by Marc Ponthus.

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Filed under: editor picks, Rhapsody

Women’s Indelible Mark on Classical Music

MIRGA-WomenComposersThe 29-year-old Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla gives hope that more women will have influential roles in classical music.

Here’s my Rhapsody piece for International Women’s Day:

It took until 1920 for the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to be ratified, guaranteeing female citizens the right to vote. But almost 100 years later, the status quo in classical music still needs a whole lot of shaking up if women are to have any chance of fair representation.

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Filed under: essay, music news, Rhapsody

The Multifaceted Imagination of Mohammed Fairouz

MohammedFairouz-1050x700My latest piece on this wonderful composer has now been posted on Rhapsody:

It’s not every day you expect a major talk show to spotlight a composer from the world of contemporary classical music. But Mohammed Fairouz has a way of defying expectations: Last May, MSNBC’s Morning Joe presented a segment on the young Arab-American composer — just one indication that Fairouz, only 30 years old, has rapidly become one of the most visible figures in the new-music scene.

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Filed under: American opera, Mohammed Fairouz, new music, Rhapsody

Classical Editor’s Picks: February 2016


633x422Here’s my list for this month on Rhapsody:

Nature turns out to be one of the themes streaming through this month’s classical playlist. Pianist Hélène Grimaud leads the way with her latest release, Water, a concept album about the life-giving element as reflected by composers like Liszt, Debussy, and Takemitsu, with transitional sections provided by producer, composer, and DJ Nitin Sawhney.

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Filed under: Rhapsody

Classical Editor’s Picks: January 2016


Here’s my pick list for the month for Rhapsody.

Filed under: editor picks, Rhapsody

Multifaceted Mason Bates Takes on Steve Jobs


My first piece for Rhapsody is now online:

There’s been a lot of buzz recently about the new film portrayal of Steve Jobs, which one critic dubbed a “kind of talk opera.” Turns out there’s an actual opera about Steve Jobs in the pipeline, and it’s by one of the most interesting young American composers at work today: Mason Bates.

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Filed under: Mason Bates, new music, Rhapsody

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