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June 2013

Summerstage NYC 2013: "Speak" by Marla Mase and Tomás Doncker

by Dan Lehner


Photo credit: Dan Lehner

Marla Mase has a lot she wants to talk about.

Over the course of the 90-minute “Speak”—a new multimedia/multidisciplinary work based on her album of the same name—Mase and her collaborator Tomás Doncker traversed a fairly large gamut of social and political themes concerning women, including body image, sexuality, and adolescence, as well as more general concerns, like war.

To add to the complexity, Mase and Doncker, aided by a live band during their live performance Saturday night at Herbert Von King Park, draped all of them in a whole host of genres ranging from reggae and punk to roots rock and electronica. As if that weren’t enough, they then included spoken word, popular dance, ballet, and image projection, accompanied by board dancers, actors, and video artists. Like most works of non-linear pastiche, “Speak” aimed at using genre and a variety of media to view a topic several different ways—but unlike most patchwork presentations, Mase and Doncker didn’t limit themselves to multiple views of just one subject. 

There were a few instances where “Speak” was able to make truly effective musings on its subject matter, and each of these moments occurred when Mase and her collaborators were at their most subtle. There were lyrics throughout of feeling invisible, keeping with Mase’s themes of female adolescence, and there was one spoken-word segment in which a fictional “everywoman” muses on what how she should behave and look as a female, keeping the narrative loose and inclusive.

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Song Preservation Society at Union Pool

by Laura Wasson


It isn’t often I have much reason to ruminate on the finer points of poetry and the lost art of songwriting, but Song Preservation Society’s Tuesday night show at Union Pool gave me pause. At a time when sloppy porn-pop and barely comprehensible dubstep rule the airwaves, it was somewhat shocking to hear beautiful, striped-down music that requires a working brain and a beating heart to appreciate.

The L.A.-based trio comprises Trevor Bahnson, Ethan Glazer, and Daniel Wright—guitarists and exquisite singers whose voices seem tailor-made for angelic harmonies. Comparisons to Simon & Garfunkel, as well as Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, are inevitable, but there is a quiet levity and romanticism that distinguishes SPS from their lyrically gifted forefathers.

The crowd was unfortunately small, but I suppose that is to be expected on a unseasonably chilly and damp New York evening, even in Williamsburg. Happily, though, the audience was mostly friends of the band, which added a jovial spirit to the set, even during the most somber interludes. SPS opened with the closing number off Ready Room, their 2012 EP. Stripped of the ebullient orchestration and whistling featured on the album, “You Can’t Stop Me From Tryin’” gained a new urgency and put the spotlight not only their elegant words, but also on Bahnson's, Glazer's, and Wright’s exceptional guitar (and mandolin) playing.

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New York Philharmonic Plays Dukas, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky

by Caroline Sanchez


Having only ever seen the New York Philharmonic in outdoor venues as part of their Concerts in the Parks series, I can technically call Saturday night’s concert my first Phil-in-Fisher experience. It was no wonder that the Phil played to a packed Avery Fisher Hall, as the concert featured crowd-favorite composers Stravinsky, Prokoviev, Dukas, and Kodály, as well as a pair of top-notch guest artists, the conductor Lionel Bringuier and solo violinist Leonidas Kavakos.

The concert began with the familiar Sorcerer's Apprentice, the orchestral interpretation of Goethe’s fictional poem made famous in 1940 by Disney’s Fantasia. From the onset, Bringuier’s musical interpretation was received well by the orchestra; he was sensitive without being overly flashy, giving him the ability to enhance the comic quality found in Dukas’ score. 

Any fantasy created by Dukas’ work was sharply contrasted by the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2, performed by visiting soloist Leonidas Kavakos. LeonidasKavakosKnown for his long, winding melodic lines, Prokofiev created melodies in the concerto that hauntingly linger, grounded by unexpected harmonies and mechanical backing rhythms. Taking on the solo like a true virtuoso, Kavakos embodied the yearning and complexity that surrounds Prokofiev’s music, compelling the audience through all three movements. 

Stravinsky's Firebird can be identified as the ballet that started it all for the young composer, its success paving the way for several other commissions from the Ballets Russes, including The Rite of Spring and Petrushka. The Philharmonic provided a most visceral experience for the audience, triggering everything from head nods to shudders and gasps. The third movement and the final movement were a real highlight for Lionel Bringuier, whose slight variation in tempo confirmed that his conducting was not only pleasant to watch but musically effective, never getting in the way of the power of the music being created.

Information about the final performance of this program can be found on the event page at the Phil's website.