MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Joan Tower at 80

My profile of Joan Tower, who just turned 80 this month, is in the September issue of Strings magazine.
An excerpt:

Beethoven has been an enduringly powerful
influence. Distinctly uninterested in composing
to texts, Tower is committed to the
abstract power of music that makes sense on
its own terms. “One of my goals in writing any
piece of music is trying to make it as architecturally
strong as possible. Beethoven is my
model for music that is motivated by itself. The
context is what makes things happen.
“You could write a beautiful passage, but if
it’s not in the right place, it won’t sound beautiful.
It could be contextually out of whack.
So the question becomes how to make a piece
go from beginning to end with a narrative
that is motivated strongly.”

Filed under: chamber music, Joan Tower, profile, string quartet, Strings

Leonard Bernstein Countdown

It’s less than a week now until the official 100th birthday. Here’s one of my contributions to the celebration, in the form of my story for Strings magazine (August 2018 issue), which takes a look at Leonard Bernstein from a somewhat different angle.

Composer. Conductor. Educator. Humanitarian. Even the official leonardbernstein.com website attempts to cope with its namesake’s oversize legacy by parceling it into categories. The music world has yet again been attempting to reassess it all throughout this centennial year—when the absence of “the next Leonard Bernstein” seems to be felt with an especially intense pang….

August 2018-ST280 (story on pp. 16-22)

Filed under: Bernstein, Strings

Leonard Bernstein, with Strings Attached

My latest for Strings magazine is coming out in the August 2018 issue: a look at Leonard Bernstein from a somewhat different angle.

Composer. Conductor. Educator. Humanitarian. Even the official leonardbernstein.com website attempts to cope with its namesake’s oversize legacy by parceling it into categories. The music world has yet again been attempting to reassess it all throughout this centennial year—when the absence of “the next Leonard Bernstein” seems to be felt with an especially intense pang….

August 2018-ST280 (story on pp. 16-22)

 

Filed under: Bernstein, Strings

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

John Corigliano at 80

JCJohn Corigliano turns 80 this Friday. Here’s my profile of the composer for Strings magazine:

Released in 1999, François Girard’s film The Red Violin crystallized an image of the instrument for many who don’t usually listen to classical music…

continue reading

Filed under: John Corigliano, profile, Strings

Stefan Jackiw Portrait

SJ

Stefan Jackiw. Photo by Sophie Zhai

My profile of the violinist Stefan Jackiw is on the cover of Strings magazine’s February 2018 issue — and available online:

A sense of modesty may seem incompatible with the drive required to remain successful in the highly competitive realm of classical performance. Yet violinist Stefan Jackiw has made it central to his artistic credo..

 continue reading

Filed under: profile, Strings, violinists

John Adams, with Strings Attached

JA

John Adams. Photo by Margaretta Mitchell

My new John Adams profile for Strings is now available online:

In the contemporary music world, writing opera tends to generate the sexiest headlines and, at least temporarily, to garner more widespread attention….

continue reading

Filed under: John Adams, profile, Strings

Cellist Jan Vogler and His Trio Venture into “New Worlds” with Bill Murray

Mira-WangBill-Murray-Jan-Vogler-New-Worlds-Tour-Photo-by-WP-Photography-Taken-at-Napa-Valley-Festival-August-2017My latest for Strings magazine (October issue):

Chamber music is all about knowing how to forge close partnerships. For the world-renowned cellist Jan Vogler, that instinct includes connecting to artists beyond the classical-music sphere. But he didn’t expect a serendipitous encounter with Bill Murray to lead to one of the most innovative projects he has ever undertaken.

continue reading

Filed under: cello, chamber music, programming, Strings

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

The Unstoppable George Walker

Tomorrow is the 95th birthday of George Walker. This American musical treasure remains creatively productive and full of insight and deserves to be far better known.

I was incredibly fortunate to be able to spend some time interviewing him for the profile in Strings magazine’s July issue.

It’s currently available to subscribers, so I can post only a brief teaser:

When he published his memoirs in 2009, George Theophilus Walker chose the title Reminiscences of an American Composer and Pianist. It was at the keyboard that he first formed his musical identity, starting when he was five. Precocious musically and intellectually, Walker graduated from high school at 14 and in the yearbook announced his intention to become a concert pianist — which is precisely what he proceeded to do, in characteristic Walker fashion.

Filed under: American music, George Walker, Strings

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