My Lincoln Center Debut: David Lang's "The Public Domain"

Whenever I first meet someone who finds out that I'm the host of a music blog, one of the first questions they inevitably ask is: Are you a musician? Answer: No. Other than childhood piano lessons and the clarinet I stopped playing in high school, I've never managed to pick up any instrument. And, my voice is much better attuned to speaking than singing. Suffice to say, I'm much better at appreciating music than performing it.

But, there's safety in numbers, and so when I heard about David Lang's new choral work The Public Domain, a co-presentation of Mostly Mozart and Lincoln Center Out of Doors, I jumped at the chance. Modeled after Lang's Crowd Out, first performed in 2014 in Birmingham, Berlin and London, The Public Domain is written for 1,000 singers, all members of the general public, whose only requirement is that they enjoy singing. The performance is being led by London Symphony Choral Director Simon Halsey, who in the above video provides just the right amount of encouragement for those of us terrified at the prospect of hearing our voice break during our Lincoln Center debut:

"If you get involved in these things, my experience always is that you begin a bit skeptical, you warm up as it goes along, and then in the end, you think it's the best thing you ever did." 

I'll provide a diary of sorts of my experience over the upcoming weeks, culminating with the performance itself on Lincoln Center's Hearst Plaza on Saturday August 13 at 5pm. Also, there's still time to join if you want to participate - sign up on the website here.


The Feelies and Beach Fossil at Central Park Summerstage

DSC09473It might not be as close by as Celebrate Brooklyn, but not to be forgotten in the summer music landscape is Summerstage, now in its 31st year of (mostly) free gigs in all five boroughs. As in year's past, most of the big shows are at Central Park's Rumsey Playfield, which was where I was on Monday night for a double indie bill of local lo-fi heroes Beach Fossils and 70s garage legends The Feelies, drawing a fun crowd of 20 and 50-somethings to the rain-soaked astroturf, with not much in between. The Feelies, now in their 40th year, were no less impressive than when I last saw them here in Brooklyn in 2011, with Glenn Mercer putting out some vicious guitar licks while singing in a Lou Reed-like drone. 

Future Summerstage events across all five boroughs can be found here. More pics on the photo page


Violinst Francesca Anderegg at National Sawdust

by Nick Stubblefield

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It's a rare and magical thing to hear great musicians playing great music in a great space, but that's exactly what audiences were treated to this past week when violinist Francesca Anderegg presented selections from Wild Cities, her latest album release, at National Sawdust in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Geometric shapes zig-zagged across the stage backdrop, suggesting a context for new musical ideas -- fitting, because Anderegg's performance offered contemporary, thoughtful, but highly approachable tunes.

If minimalism is, in the words of composer Philip Glass, "music with repetitive structures," then post-minimalism expands on the idea by embracing those structures, but not letting them confine or define the compositions. Anderegg's opening piece, Ryan Anthony Francis' "Remix," established a rocking, hard-grooving repetitive structure, then playfully defied expectations on each repetition by employing odd timings and rhythms.  

Pianist Brent Funderburk played a role as vital as Anderegg's.  On "Remix," his touch was impeccably light and delicate, his fingers hardly grazing the keys but nevertheless providing crucial counterpoint and a relentless and energetic driving force. 

Clint Needham's "On The Road" offered an emotional tenderness that only a solo violin could bring.  The violin was often weepy and melancholic, but there were touches of rhythmic playfulness throughout the work, too. Anderegg deftly handled quick changes in mood and texture throughout. 

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Celebrate Brooklyn 2016

IMG_3809Ever since I moved to Park Slope 14 years ago, the one thing that had kept me here more than any other is Celebrate Brooklyn, the two month series of (mostly) free concerts at the bandshell on the corner of 11th Street and Prospect Park West. I didn't make it to the first few shows of the season, but have made up for lost time over the last couple of weekends with several stellar shows from Martha Redbone, Josh Ritter, Aoife O'Donovan, The Wood Brothers, and the Egyptian megastar Hakim who, though new to me, drew a crowd of thousands of adoring expats. Indeed, the only English Hakim spoke all night were the words on his black t-shirt, printed in orange block letters: 'COME TO EGYPT."

More pics below.

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