New Music Feed

the public domain: Performance Day

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Steven Pisano

As I walked up Broadway from the A train on Saturday morning, something felt different. I'd made this walk countless times before, usually rushing to catch a curtain at the Met, the Phil, City Ballet, (or Opera RIP). But, this was the first time I'd made this walk as a performer, and I felt that mix of giddy anticipation and nervous energy that every singer, dancer, musician, or actor feels when they're heading to their first - or in this case, only - performance.

I didn't really have much reason to be nervous. After all, we had prepared for this day for four weeks, some for even longer. We knew the music, we had rehearsed the movements, we even got a sense of what the whole thing would sound like. Now, we just needed to go out and do it.

"It", of course, was the public domain, which we were set to perform in public for the first time on the Josie Robertson Plaza later that afternoon. But, there was still work to do, and all 1,000 of us were told to report to Geffen Hall no later than 11:30 am. A representative from the NYPD told us that rain was in the forecast, in which case the performance would not be rescheduled. He then offered detailed instructions about what to do in the event of an attack, or other unexpected incident. "These are the times we live in, folks." 

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Dr. Dog and The Knights at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!

DSC00267I had other plans for Saturday, so Friday was my last opportunity to stop by BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! this summer, where Philly rockers Dr. Dog were joined by openers The Knights and a local gospel choir for an extended set. While their music owes a lot to The Flaming Lips, Pavement, and other 90's indie bands, they have their own infectious energy, propelled by Toby Leaman's urgently delivered vocals and Soctt McMicken's strong guitar work.

Thanks, BRIC, for another amazing summer at the bandshell - though there's more great music to be had this fall at BRIC House in downtown Brooklyn, including the BRIC JazzFest in October, shows by The Knights, and more. I just wish I could walk home from there.

More pics from Friday's show on the photo page


The Public Domain: Put-Together at Baruch College

IMG_4064What do you get when you combine Orange, Red, and Yellow? As I found out last night at the put-together for the public domain at Baruch College's gymnasium, some pretty astonishing sounds.  With at least 500 participants present - some from as far away as Europe and Japan - Simon Halsey and Annie-B Parson ran us through the entire performance, giving us for the first time an idea of what to expect at the final performance. 

For the most part, Simon was encouraging, congratulating each of the 15 groups on how well we'd learned the score and movements. That said, he did call us out several times for not following his direction. "Most of you are doing splendidly, but this group clearly doesn't know what they are doing!" he exclaimed at one point. Ouch.

Anne Tanaka, the incredibly well-organized Line Producer responsible for all of the behind-the-scenes work, came out after the run-through to thank us all for our time and effort, and to congratulate us on a job well done. "Usually at large-scale events" she said, "the put-together is a complete disaster. But this came off nearly flawlessly. We are all really excited for Saturday!"

Speaking of which: despite a forecast of hot and humid conditions for the weekend, the performance for the public domain is ON for Saturday 5pm on the main plaza of Lincoln Center. If anyone can't make it then, or just wants a sneak peak, we will be conducting a dress rehearsal on the plaza at noon. Volunteers are still needed to help out with logistics on the day of the performance - info available on the website.

More pics of the rehearsal here.  


The Public Domain: Working With Simon Halsey

IMG_3979When I first experienced Simon Halsey's work with the Berlin Radio Symphony Chorus in the Berlin Philharmonic's extraordinary 2014 production of the St. Matthew Passion, I never imagined that less than two years later, I'd be sitting in a Brooklyn rehearsal studio mere inches from him as he led the Orange strand through two complete run-throughs of the public domain on Friday night. But, far from being an imposing, remote podium presence, Simon - who is director of the London Symphony Orchestra Chorus, the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, and the Berlin Philharmonic’s Youth Choral Program, among other posts - went overboard to make himself accessible.

"Hi, I'm Simon," he said to us by means of introduction. "I'm the person who will be standing in the middle of the plaza playing traffic policeman. It's lovely to be here in Brooklyn!"

Before long, Simon, who wore shorts and a white polo shirt, was bouncing all around the rehearsal studio like a manic schoolboy. For the most part, he was deeply encouraging, telling us we were his "favorite group": a credit to our strand leader, Maria. Still, it soon became clear that hitting the right notes and following the tempi weren't going to be enough for Simon.

"Now, we can make it more daring. I have a feeling this group is going to be dangerously inventive."

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"The Hubble Cantata" and Tigue at BRIC's Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival

by Steven Pisano

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(All photos by Steven Pisano)

"We are stardust/ Billion year old carbon/ We are golden/ Caught in the devil's bargain/ And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." --Joni Mitchell

For anyone interested in the origins of the Universe, the concepts of space and time, or the genesis of life, the spectacular, awe-inspiring photographs taken with the Hubble Space Telescope over the past 36 years have been a magical, almost religious source of wonder, enabling humankind to peer back 14 billion years into our collective past. These extraordinary photographs have inspired scientists to dream about what the future might hold for us. 

In Paola Prestini and Royce Vavrek's The Hubble Cantata, which received its world premiere as a full-length virtual reality experience at BRIC's Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival on Saturday night, the audience was invited to travel on a shared journey inspired by these majestic images, following the skeletal story of a woman who is born, dies, and seeks to be reborn, just as stars are reconstituted from their own stellar dust. Images of ex-New York City Ballet dancer Wendy Whelan were projected onto a scrim in front of the orchestra and chorus.

The tease of the show to the thousands of people in attendance was that it was the first-ever fusing of a major musical performance with Virtual Reality. But the VR experience--a wishy-washy video of the Orion Nebula called "Fistful of Stars" by filmmaker Eliza McNitt viewed on smartphones inserted into cardboard headsets--was underwhelming at best. I was anticipating oohs and aahs all around me, but mostly I saw a sea of shrugs. With a long line of feature film depictions of space from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Gravity, there has been no shortage of jaw-dropping footage of what space might look like.

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