Electronic Feed

Music in Space: Stockhausen's "Inside Light" at the Park Avenue Armory

Kathinka Pasveer at Inside Light at the Park Avenue Armory, 6/9/24In music, as in life, there are certain things that are so rare and essential, it's worth dropping whatever else you have going on to make way for them.  One of those things is the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen - specifically, his electronic music, which he developed in presentations of increasing complexity over some six decades, from 1956's electroacoustic masterpiece Gesang der Jünglinge (Song of the Youths), to the cyclonic 24 track Cosmic Pulses, premiered seven months before his death in 2007. (I was there.) Due to the specific sound fields Stockhausen creates, where the music seems to be coming at you from all directions, this is not the sort of thing you can listen to at home (though we are getting closer.) The only way to experience this music is to hear it live, and the only way for that to happen is with the permission of the Stockhausen Verlag, which has sanctioned all performances of Stockhausen's music worldwide since 1975. 

So, when I heard that the Park Avenue Armory would be presenting some five hours of electronic music from Stockhausen's seven-opera cycle Licht (Light), I cleared the decks. This is not the first time the Armory has presented Stockhausen's music: in 2012, the NY Phil performed his three-orchestra work Gruppen (1957), on a concert that also included works by Boulez, Ives and (weirdly), Mozart. The following year, the Armory presented Oktophonie (1991), a 70 minute excerpt of electronic music from Licht, with Stockhausen's longtime collaborator (and companion) Kathinka Pasveer doing the sound projection, having learned the craft from Stockhausen himself starting in 1982.

Pasveer, now 65, was back in New York over the past two weeks (June 5-14) to run the soundboard for "Inside Light", devised by Park Avenue Armory Artistic Director Pierre Audi as part of a larger - though still incomplete - presentation of Licht for the Holland Festival in 2019. The "light" in the title refers not just to Stockhausen's magnum opus, but also to the cinematic light display designed by Urs Schönebaum, aiming high beams at criss-cross angles across the cavernous Wade Thompson Drill Hall. Despite Stockhausen's stated aversion to visuals accompanying his electronic music - he actually preferred that the audience sit in complete darkness, though he eventually allowed for a hazy projection of a moon to keep audiences from "going paranoid" - Schönebaum's monochromatic lighting is subtle and abstract, enhancing the music rather than detracting from it. (The same, unfortunately, can't be said of Robi Voigt's video projections, which bounced along to the music like a light-up Karaoke machine.)

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Weekend Preview: Brooklyn Folk Festival, Benedict Sheehan's "Akathist", Durations Festival, and more

Brooklyn Folk Festival 2023

Benjamin Sheehan's Akathist: Nov. 10, at 7:30pm at Trinity Church Wall Street

Three years in the making, Benedict Sheehan’s oratorio Akathist weaves together a diverse array of musical languages—from medieval chant and minimalism to gospel and jazz—and is based on a unique text from the Eastern Orthodox tradition known as “Glory to God for All Things.” Featuring The Choir of Trinity Wall Street; Artefact Ensemble; NOVUS NY; Downtown Voices; Trinity Youth Chorus; and Elaine Kelly, conductor. Free. Also streaming online.

Brooklyn Folk Festival: Nov. 10-12 at St. Ann's Church

Now in its 15th year, the Brooklyn Folk Festival presents the best in American and world folk music, from NYC and around the world. Located at Brooklyn Heights' historic St. Ann’s Church (157 Montague St.) the 3-day festival includes 30+ bands, vocal and instrumental workshops, a square dance, film screenings, a Banjo Toss contest and more. Lineup includes legends like Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Alice Gerrard and David Johansen, alongside newcomers such as Nora Brown and Jake Blount. Single day tickets are $65; full festival pass is $145.

Durations Festival: Nov. 9-11 at Pioneer Works and Public Records

Tim Hecker, Laurel Halo and other adventurous practitioners of electronica headline this new festival billed as "a multi-instrumentalist exploration of sound, an intentional act of connection, and exploration of time as the intensive movement of body and mind.” Tonight's Tim Hecker show at Pioneer Works is sold out, but tickets are still available for the nightcap at Public Records, as well as tomorrow and Sunday's shows. More info here

Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels' Omar : Sat Nov. 11 at 10:30pm at San Francisco Opera

Rhiannon Giddens is having a Month. She completed a tour in support of her first original album, You’re the One (Nonesuch), which just today was nominated for two Grammys. She hosted the season-opening Live in HD broadcast of “Dead Man Walking” at the Met. And her own opera, “Omar” (co-written with Michael Abels) won the Pulitzer prize and is currently onstage at San Francisco Opera. If you can't be in SF, you can watch a live stream of Saturday's performance at 730 PST (replays available for 48 hours after).  

James Adler at Yamaha Artist Services Studio NY: Tues. Nov 14 at 7pm

The award-winning pianist and composer premieres his A Curtis Reflection, commissioned by Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music for their centenary in 2024, as well as works by composers Henco Espag, Paul Turok, Robert Schumann, Claude Debussy, and Vladimir Horowitz. Free, but reservations are required.

Weekend Preview: Bang on a Can's Long Play Festival

Long play
Whether it's the annual Marathon or the summertime Loud Weekend up in the Berkshires, Bang on a Can has mastered the art of wall-to-wall music presentation over the past 35 years. This week, they are expanding to a full weekend of shows with the first annual Long Play Festival, sited at venues in and around downtown Brooklyn. According to BOAC founders Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe:

"There has never been a time when music contained so much innovation and diversity, so much audacity and so much courage. And we want to show you all of it...It’s a lot of music!”

The festival, which was originally supposed to be held in 2020 but postponed due to COVID-19, is serving up more than 60 shows across a wide range of genres, including jazz, electronic, world and new/experimental music. Highlights include Matmos performing Robert Ashley's Perfect Lives, the Bang on a Can All Stars performing Terry Riley's In C and Brian Eno's Music for Airports, the Vijay Iyer Trio, Moroccan Sufi Blues masters Innov Gwana, and an epic closing night presentation of Ornette Coleman's seminal 1959 album The Shape of Jazz to Come, with Jason Moran, Wallace Roney, Jr, James "Blood" Ulmer, and Coleman's own son Denardo, among others.

Most of the venues are within a reasonable walking distance of each other (BAM, the Mark Morris Dance Center, Roulette), while others will require a bit of a hoof (Littlefield, Public Records.) Masks and proof of vaccination required.

Passes for individual days and the full weekend are available here. More info on participating artists and composers here. And below, you can find the festival map, along with my own schedule grid, broken out by day. (You're welcome. :))

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