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June 2013

Make Music New York 2013

Make Music New York 2013: Murray Schafer's "Credo"

I only got to see one performance this year during the seventh-annual Make Music New York: the day-long feast of free outdoor music, which this year coincided with the first National Music Day. It was R. Murray Schafer's Credo (1976) for strings, electronics, and chorus—both on shore and in boats on Central Park Lake. The performance, conducted by City Opera Director George Steel, was one of three Schafer works performed on the lake, spanning sunrise to sundown. Written for 12 individual choirs, the hour-long Credo was musically inspired by Thomas Tallis’s motet Spem in alium, with text based on the writings of 16th-century Italian astronomer Giordano Bruno describing the universe.

Other performances around town included a percussion performance by inmates on Rikers Island, 175 keyboardists performing on Cornelia Street—breaking a Guinness World Record—and 400 guitarists playing in Union Square

More pics of Credo on the photo page.


Firefly Music Festival 2013

by Caroline Sanchez

Fireflytag

Dover, Delaware could not have asked for a more beautiful weekend to host the East Coast’s newest music attraction. Now in its second year, the three-day Firefly Music Festival took over 87 acres of land at the Dover International Speedway, turning The Woodlands around the racetrack into the stomping grounds of 60,000 concert-goers, complete with four stages—Firefly Main Stage, The Lawn, The Porch, and The Backyard—a free Arcade tent, The Vineyard, The Brewery, and some of today’s most anticipated musical acts.

My adventure started at 3AM on Friday morning when, after arriving on the festival grounds and assuming there would be a Bonnaroo-sized line for camping check-in, my entourage and I were redirected to the local Home Depot parking lot to wait with the other early risers. Despite the under-informed security guards, getting to the campsite was easy once check-in started and in a matter of an hour, the grassy fields were transformed into full throttle tent-city. 

CrowddjangoWhen the main festival grounds opened at noon, I was lucky enough to catch Django Django and Dr. Dog on the Main Stage, where I was able to get backstage for a good view of the crowd.
The back-to-back sets were a high-energy way to start the weekend, prepping the audience for the later Ellie Goulding and Calvin Harris sets on The Lawn stage. I appreciated the backing band that Ellie brought with her; it was a refreshing contrast to the DJ I expected. The vocals were hard to decipher over the other instruments, however, making it less of the show than I anticipated. Whatever the audience didn’t get from Goulding was redeemed by Calvin Harris: the sound and the light show were top-notch, catching everyone’s attention—even the Chili Pepper super-fans who stopped to watch on their way to the main attraction.

Similar to their Bonnaroo set from last year, the Peppers took on the Friday-night headlining slot in front of a crowd that varied in age rather drastically. I credit them for being a band that reaches past their generation so gracefully; many other groups aren’t able to achieve a fanbase as diverse as the Chili Peppers, no matter how catchy their tunes. Everything was in place for a spectacular performance: the sun had set, the crowd had gathered, but somehow, the famed rockers missed their mark. Maybe it was my state of exhaustion or my memory of the incredible Bonnaroo performance from last year, but Friday night’s performance didn’t live up to the exciting Chili Peppers I remember from MTV in the ‘90s.

 

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Amadou and Mariam and Bombino at Celebrate Brooklyn

by Zoë Gorman

celebrate brooklyn amadou and mariam

Before extremists began taking over the north of the African nation of Mali and proclaimed a jihadist state, Mali granted more record-label contracts than any country in Africa. Famed for an Afro-fusion that mixes traditional instruments and styles with modern ones, northern and central Malians suffered a ban on all music, in addition to beatings, amputations, and stonings at the hands of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar Dine. But judging from Friday’s attentive, cheering crowd at Celebrate Brooklyn, music might be Mali’s greatest weapon yet. 

The blind husband-wife duo Amadou and Mariam geared their set list towards raising awareness about Mali’s corrupt political system and ethnic woes, featuring simple, catchy vocal melodies, bluesy guitar riffs, and two superb drummers—one playing by hand, the other jamming on a rock kit that substituted traditional drums for toms.

Mixing French, local Bambara, and the occasional English, Amadou and Mariam sang stories about life in Mali with call-and-response vocals interspersed with upbeat, rhythmic riffs. The band is not new to advocating for peace—they played at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Concert—but since the Mali crisis, their songs are striking closer to home.

The corrupted in politics…The dictators in politics, it’s not okay. We don’t want them,” they sang out in French.

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JACK Quartet and Joshua Roman at (le) Poisson Rouge

by Robert Leeper

JACK Quartet
Ancient and innovative can easily coexist. In music especially, composers and performers throughout history have looked back for guidence and inspiration as they move forward. Steve Reich has openly written about the debt his music owes to the 13th-century French composer Pérotin, and one of Felix Mendelssohn’s greatest achievements was his rediscovery of J.S Bach’s music with his mounting of the St. Matthew Passion

On Sunday night, the JACK Quartet and guest cellist Joshua Roman continued this tradition of finding inspiration in history and programmed their findings alongside the rule-breakers of today, presenting three madrigals by the intensely expressive renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo (arranged for sting quintet by JACK violinist Ari Streisfeld), as well as works by Joshua Roman, Brian Ferneyhough, and a new piece—premiered by the quintet just three weeks ago in Seattle—by Jefferson Friedman

Gesualdo, perhaps as well known for the murder of his wife and her lover in 1590 as for his music, continues to bewitch, mystify, and captivate modern audiences. Streisfeld’s arrangements captured the chromatic wandering of the sophisticated vocal polyphony while adding a new twist by including effects available to the modern string player. The group truly excelled during slower portions of the madrigals, with each strange and beautiful part clearly heard as the group breathed exciting new life into these short pieces. 

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