New Music Feed

A Music Center for the 21st Century: Miami's New World Symphony

New World Symphony 2018 - 8
MIAMI BEACH, FL - When most folks plan their vacation to South Beach, Florida, they likely dream of days spent lounging around pools in stylish art deco hotels, or sunning along the long, wide strip of ocean beach. At night, they might grab dinner al fresco, then dress to the nines in an attempt to gain entry to some trendy hotspot where they can while away the hours dancing, prancing, or just lying around. When it's 80 degrees here and 30° back home, there are worse ways to spend a long weekend.

But, for those who think evenings in Miami Beach are confined to bass beats and overpriced cocktails, consider the New World Symphony, which turned thirty years old this year. I've been a longtime fan of this intrepid youth orchestra/academy, made up of 87 talented young musicians from across the U.S. and, increasingly, from around the world. Like Tanglewood, Aspen, and other post-conservatory programs, most come here to enhance their already-formidable skills in the hope of landing a position with a major orchestra. But instead of just one or two summers, at New World the fellows are given three years of all-expense-paid tuition, room and board - all just a stone's throw from the beach. Not a bad way to spend your post-college years. 

In prior visits, my experience has been limited to performances in the sparkling, Frank Gehry-designed New World Center, which opened in 2011 and remains the best small concert hall in America (second only to Gehry's Disney Hall in L.A.) But, after spending three days in South Beach sitting in on rehearsals, discussions, and performances, I've come to realize that what appears onstage at the New World Center on any given night is just one facet of a sophisticated, technologically advanced organization that over three decades has evolved from humble beginnings into a premier training ground for the musicians of the 21st century. 

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Julianna Barwick and ModernMedieval at the Ecstatic Music Festival

by Steven Pisano

20180419-DSC09597(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

Since 2011, the Ecstatic Music Festival at Merkin Concert Hall has presented collaborative concerts by performers and composers in the alternative and classical music scenes. On Thursday, Julianna Barwick and ModernMedieval teamed up for a night of ethereally beautiful vocal music.

Barwick revealed in her on-stage interview with WNYC's John Schaefer that she came to her style of music after several failed attempts at traditional pop music, which left her bored and unfulfilled until somebody introduced her to a loop pedal. Actual words are besides the point in Barwick's gorgeous vocals, which are all about sound. At one point, Schaefer asked her about Meredith Monk, whom Barwick said she admired but who she only came to know after she had been singing her own way for quite some time. (Monk is in her mid 70s, Barwick in her late 30s.) Barwick's singing is dreamy, crystalline, and pure--as you might expect from the daughter of a Louisiana pastor who started singing in church--but it is not at all spacey or annoyingly precious like many New Age singers. There is something deeply sacred about the music, even in its secular-ness.

Barwick's set ended with "The Harbinger," one of the standout tracks from her 2013 album Nepenthe. Barwick recounted how she has performed this majestic song dozens of times with different groups of back-up singers, ranging from a group of 10-yr-old boys to a group of teenage girls, each time the performance taking on a slightly different character. At the same time, she said that her loop pedal has allowed her to perform it many times alone. (One can only imagine the "Hallelujah Chorus" performed with such a gadget.)

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Ticket Giveaway: ModernMedieval & Julianna Barwick at the Ecstatic Music Festival


The Ecstatic Music Festival continues to be one of the best places find and celebrate the ongoing synthesis between the classical and pop worlds. On April 19th, the festival will bring ModernMedieval and Julianna Barwick to the Kaufman Music Center stage.

Barwick is best known for looping her powerfully emotive voice to stunning effect. The festival has commisioned her for a collaboration with the trio ModernMedieval who seek to find and explore connections between medieval and contemporary music. The program will also feature commissions by Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw and Caleb Burhans.

Feast of Music is giving away THREE PAIRS of tickets to the performance on April 19th at the Kaufman Music Center.

Here's how to enter:

1. Email    -OR-

2. Retweet our post with the hashtag #freetickets    -OR-

3. Head to our Facebook page and COMMENT on our giveaway post! 

Good luck!


Meredith Monk's "Cellular Songs" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

A new work by Meredith Monk is always a cause for celebration. Her performances, which always feature a magical combination of singing, dancing, and visuals, never fail to provoke the mind, even as they entertain. Always more interested in the textures of the voice as instrument, rather than simply a conveyance to sing a song, Monk has long been one of the most extraordinary vocalists of the last 50 years.

Monk's new work, Cellular Songs, is playing at the Harvey Theater at BAM through this weekend. Cellular Songs is sparer than the last work Monk presented at BAM: the brilliant On Behalf of Nature, which played three seasons ago. That work was a rich whirlwind of colors in the sets and in the costumes, and was brimming with Monk's trademark chant-like singing.  

In Cellular Songs, Monk sings with less force than she has in the past, but even in her mid-70s now, she can still entice your ears in a way only she can. If you've only heard her on recordings or in videos, you've missed the special experience it is to hear her sing in person.

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