On March 26 at National Sawdust, the composer Harold Meltzer will celebrate his 50th birthday with a program of two substantial recent works. Meltzer sat down recently for an interview conducted by the acclaimed tenor Paul Appleby, a longtime colleague, who questioned him thoroughly regarding his musical development, textual inclinations, compositional influences, and creative process.
“When you look at the Muslim populations in different Western countries, every Muslim community in every Western country has a different experience, based on the way that religion is situated within that country’s frame,” Dr. Kathryn Spellman Poots observed during a recent interview. Rather than examining those differences closely, she says, Islam too often is characterized as a singular source of fundamentalist oppression and sectarian violence, a view that results in prejudice and irrational fear, as well as heavy-handed attempts at erecting barriers to no one’s benefit.
An hourlong cycle of 13 songs for three vocalists, chamber orchestra, and electronics, ‘Unremembered’ is the most extensive project to date from the composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, who collaborated with an old friend and renewed acquaintance, Nathaniel Bellows, a noted poet, novelist, singer-songwriter, and illustrator. Now touring the piece, Snider and Bellows sat down recently to trawl through memories of ‘Unremembered.’
I can’t think of any more profound contradiction to the Grammys than Morton Feldman’s Quartet No. 2. You may have heard that our album ‘Serious Business’ was nominated this year in the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble category. Our good buddies (and Chicago neighbors) in Third Coast Percussion took home the prize for their superlative Steve Reich album… and we took home some indelible memories.
Springtime is nearly upon us – some days lately have felt like it’s already here, plus ça climate change – and with the new season’s arrival comes a fresh programmatic thrust at National Sawdust: Spring Revolution, a festival that focuses this year on female empowerment and discourse. The series gets off to a strong start on Wednesday, March 1, with a performance by Amanda Gookin, a cellist, activist, organizer, and founding member of PUBLIQuartet.
Up until now, the versatile singer, songwriter, and producer Caroline Polachek has been best known for her work as the singer for the popular, adventurous pop duo Chairlift. Now, as part of Polachek’s National Sawdust residency, her recent electronic project comes to life onstage February 23 and 24, with new vocals supplied by the adventurous vocal chamber ensemble Choral Chameleon.
Music has infiltrated and influenced our lives as much as nature, literature, art, sport, religion, philosophy and television. It is the great unifier, the drug of choice for teenagers around the world. It provides solace, wisdom, hope and warmth and has done so for thousands of years. It is medicine for the soul. There are eighty-eight keys on a piano and within that, an entire universe. The unassailable fact is that music has, quite literally, saved my life and, I believe, the lives of countless others.
One of my favorite things about composer David Smooke is how wide open his ears are. No matter how bizarre the music, he will want to check it out. His own music demonstrates this sort of receptivity in its colorful variety, dramatic textures and quirky spirit. The works on his debut portrait album, Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, range from brooding and creepy to funky and joyous, wrapped up a combination of thoughtful composition and spontaneous improvisations.
How vital is it to know the literary underpinnings of what’s essentially an abstract musical work? Does something fundamental get lost in translation, so to speak, when you hear such a work without knowing the literature that inspired it?