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  • richardmitnick 12:31 PM on October 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    From The New York Times: “Nico Muhly on the Drama of Bringing His New Opera to the Met” 

    New York Times

    From The New York Times

    Nico Muhly on rehearsing his new opera, “Marnie”: “I figure it’s only fair of me to be flexible.”CreditCreditDaniel Dorsa for The New York Times

    Nico Muhly by Samantha West

    Bedroom Community,Valgeir Sigurðsson, Nico Muhly, Ben Frost, Nadia Sirota, Sam Amidon, Daníel Bjarnason, Puzzle Muteson. by EuphemiaUCAS

    Oct. 17, 2018
    Nico Muhly

    “Marnie,” my new opera, which has its American premiere on Friday at the Metropolitan Opera, is about a woman who lies, steals, gets caught and is forced to marry a man who sexually assaults her. It’s delicate material — to say the least — and deeply plot-driven, and the dramatic structure has to be airtight to allow room for expressive musicality.

    The director, Michael Mayer, called me with the idea for a “Marnie” opera five years ago. The story is most famous from the Hitchcock film, but we found that the 1961 Winston Graham novel on which it’s based was a far richer source of psychological tension and freed us from any visual or musical entanglements with the movie. That first notion blossomed into a wonderful libretto by Nicholas Wright, which then turned into a giant stack of manuscript.

    Now, in the days before opening, among the orchestra, the chorus, the principal singers, the stage crew, spot ops, dressers, wig-makers, etc., there are hundreds of people reacting to this document; it’s a huge, thrilling, anxiety-producing setup.

    In the middle of rehearsal last week, Nick Wright, Michael and I had a sudden revelation: One of the arias, already endlessly fretted over, was seriously hindering the dramatic flow. The aria, in which Marnie tries to escape her husband but catches herself having second thoughts, was musically satisfying. I’d spent ages getting a kind of throbbing brass chorale to work; there was a clever interplay between the oboe and the voice; and Nick’s text gave us what we thought was a much-needed window into Marnie’s state of mind.

    Marnie: TrailerCreditCreditVideo by Metropolitan Opera

    But when Michael was staging the scenes that precede and follow this moment, it immediately became clear that the entire dramatic beat was unnecessary: We were “telling, not showing,” the classic drama-school no-no, and the aria took what should have felt like a satisfying gravitational pull toward the final scene and stalled it midair. (I was reminded of Boris Johnson’s humiliating zip-line ride, where he got stuck in the middle of it, bobbing helplessly over the park.)

    What if we just — cut it? I rushed over to the full score, figured out a way to make the snip work musically — scooch the oboe’s entrance over a bar; get rid of some vestigial gongs — and we tried it out: It was so much better. It felt like we’d obeyed Coco Chanel’s advice: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” The conductor, Robert Spano, and I mourned the musical loss over a negroni but toasted to how much more successful the last 30 (now 26) minutes of the show would be without it.

    With a piece of concert music, I can tell, more or less, if the structure holds together just by looking through the manuscript in my studio. With a piece of theater, however, I find that on paper and even in rehearsals, the overall soundness of the structure is always just slightly out of view. It’s when you see an opera on stage for the first time with an audience that it feels like shining a black light on a crime scene: Even if you thought you’d carefully wiped clean all of the strange incisions and seams of the compositional process, you’ve still missed a spot.

    Isabel Leonard, center, as the title character in “Marnie” at the Metropolitan Opera.Credit Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

    None of this sort of work is, for me, fully possible to execute if I’m sitting at my desk at home. It requires being in the room with Michael; with Nick; with Isabel Leonard, who plays Marnie; with Paul Cremo, the Met’s dramaturg; and seeing the scenes unfold in real time.

    I want to know what Isabel thinks about a given transition: She is the one who has to communicate what I wrote, and if there’s anything I can do to help her do that with grace and power, I feel that’s my job as a composer. If I can change an E flat to an F to make the text clearer, I will do it; if we need a better word, Nick will come over, and we’ll confer about how to make it all sync up. When I write a piece of orchestral music, I can be as controlling as I want, but with a piece this big, I try to be the opposite of precious.

