Morton Subotnick Performs "Silver Apples of the Moon" and "Crowds and Power" at the Lincoln Center Festival

Morton Subotnick - Lincoln Center Festival - Feast of Music Jul 21  2017  8-44 PMFor all those who think electronic music started with Frankie Knuckles in Chicago, or the Belleville Three in Detroit, a tutorial of sorts was provided by the Lincoln Center Festival this week, which invited pioneering electronic composer Morton Subotnick to perform his seminal work Silver Apples of the Moon on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. It might seem ironic to stage a work that was originally designed to be heard in the privacy of one's home, but Subotnick - like most musicians - has come to embrace the pleasures of live performance.

For this performance, Subotnick - now 84 - "revisited" the composition, updating his original Buchla Box (which he co-created with Don Buchla) with a hybrid Ableton-Buchla instrument that allowed for a mix of live and recorded electronics. The music - which was split into 8 channels - was strange and hallucinatory at first, then rhythmic and propulsive. Sitting alone at a table filled with wires and various control pads, Subotnick was in complete command of the proceedings, bringing to mind another electronic composer I caught in the autumn of his career

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Christian Marclay and Okkyung Lee Perform Alexander Calder at the Whitney Museum

Christian marclay okkyung lee - alexander calder - whitney museum - Feast of Music Jul 21  2017  2-08 PMIn 1932, artist and sculptor Alexander Calder devised Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere, Calder's first hanging mobile and one of the first works that sought to blend visual and performance art with sound. Consisting of a heavy iron sphere and a smaller wooden one that hang on either end of a horizontal iron rod, the work is activated by setting the spheres in motion, creating an delicate cacophony by crashing into a collection of household items.

The Whitney, which is currently displaying a show of Calder's mobiles and motor-powered works, invited turntablist and sound artist Christian Marclay and cellist Okkyung Lee to stage Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere last week in the Susan and John Hess Family Theater. Marclay laid out the objects on the floor - wine bottles, copper chimes, cermaic bowls - while Lee walked around the room, dragging and occasionally playing her cello. It was less music than John Cage-like aleatory (which, of course, Cage would vehemently call music), along with some occasional accidental humor, such as when a Mrs. Fields cookie tin twice rolled across the floor until it crashed into the audience. 

The Whitney's "Calder: Hypermobility" remains on display through October 23, with daily activations of Calder's sculptures, along with additional performances by JACK Quartet, Arto Lindsay, C. Spencer Yeh and others. More info on the Whitney's website. More pictures here.


NYO2 with Esperanza Spalding at Carnegie Hall

NY02 with Esperanza Spalding - Carnegie Hall - Feast of Music Jul 20  2017  8-13 PMFor five years now, the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (or NYO-USA for short) has been providing teenagers the opportunity to hone their music skills with professional musicians, culminating in a performance at Carnegie Hall and an international tour. Last year, Carnegie's Weill Music Institute expanded the initiative with a new program for even younger musicians, called NYO2. Made up of kids aged 14-17 from a diverse set of backgrounds - often from communities without classical music training opportunities - the fellows spent three weeks in residence at Purchase College in Westchester where they rehearsed with musicians from some of the top orchestras in the country, including more than a dozen from the Philadelphia Orchestra

The program culminated Thursday night with a performance at Carnegie Hall that featured the Philadelphia musicians playing alongside their younger counterparts. For the first part, they were joined onstage by the ebullient Esperanza Spalding, here playing electric bass. Spalding, who in her younger days was the concertmaster of her local community orchestra, performed several of her own compositions, along with a cover of Wayne Shorter's "Endangered Species", to which she added her own lyrics. In between songs, she gushed about how amazing the kids were in rehearsal, and tried her best to get the audience to start a dance party with the rocking "Good Lava" from last year's Emily's D+Evolution

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Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner and James McAlister Revive "Planetarium" at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!

Planetarium with Sufjan Sevens - BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn - Feast of Music Jul 18  2017 Jul 18  2017  9-14 PMWhen Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner and James McAlister first performed their collaboration Planetarium at BAM in 2013, we were blown away by the experience, which seamlessly blended elements of classical, pop, rock, and electronics, accompanied by some pretty awesome visuals. As we said at the time:

"This was edgy rock and pop, and its straightforward presentation enabled it to breathe and communicate without being suffocated by mists of pretension. Lush harmonies melded together with a luxurious flow and were enhanced by the smoky projections on stage; you couldn’t help but be moved by the aural and visual spectacle."

Last month, Planetarium was finally released as an album, and to mark the occasion, Sufjan, Nico, Bryce and James brought their live show (sans lasers) back to NYC last night with a benefit concert at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn. The standing room-only crowd was enthusiastic from the start, cheering wildly after the big numbers "Jupiter" and "Saturn." In between songs, Sufjan held sway like a made-for-TV astronomer while making numerous oblique references to the challenging times we live in, encouraging us to look to the stars to remind us that the universe is much bigger - and vastly more open - than we are. 

Watch a performance of "Mercury" from Monday's Late Show here. More pics below and on the photo page

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