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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Art Is

2 October 2014 in Heather, Theater, Writing

You could park a big ol’ Cadillac inside Grandma’s walk-in pantry. To a child, the great windowless room stocked with jams and sauces and pickles and puddings was nothing less than a theater. The rows of metal shelving parsed the space into my very own backstage, wings, proscenium, and house. And on a shelf at the back, below the neatly indexed cake mixes, rested a simple cardboard box— the costume box. The pantry became an escape from chores—from pulling weeds, picking green beans, and hanging laundry on the line. Grandma, perhaps knowing the futility of wringing work out of a girl on Christmas or spring break, would allow me to spend hours playing dress-up. I made tiaras out of tinfoil
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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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Das Rheingold

5 September 2013 in Music

If the dappled blue marble we call Earth wore headphones, there is only one piece of music I’d want them plugged into: the opening five minutes of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. The orchestral unfolding of a simple E-flat major triad is music of all time and place. Wagner’s music depicts the Rhine River, but knowing this bit of literal information in no way hinders the imagination. The French horns outline the triadic skeleton in overlapping entries and I remember the wheat fields of my childhood, the smell of straw, the golden fleece rippling and settling over the rolling hills like a baby’s blanket. As the strings join in the unchanging harmony hundreds of measures later, I remember when I had
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