New Music Feed

Tristan Perich at The Kitchen

by Robert Leeper and FoM Dither Quartet
Let me cut to the chase: there is no one today writing music that is more relevant, more engaging, more viscerally exciting than Tristan Perich. Over the past decade, Tristan has carved out a unique niche at the crossroads of acoustic and electronic, of visual art and sound, of theoretical physics and hacker culture. And he's done so in a way that cloaks his music's complexity in a vein of ecstatic trance, much as Steve Reich does in his deceptively minimalist compositions. 

The Kitchen, which has been something of a home for Tristan over the past few years, presented a two-day retrospective of his music this past weekend, all of which utilized 1-bit electronics and a variety of acoustic and amplified instruments. On their own, these 1-bit sounds come across like a Game Boy gone wild, but there is something uniquely satisfying, even thrilling, about the interplay between digital and analog Tristan achieves with these works.

"I think about the basic states of a signal," he says, "as it moves through a circuitboard and then out to a speaker... (the same as music) from a score to the actions of a musician on stage."

On Friday night, electric guitar quartet Dither kicked things off with a new version of Interference Logic (2010, rev. 2017). The music started softly and simply, until suddenly the peace was shattered by a piercing electronic pulse: not quite a siren, but no less insistent or penetrating. Over time, the guitars slowly built in volume until they eventually overpowered the 4-channel electronics. Man: 1, Machine: 0.

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PROTOTYPE: David Lang's "anatomy theater"

by Annette Gold 

Anatomy theater
“Where is evil?” sings Baron Peel (the booming, authoritative Robert Osborne), described as a “distinguished anatomist of talent and experience” by his contemporaries. Peel knowingly responds, “You can’t hide it…you can’t stop it.” And then he plunges a knife into a defenseless naked woman.

“Post mortem, of course.”

Such is the mood of the 90-minute absurd romp that is anatomy theater: a piece that effortlessly bridges Gilbert & Sullivan and Philip Glass into a feminist, satirical piece worthy of any stage. Especially in today’s reawakening of populist control over women’s health, the statement that women deserve more than the benefit of the doubt (like, for starters, an opinion) belongs in neon, in patter, in repetitions, in themes of hyperbole.

The show began in the lobby – at first, admittedly, I thought it was a tired trick: extras dressed as 15th-century peasants directed guests to different parts of the lobby for an interactive preshow. Then, the murderess Sarah Osborne (growled by Peabody Southwell) was led in shackles through the crowd signaling the start of the show. We all filtered into the black box, an ideal venue for such a piece to resonate intimately, to find Sarah on a box below a noose. The audience took a moment to gawk and settle into their seats. The extras filled in the sides of the theater – their participation transformed the stark space into a medieval enclave; with eye contact easy and the fourth wall broken, the murderess’ desperation was quite palpable before a single note rang out.

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PROTOTYPE Festival: Breaking the Waves

by Annette GoldBreakingthewaves(All pics by Steven Pisano)

Following it's world premiere at Opera Philadelphia in September, the much-hyped Breaking the Waves had its New York City debut at the Skirball Center at NYU last Friday night as part of the PROTOTYPE Festival. Going into it, I was skeptical—would the piece be a salacious shocker with nudity and profanity, or would it be a revelation? The answer: it is bafflingly not greater than the sum of its parts, despite exquisite composing and lyrical, if not virtuosic, singing.

As a disclaimer, I’ll share that I haven’t seen the movie. I felt that would actually be better, since I wanted to experience firsthand what I had heard would be a very powerful story. Operas should have powerful stories. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to remain confused for most of the performance, due at least in part to the stuck, postured direction by James Darrah.

The opera seemed most free in the little moments of joyful characterization allotted to the doomed protagonist Bess, brilliantly sung by Kiera Duffy, whose Scottish accent and paradoxical gamine naïveté were never a burden. Composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek gift us with an all-male Greek chorus of sorts; it seemed Mr. Darrah could have left the posturing to them to highlight their contrast with the protagonists, a sort of ‘perspective of the masses’ versus that of the ‘other.’

That is not to say the piece was ineffective. It surely had shock value—Ms. Duffy was completely nude a handful of times, and her character’s husband, Jan, both bellowed and crooned by John Moore, was naked in enough positions to leave nothing to imagination. The nudity was obviously intended to be an important expository choice, but it felt gratuitous and gave us no insight about either character’s true desires. The inexplicable connection between the love interests was only more confusing as Jan exploited Bess’s kindness by encouraging her liaisons with every member of the chorus, accompanied by more nudity.

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Bang on a Can Kicks Off Ecstatic Music Festival

by Robert Leeper

Bang on a Can All-Stars
From Left: David Cossin, Derek Johnson, Robert Black, Ashley Bathgate, Ken Thomson, Vicky Chow, John Schaefer

Downtown moved uptown last Monday as the Bang on a Can All-Stars Presented the 2017 Bang on a Can People's Commissioning Fund concert. The evening kicked off BoaC’s 30th anniversary season as well the Ecstatic Music Festival to a packed house at the Kaufman Music Center.

Since it's founding in 1992 the All-Stars have grown into one of America’s premier modern music ensembles.  The second generation of the group, Vicky Chow (piano), Ashley Bathgate (cello), Ken Thomson (clarinet/saxophone), David Cossin (drums), Robert Black (bass), and Derek Johnson (electric guitar) are each accomplished soloists in his or her own right, but have together to form this community dedicated to innovative music. On Monday they added works by Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Mexican-Dutch composer Juan Felipe Waller, and American composer Nico Muhly, to the growing multimedia project Field Recordingswhich instructs composers to go into the field of recorded sound and respond with their own music.

In true Bang on a Can style, the event was event was eclectic and informal: a presentation of new music as well as an opportunity for the night’s emcee, WNYC’s John Schaefer, to chat with the composers about their work. The performances and talks are to be used on Mr. Schaefer’s New Sounds program.

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