The Magic of Song: Pamela Z’s SPAN

13 May 2015 in Music

Any classically trained singer worth their salt will have a copy of Twenty-Four Italian Songs and Arias on their bookshelf. The collection of songs by 17th- and 18th-century composers is a primer of bel canto style, with each song presenting a new technical challenge for the singer to master. The pieces rise above mere vocal technique; they’re also love songs. Each one requires the singer to deliver an emotional punch, and those punches are inevitably about love—first love, lost love, spiritual love, star-crossed love. The songs teach a singer to marry technique and emotion. They teach a singer to perform. Pamela Z’s new work for voice, electronics, and chamber ensemble is similar in that it uses a single topic to
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Ghosts at the Redcat

3 November 2014 in Music

The Redcat stage looked like a jungle: gongs hung from stands, electronic cables snaked between the legs of snare drums, and groups of instruments claimed distinct territories amidst the mess. Eight tablas waited on a makeshift altar at center stage, perhaps soon to be sacrificed. Percussionist William Winant entered the fray fearlessly, while David Rosenboom, composer and electronics virtuoso, presided over the performance from his computer downstage right. Zones of Influence is one of David Rosenboom’s most complex compositions, written for percussion instruments and electronics in 1984 and 1985. He had Winant in mind for the percussion part from the beginning. Rosenboom’s concept for the interactive nature of the electronics was so far ahead of its time that it took
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On Xenakis

20 October 2014 in Heather, Music

I remember how I held my breath as my dad pounded each nail halfway into the square piece of wood we’d covered in black felt. I watched as two nails became three, then five, then eight, until the last completed a perfect circle. Dad handed me the board and I returned to my desk to consult my math book, which described how to wind string from nail to nail at measured intervals around the circle. The lines of string began to create a web around the perimeter of an inchoate circle, this one hovering magically in the center of the board over the black felt. I repeated the process twice more, using different colors of string to mark intervals of
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The Week in Curation 1

2 August 2014 in Film, Music

Cinema : Paolo Sorrentino, This Must Be The Place Composer/Performer : Colin Stetson Composer/Performer : Arthur Russell Journalism : Rebecca Mead, Musical Gold Website : The New Inquiry  

Finally, Weirdness

7 January 2014 in Music

It was the weirdest concert I’ve been to since moving to Los Angeles eight months ago, and for that I was delighted. I had no idea what to expect; I’d never heard of Chris Newman, and it seemed odd that the Monday Evening Concerts (known for adventurous, contemporary programs) had paired him up with Beethoven. Good old-fashioned Beethoven. The first piece on the program proved to be the thread: the piano part of Newman’s Weird Words in a Language which we Understand takes (according to Newman’s own program note) “a diagonal single line through Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.” The familiar eighth-note motive—fate rapping on a door—here abstracts and exhausts itself. As the pianist knocks around (first suggesting this key, then hinting
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Song for Friday Afternoon

8 September 2013 in Film, Music

Earlier this summer I saw The Bling Ring, and here it is September and I still can’t shake Sophia Coppola’s film from my mind. I spent much of the summer immersed in Benjamin Britten’s world, from his songs and operettas for children to professional works for the operatic stage (notably, The Turn of the Screw and Gloriana). Much of Britten’s work comments on youth and childhood, innocence and the loss of it. Britten tends to gaze on youth (childhood) with a honeyed, late-19th century eye; this yearning for childhood is free from cynicism and anxiety. In fact, his nostalgia often feels like an attempt to free himself from the political and social conflicts of the mid-20th century. In Songs for
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