    The practical process of mounting an opera is much more crabwise than one might suspect. For the first three weeks, the cast works in a subterranean rehearsal room with the actual floor of the set recreated; some of the real furniture and props are there, but, for example, the tall sliding panels in our full design are represented by shorter, temporary ones. There is a tag team of brilliant rehearsal pianists, the conductor, two assistant conductors, the director, two assistant directors, the stage manager, an assistant stage manager, the dramaturg — and me, in the corner with piles of scores and laptops and iPads and snacks.

    The chorus, which has been rehearsing and memorizing this work since the summer, comes half a dozen times, but not necessarily to work in any particular order; we might find ourselves staging the ending with the chorus before staging the beginning with the cast. We see the orchestra, which is equally busy, in its rehearsal room once or twice without the singers, then twice with the singers — but never with the chorus.

    Two weeks before we open, we start spending the mornings on the main stage with only the pianists. Visual elements creep in: lighting, projections, costumes, with all their attendant joys and problems. (The tracks in the floor seem to be of a thickness precisely designed to entrap the elegant high heels most of the women in this production wear.)

    The week before we open, we have a morning per act with everything (chorus, orchestra, heels), a complete run-through with piano, a complete final dress rehearsal with everything — then opening. The wildest thing about this schedule is that it means that before opening night, there is only one opportunity to see the whole show as a complete piece of theater, which is oftentimes when some of the more deeply-hidden knots reveal themselves. On opening night of “Dark Sisters,” in 2011, I felt a small amount of air leave the theater when I suddenly realized that I’d boxed the show in with a clumsy transition between an indoor space and an abstract outdoor space; I hadn’t perceived this until then.

    My inbox is, as I write this, filling up with requests to come to the dress rehearsal; in London, where “Marnie” had its premiere last year, it seems like a blood sport to go to the dress rather than to a show, and then make subdued but icy declarations of the opera’s wretchedness to anybody who will listen. I always liken the dress rehearsal to that moment in cooking for a group when the stew looks like grave slime (it needs that final 20 minutes to reduce), there are cardoons everywhere, and I’m in a sarong singing along to “Graceland.” It’s not ready yet! Go wait at a bar somewhere!

    I’ve learned, after three operas, what sorts of things require my intervention and what will get better on their own. My role, as I understand it now, is to be an editor and custodian of the document Nick and I created, and to guide — but not prescribe — the various options the singers and musicians have in expounding it. Obviously, it’s anxiety provoking, but as it’s not going to be me onstage in a negligee singing a high B flat, or in the pit playing an exposed oboe solo after hundreds of bars’ rest, I figure it’s only fair of me to be flexible, and to allow the thousands of hours of experience and diligent preparation to let the piece live on its own.

    Nico Muhly’s “Two Boys” was performed by the Metropolitan Opera in 2013.

    Friday through Nov. 10 at the Metropolitan Opera, Manhattan; http://www.metopera.org.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    John Schaefer

    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

  • richardmitnick 7:12 AM on February 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    From The New York Times: yMusic Brings Its Versatility to Ecstatic Music Festival 

    This article is copyright protected, so just a few notes.

    February 3, 2012

    “Over an eight-day stretch in December members of the chamber sextet yMusic finished a Midwest tour with the folk band Bon Iver; accompanied the indie-rock acts My Brightest Diamond and the National at the Beacon Theater; played with the New York Philharmonic; performed in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular; and participated in recording sessions for the singer and songwriter Beth Orton, the band Dirty Projectors and Trey Anastasio, the frontman of Phish.

    For yMusic the difference between hip-hop and classical music is more an issue of performance practice than of impassable boundaries, a shift of style rather than genre. As members of Generation Y — hence the group’s name — the players grew up with the Internet, whose breakdown of artistic barriers has informed the ensemble’s outlook. Its versatility serves not only unclassifiable composers like Mr. Lott but also more conventional ones who weave pop idioms into their music.


    Rob Moose, violin
    CJ Camerieri, trumpet
    Clarice Jensen, cello
    Alex Sopp, flute
    Hideaki Aomori, reeds
    Nadia Sirota, Viola

    Nadia Sirota

    This approach intersects with that of the Ecstatic Music Festival, which is in its second season at Merkin Concert Hall. Judd Greenstein, the festival’s curator, prizes yMusic’s open ears.”

