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Tan Dun and the Juilliard Orchestra at the Met Museum

Tan Dun Juilliard Orchestra Met Museum-010If there's such a thing as a rock star composer, Tan Dun comes pretty close. In addition to winning an Oscar, a Grammy and the Grawemeyer Award, he's written music for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a "Disney Symphony" for the opening of the company's new theme park in Shanghai, broadcast to an audience of more than 65 million. 

On a somewhat less grand scale, Tan has amassed a large catalog of chamber and orchestral music, including (to date) five operas. Among these, his most ambitious has been The First Emperor, commissioned by the Met Opera in 2006. Based on the life of Qin Shi Huang, the emperor who united China in the second century BCE, the opera showcased Tan's characteristic blend of Chinese and Western music, as well as his unfortunate penchant for cloying melodies. Still, there's no denying the fact that Tan is box office: all seven performances of the run were sold out.

Recently, New York's other Met - the Met Museum - commissioned Tan to write a new work in conjunction with the opening of their landmark exhibition The Age of Empires: Chinese Art of the Qin and Han Dynastiesfeaturing archaeological treasures from China's early empire - including the famous terracotta warriors and other artifacts from Qin Shi Huang's mausoleum. Tan responded with two not-exactly-new works, both of which were premiered Friday night at the Met's Grace Rainey Rodgers Auditorium by the Juilliard Orchestra, with the Tan himself conducting.

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Sxip Shirey Album Release at National Sawdust

by Nick Stubblefield

Sxip Shirey show

It would be futile to try and encapsulate impressions of electro-acoustic artist Sxip Shirey's (pronounced SKIP SHY-REE) album release show at Williamsburg's National Sawdust in a single blog post. The show lineup included guest singers, tuba, penny-whistles, music boxes, children's toys, live effects and drum loops, a string section, horns, harmonicas, dobro, and oh yes — a twenty-person choir. Instead, let the composer-performer sum it up in his own words: "As a kid, I grew up listening to the Beatles, so I thought each song should have a different studio set up...nobody told me they never toured that shit." The concert, which celebrated the release of Shirey's newest record, A Bottle of Whiskey and Handful of Bees, was the only show Sxip presented in promotion of the record, and that made it extra special for an audience already game to follow Shirey down a strange, sonic rabbit hole. 

First off, how about another hand for Garth the sound guy? Each of the many numbers required a vastly different stage configuration, numerous mic set ups, and live audio processing. It’s a testament to the technician’s abilities that he was able to mix all that input down to cohesive, hiccup-free sound.

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Today: Make Music Winter 2016

Mmw2015_logoAs New Yorkers finish up their shopping and start thinking about heading home for the holidays, they'll be surrounded by music all day today as part of the 6th annual Make Music Winter, marking the shortest day of the year. Featured artists performing throughout the five boroughs include members of Antibalas, singers Onome and Jascha Hoffman, all-women Brazilian drumline Fogo Azul, keyboardist Karl Larson, conductors Thomas McCargar and Malcolm Merriweather, composers Lainie Fefferman, Jascha Narveson, Cameron Britt, Ravi Kittappa and P. Spadine, and others. 

The full schedule is available on the Make Music Winter website. Our recommended itinerary for the day is below.

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Preview: White Light Festival 2016

Photo: Matthias Heyde

The seventh edition of Lincoln Center's White Light Festival kicks off this week with a typically eclectic mix of music, theater, dance and film that all share a spiritual dimension. Offering a welcome antidote to the televised circus that is our Presidential election, Lincoln Center's Artistic Director Jane Moss says that this year's festival, "focuses on what it means to be human in an increasingly fractious world—a world where communication, compassion, and creative expression remain vital to our survival as a global community."

The Radio Choir of Berlin under our old friend Simon Halsey kicked things off last night with their reworking of Brahms' German Requiem - called Human Requiem - at the Synod House at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The interactive, immersive experience promises to be one of White Light's more memorable events. Tickets and info on remaining performances available on the White Light website