MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Silver Apples and Cloudless Sulphur Skies

For the anniversary… [reblogged from 2013]

MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Morton Subotnick, who at 80 looks as eager as ever to experiment with his Buchla and laptop, rolled into town recently to perform a decades-spanning program at Seattle’s Town Hall. Joining him onstage was Berlin-based video artist Lillevan. The two have been collaborating on several projects in recent years, and both are obviously so well attuned to each other’s aesthetic that they can improvise with pre-existing material. It all added up to a blissed-out gesamtkunstwerk for synth geeks and video art aficionados.

The concert’s official title – “From Silver Apples of the Moon to A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur IV: LUCY” – refers to the main sources for the prerecorded music Subotnick used to build the performance in tandem with Lillevan’s abstract imagery of fluid and fractal-like shapes in restless transformation. Subotnick describes his current process:

For each season of performances I create a new hybrid Ableton-Buchla “instrument”…

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All the World’s a Reflected Dot

IMG_6658Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors is this year’s big blockbuster exhibit at Seattle Museum of Art. (Kusama moved to Seattle in 1957 for a year before heading to New York. In Seattle she had her first important American show at the legendary Zoë Dusanne Gallery.)

I’m still processing my contradictory reactions to Infinity Mirrors. Here, the usual inflated hype is actually more germane than usual, since it ironically underscores aspects of Kusama’s aesthetic.

T.S. Flock gets it in this piece for the Seattle Weekly, one of the most incisive critiques I’ve seen so far of the show.

This notion is what ties the Infinity Room format to Kusama’s other calling card: dots. The earth itself is a dot. Everything is a dot. In Kusama’s worldview, everything is atomized into dots in an incomprehensibly large universe, and the sense of a singular continuity (i.e., ego, monument, institution) is “obliterated” by her dots. …

After all, the Infinity Rooms are simultaneously self-negating and self-centering, just as Kusama’s dot motif sees a unified whole among discrete particles. Isn’t that a fine definition of love between humans?

Margo Vansynghel offers another insightful take:

 Framing the story as the “artist-in-mental-hospital-who-makes-art-as-therapy” robs her of nuance and due credit. …

Maybe Kusama, intentionally or not, has been mirroring back to us what we created, a world of endless reflections of the same thing. She plays the leading role in this society of the spectacle. In November, wax museum Madame Tussauds Hong Kong opened up a polka-dotted “artistic themed” Kusama “zone.” One wonders where the art ends and her life, and the spectacle, begins. Critics have argued that she turned her mental illness into a spectacle, too. I don’t agree. The more interesting question though: If your antidote is turned into an art-world or Instagram commodity, how effective is it? And if you place the visitor in front of the mirror and it spins out of control, who’s to blame? In this uncertainty the show becomes truly interesting.

 

 

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Ludovic Morlot To Make Berlin Philharmonic Debut

Reminder: LudovicMorlot conducts Berliner Philharmoniker and Joyce DiDonato at 1 pm EST/10am PST. Streamed live here:
https://www.digitalconcerthall.com/en/concert/23518

MEMETERIA by Thomas May

1617_Concerts_openingnight917_CarlinMa-31-640x453 Opera star Joyce DiDonato is shown with Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony last September. Morlot and DiDonato will appear together in Berlin later this week. (Carlin Ma)

The Seattle Symphony’s music director has been asked to replace an ailing colleague as guest conductor of this week’s concerts with Berlin Philharmonic — one of the world’s most prestigious orchestras.

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The Healing Bach

In honor of the birthday of J.S. Bach — and the coming of Spring.

MEMETERIA by Thomas May

bach-violin-partitas-strings-magazine-e1477009169612A link to my feature story, in this month’s Strings magazine, on the inexhaustible appeal of the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin:

Bach’s works for solo violin and cello are the Shakespearean monologues of the string world: The indefinable balance of technical mastery and interpretive insight they require is the touchstone of a great artist.

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Shakespeare the Foreseer

jack-cade

Seattle Shakespeare Company is currently presenting a two-installment adaptation of the Henry VI trilogy, which they’ve titled Bring Down the House.

Directed by Rosa Joshi — whom I interviewed three years ago about her brilliant Richard II (also for Seattle Shakes) — it features an all-female cast and is deftly paced and riveting throughout.