    See the full article here.

  • richardmitnick 4:07 PM on December 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    From The New York Times: “A Composer Still Vital in His Second Century” 

    This is copyright protected, so just a few words:

    December 9, 2011

    “If the composer Elliott Carter had been able only to attend a concert in celebration of his 103rd birthday, that would have been remarkable enough. But on Thursday night, Mr. Carter, who turns 103 on Sunday, was not only in the audience at the 92nd Street Y for a tribute presented by a top-notch roster of musicians under the artistic direction of the cellist Fred Sherry, but he had also written five works this year that were included in the program.”



    Two views from very different times

    See the full article here.

  • richardmitnick 1:04 PM on December 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    From ALLAN KOZINN in The New York Times: “Club Kids Are Storming Music Museums” 

    As New Composers Flourish, Where Will They Be Heard?

    This article is copyright protected, so just a couple of notes.

    “…the world of young, inventive and often populist composers is exploding…These young composers may hold the key to classical music’s future, and the future they create might not be what you expect. Increasingly they have come to consider the machinations of the big-ticket musical organizations — and debates about how to get them to accommodate new music — as beside the point….”

    This article is an in depth look at the new serious music universe. This universe includes the new composers themselves, their record labels (or the lack of them) and the venues which they find amenable to their musical pursuits. Among the labels mentioned are “…New Amsterdam, Cantaloupe and Tzadik, all composer run and stylistically freewheeling….” To this list, I might add Innova, from American Composers Forum, St Paul, MN.

    Among the venues we find Le Poisson Rouge, Cornelia Street Café, Galapagos, The Stone, Issue Project Room, Roulette, all in New York City. Composers noted in the article include Nico Muhly, Missy Mazzoli, Du Yun, Judd Greenstein, Caleb Burhans, and Bryce Dessner. The only groups I saw noted were ETHEL and Victoire. But others which might have been included are ACME, ICE, yMusic, eighth blackbird, and itsnotyouitsme.

    Not at all mentioned in the article (if I missed it, I hope that someone will correct me), is New York Public Radio’s 24/7 New Music web stream Q2. This stream takes these and other composers and musicians out to a wide world, with an international listenership. A stand-out at Q2 is the work of Nadia Sirota. She hosts a four hour program which includes several themes, e.g, Hope Springs Atonal. Her program streams at noon and midnight. Two other standout focused programs are Hammered! which is concerned with keyboard music, and The New Canon.Also important to the success of what has been called “New Music” are two programs on WNYC, New York Public Radio’s original outlet service. For thirty years, John Schaefer has been bringing new composer to the public on the nightly program New Sounds. For a somewhat shorter time, we have been able to hear them on John’s other program, Soundcheck.

    Something that I personally would like to see added into the mix for New Music would be the advent of long form music videocast. The best examples I can cite for this are three videos produced by and for ICE, which were made available at Q2. Just to give one example, the music of Steve Lehman in a 46 minute video can be found here. I just actually searched this up also at Google Video here. Both of these examples are free to the public.But, I would personally like to see these videos made available at the music groups’ web sites, based upon a membership fee for a user id and password, and then some sort of fee, maybe $5 or $10 as a “ticket” price. This would greatly universalize the availability of musical experience to populations living no where near to actual concert events. To whit: ICE just did a heavily promoted concert in Chicago. But, I am in New Jersey. I might be very interested in that musical experience. So, if it were made available from a videocast archive, and if I was registered with ICE, I could pay a small “ticket” price and have that experience.

    This is a huge and important article. The items I note as missing from the article do not in any way diminish its thesis or importance. See the full article here.

  • richardmitnick 9:30 AM on December 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    From the New York Times: Wadada Leo Smith 70th Birthday Celebration 

    This is copyright protected, so only a note:

    Wadada Leo Smith

    “(Thursday and next Friday) A few days ahead of his 70th birthday, the fiercely creative trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith presides over an extravagant survey of his music, featuring new music for several distinct ensembles a night…At 8 p.m., Roulette, 509 Atlantic Avenue, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, (917) 267-0363, roulette.org; $15, $10 for members and students. (Nate Chinen)”

    See the full article here.

  • richardmitnick 9:16 AM on December 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    From The New York Times: “Rhythms Flow as Aging Pianist Finds New Audience” – Boyd Lee Dunlop 

    Three Cheers for Boyd Lee Dunlop

    This is copyright protected, so just a riff.

    Boyd Lee Dunlop

    Kevin Sack
    December 9, 2011

    “For years, the donated piano sat upright and unused in a corner of the nursing home’s [the Delaware Nursing and Rehabilitation Center] cafeteria…Then came a new resident, a musician in his 80s with a touch of forgetfulness named Boyd Lee Dunlop, and he could play a little. Actually, he could play a lot, his bony fingers dancing the mad dance of improvised jazz in a way that evoked a long life’s all…Boyd Lee Dunlop, 85, is the featured performer at a concert on Saturday night at the Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in downtown Buffalo. Admission is $10. And if you want to buy his debut CD, that will cost you another $15….”

    This is a really great story. See the full article here.

  • richardmitnick 12:35 PM on November 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    From The New York Times: “Jason Moran Is Named Kennedy Center’s Jazz Adviser” 

    This is copyright protected, so just a couple of notes.

    November 29, 2011

    “The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts said on Tuesday that the pianist and composer Jason Moran has been appointed its new artistic adviser for jazz. Mr. Moran, 36, is the second person to hold that post, which had been vacant since the death last year of Billy Taylor, the venerable pianist and educator who began advising the Kennedy Center in 1994.

    Jason Moran

    The responsibilities of artistic adviser extend to the development of jazz programming at the Kennedy Center, which operates its own jazz club as well as a regular concert series.

    Mr. Moran, who was named a MacArthur Fellow last year, hails from a younger generation than Taylor, and has a more progressive reputation. He has worked often with arts institutions outside the jazz realm, receiving commissions from the Dia Art Foundation and the Walker Art Center, among others, and collaborating with contemporary performance and visual artists.

    See the full article here.

  • richardmitnick 12:12 PM on November 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    From The New York Times: Marian McPartland Steps Away from “Piano Jazz” 

    This is copyright protected, so just a few notes.

    Piano Jazz has been one of the mainstay programs at NPR since 1979.


    “Marian McPartland, the jazz pianist, is stepping down as the host of the “Piano Jazz” after more than three decades on the air, said a spokeswoman for NPR, Anna Christopher…[she] will stay on as the artistic director of the show…For now, the baton will be passed to Mr. [Jon] Weber, a jazz pianist from Chicago. He has recorded 13 new shows which will begin airing in the first week of January. Mr. Weber’s program will no longer be called “Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz,” but will be re-titled “Piano Jazz Rising Stars.” Mr. Weber will perform duets with guests and then interview them, just as Ms. McPartland has done with aplomb for years.”

    Marian McPartland

    Jon Weber

    See thew full notice here.

  • richardmitnick 8:59 AM on November 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    From The New York Times: Nico Muhly On Opera and Life 

    Nico Muhly is one of today’s most important composers.

    This article is copyright protected, so just a few notes.

    Published: November 4, 2011

    Nico Muhly

    “Mr. Muhly, 30, whose high-profile commissions include a work for the Metropolitan Opera, said that as a gay man he is particularly interested in the government’s role in personal relationships. He explores a longstanding fascination with polygamy in his chamber opera “Dark Sisters,” a story of a polygamist family in a Mormon offshoot whose children are removed by state officials concerned about child abuse.”

    See the full article here.

  • richardmitnick 8:04 AM on October 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    In Today’s New York Times: ACME at Joe’s Pub 

    This is copyright protected, so just a couple of notes.

    Steve Smith
    October 28, 2011
    Gather Online, Compose Globally, Perform Locally

    “…online connectivity can still manifest itself in stimulating ways. The American Contemporary Music Ensemble, a k a ACME, offered evidence in its performance on Tuesday evening at Joe’s Pub…More than 200 composers from around the world applied to have works performed by ACME….”

    ACME is from left to right:Yuki Nomat, Caroline Shaw, Clarice Jensen, and Nadia Sirota

    See the full article here.

    Nadia Sirota is, of course, the host of Nadia Sirota on Q2, a four hour exploartion of New Music which streams Monday-Friday at noon and midnight.

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