Along with Mari Nelson’s fiercely magnetic York and Sarah Harlett’s wickedly charismatic turn as a young, already restlessly scheming Richard III, I especially admired Peggy Gannon’s versatility in playing both Edward IV and the rabble-rouser Jack Cade, evoking a certain presidential blowhard in her portrayal of the latter.

Not that it requires any untoward exaggeration. Shakespeare seems to have anticipated the demagogic power that now so tragically holds sway:

Be it known unto thee by these                                                                                                 presence, even the presence of Lord Mortimer, that I
am the besom that must sweep the court clean of such
filth as thou art. Thou hast most traitorously
corrupted the youth of the realm in erecting a
grammar school; and whereas, before, our forefathers
had no other books but the score and the tally, thou
hast caused printing to be used, and, contrary to
the king, his crown and dignity, thou hast built a
paper-mill. It will be proved to thy face that thou
hast men about thee that usually talk of a noun and
a verb, and such abominable words as no Christian
ear can endure to hear. Thou hast appointed
justices of peace, to call poor men before them
about matters they were not able to answer.
Moreover, thou hast put them in prison; and because
they could not read, thou hast hanged them; when,
indeed, only for that cause they have been most
worthy to live. Thou dost ride in a foot-cloth, dost thou not?

History of Henry VI, Part II, Act IV, scene vii

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Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin: A Sea Apart

1380x591_saariahoOn Friday, 1 December 2016, the Metropolitan Opera will premiere its new production of Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin. It will mark the first time since 1903 that the company will have presented an opera by a woman composer.

Here’s my essay for the Met’s Season book on this stunning creation by Kaija Saariaho:

Since its world premiere at the Salzburg Festival in 2000, L’Amour de Loin has earned a place among the most acclaimed stage works of the 21st century. The opera won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Musical Composition in 2003 and has been performed in Paris, London, Santa Fe, Helsinki, Aspen, Darmstadt, and elsewhere. Yet it took years before Kaija Saariaho became convinced that opera could be a viable medium for what she wanted to express as a composer.

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El Niño in Spoleto: Perspectives on the Miraculous

In honor of the LA Philharmonic’s performances this weekend, here’s a look at one of John Adams’s masterpieces from the millennium.

MEMETERIA by Thomas May

2014ElNino

The Spoleto Festival USA for 2014 just opened with a production of a John Adams masterpiece, El Niño, fully staged by John La Bouchardière. Here’s the essay I wrote for Spoleto’s book:

Is it possible to be touched by a sense of the miraculous today? In our guarded, cynical age, can we feel anything remotely similar to the experience of wonder that was the norm rather than the exception for most of human history?

Just before the turn of the millennium, John Adams began a risky new project to explore art’s power to re-enchant us. El Niño is the intensely beautiful and moving result. It’s a work that offers an unforgettable entrée into his musical world — and one that tends to keep a high position on the favorites list of the composer’s most ardent fans.

“I’m very interested in the dramatic staging of musical works,” says Spoleto Festival…

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Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin: A Sea Apart

Excited about tonight’s opening: historic moment for the Met.

MEMETERIA by Thomas May

1380x591_saariahoOn Friday, 1 December 2016, the Metropolitan Opera will premiere its new production of Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin. It will mark the first time since 1903 that the company will have presented an opera by a woman composer.

Here’s my essay for the Met’s Season book on this stunning creation by Kaija Saariaho:

Since its world premiere at the Salzburg Festival in 2000, L’Amour de Loin has earned a place among the most acclaimed stage works of the 21st century. The opera won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Musical Composition in 2003 and has been performed in Paris, London, Santa Fe, Helsinki, Aspen, Darmstadt, and elsewhere. Yet it took years before Kaija Saariaho became convinced that opera could be a viable medium for what she wanted to express as a composer.

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Lucerne’s Piano Festival

The third and final installment of Lucerne Festival’s 2016 programming is the Piano Festival. It starts on Saturday (19 November), with Grigory Sokolov in a Mozart-Schumann recital.  And he’s playing one of the pianistic holy of holies, Schumann’s Op. 17.

Filed under: Lucerne Festival, piano, Schumann, Uncategorized

Listening to Julia Adolphe

Tonight brings the New York Philharmonic’s world premiere of Julia Adolphe’s Viola Concerto for Cynthia Phelps, titled Unearth, Release — along with a bit of Wagner and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, with Jaap van Zweden conducting.

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