Author Archive


It turned out to be an evening of surprises at Paula Cooper Gallery with the Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble conducted by Petr Kotik. The brighly lit vaulted white space was filled to the ceiling by a giant metal construction by Mark di Suvero – you may have seen another of his outdoor sculptures work in the “Occupy Wall Street” park. The musicians were unconventionally spread out by sections within various areas of the space, as if woven within the sculpture. 

The first piece, a 1966 electronic composition by Petr Kotik titled Kontrabandt (possibly a German-to-English pun, contraband? Contra – band?) was commissioned by Stockhausen and first realized in Cologne – but when I was expecting a tape piece, the surprise was how it was delivered interactively, with several musicians equipped with mixers, playing with small bits of the recording and operating percussion instruments, not randomly but following a visual score.

 The second piece also by Kotik was a last minute addition to the program, a 2011 composition for string quartet, mysteriously titled Torso, and thankfully, composed with no attempt to the sonata form with contrasting textures and spastic rhythms with an edge of dissonance.

Another surprise was Kate Soper, vocalist and composer; a remarkably agile vocalist with impressive bell-like highs to deep contralto tones, and a modern sound as well – you wouldn’t catch her using too much vibrato, just a very clear, gorgeous tone. Her ‘’cipher” piece for voice and violin which she performed with Joshua Modney, explored unison and the colors and microtones within that unison, and from that sonority, weaved patterns in an intimate connection between voice and instrument – but make no mistake, there was no emotion or sentimentality here, only the purest expression.

For another surprise Kotik dug up a Renaissance piece by the not-so-obscure Giovanni Gabrieli (who has a Facebook page…) which was arranged with lots of trumpets, trombones and tubas for a very full sound, and the clever string players seemed to have made their instruments sound like early music instruments – a Christmas offering.

 The John Cage pieces – Atlas Eclipticalis, Aria (sung by Kate Soper) and Fontana Mix were presented as a ‘medley’, one following the other smoothly. Everything has been said about John Cage, except that he is a classic. Especially within the framework of the sculpture in the gallery, and the musicians scattered throughout the piece attained that “expect the unexpected” texture while being actually fun to hear.

Another surprise and obscure dig was the Nono piece for 2 violins moving around the space between movements with uncompromising harmonies that seemed to just go on for ever but intensely performed by Tom Chiu and Conrad Harris.

If I can read between the lines though, in this concert’s program in general, I hear a dissonance, a tension, an edge, a sense of the fragility of our survival, a human concern, a softness of the heart without sentiment. And I certainly can relate to how difficult it is nowadays to continue producing work of this quality.

  • Share/Bookmark

Comments No Comments »



Above: Scene from Spider-Man 2.0 with Jennifer Damiano, Reeve Carney and Patrick Page. Photo by Jacob Cohl.

It is challenging to recreate Spider-Man when audiences have already seen countless movies on the subject with very sophisticated visual effects, but this show was actually was more exciting than any Spider-Man movie I have seen, because it is one thing to look at a screen, and another altogether to actually experience people flying above your head.  The aerial acrobatics were beyond expectations – and obviously very dangerous. I have seen flying trapeze acrobatics at the circus, but always with a net. There was no net for the Spider-Men. I have to admire the courage of these dedicated performers, suspended in mid-air by what looked like very thin and near invisible strings.

Above: the composers, The Edge (left) and Bono (right) – Source: Wikipedia

The music sounds great – almost like a produced recording, with everything mixed perfectly, which would be expected with such seasoned rock songwriters and producers as Bono and The Edge from the rock band U2. With U2, they have released 12 studio albums and are among the best-selling groups in popular music, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide and won 22 Grammy Awards, more than any other band. Bono is also known for his charity work. They even wrote more tunes (music and lyrics) for this newly refined iteration of the show. A team of no less than eight copyists assisted them in getting the score done.  It is orchestrated rock music, conducted by Kimberly Grigsby, with 18 musicians including three guitars, two basses, drums, keyboards, percussion, violin, viola, cello, two trumpets, French horn, Trombone/Tuba and reeds. The musicians, although invisible because of the staging, were certainly audible. I have a special connection with two of them.*

 The performance generally had a glossy perfection of delivery, which is attributable in part to excellent use of technology, and in part to a very thorough rehearsal process. My personal favorites were the more out-and-out rock moments with lots of guitars, especially “Bouncing off the walls” where Peter’s red room walls are exploded into four movable panels, and he walks on each, defying gravity, upside down, hanging from the ceiling…

I can’t even begin to describe the staging (originally by Julie Taymor, and recently reworked by Philip William McKinley) which is something amazing to experience. I recognized Julie Taymor’s magic touch in the machinery, masks and puppetry, and a playful use of size and suspension. Some of the scenic designs by George Tsypin create a multidimensional environment where somehow, off-axis perspectives converge into deep space. The aerial choreography by Daniel Ezralow has multiple “Spider-Men” literally flying above the seats, occasionally throwing spider webs (spaghetti-like paper strips) into the audience.

Reeve Carney playing Peter Parker/Spider-Man performed with confidence and charisma, and with just the right amount of rock star grit – born in New York City in a musical family, he has his own rock band with his brother Zane who also plays guitar in Spider-Man. Reeve Carney was really exciting to watch and able to sing perfectly from whatever position – upside down, up in the air – which is no small feat. Even his hair was perfectly messy in a style I haven’t seen since the late 70s on my drummer in Orchestre Modern.

The story created by Julie Taymor, Glen Berger and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is a full narrative alternating reality and fantasy.  The first scenes are poetic and universal: women on ochre cloth swings – think of Christo’s The Gates in Central Park a few years back, but imagine people swinging off of them.  Arachne, the Spider Lady performed by the amazing T.V. Carpio, sings suspended in mid-air; she seems to be hanging herself with a rope, before she appears later fully developed as a human insect, with a moving machinery of huge spider legs surrounding her, hovering several  feet above the stage. In a nightmarish vision of New York City where the buildings are askew, Peter Parker is a high-school nerd with a scientific interest. He visits a laboratory where he gets bitten by a spider. He suddenly feels strong and wins a wrestling match again a giant inflatable puppet. As Spider-Man he battles gangsters and muggers with oversized heads. A newspaper man, J.J. (possibly a reference to the J.J. journalist  character in the 1950s film classic The Sweet Smell of Success) wants to get the story. He hires Peter to take photos of Spider-Man. Meanwhile the mad scientist voluntarily mutates himself into a giant iguana or Godzilla creature and he is joined by a wild assortment of super-monsters. On a fire escape suspended in mid-air, Peter and Mary Jane talk about how long it takes to get from Brooklyn to the Lower East Side by subway… an up-to-date comment on life in New York. On the whole, the show is joyful and uplifting, and in a way, really un-pretentious.

I have to admit that I have always been an American popular culture aficionado, and had many a rock band back then, so I was naturally very interested in seeing the show. It actually was beyond my expectation.  This new Spider-Man is pure Americana: the old Marvel Comics myth is revisited with humor and sophistication. With its extremely daring and imaginative staging,  flawless performances, and the intensity and sincerity of the music, and I am certain this show will sustain a long life on Broadway.

*Note: Two of the musicians in Spider-Man have performed in my operas. Cellist Anja Wood performed in my Deus Ex Machina and Bill Ruyle performed in my Waking in New York and my Two-Cents Opera at Theater for the New City. I also play with Bill in the band Arthur’s Landing, on occasion.  I love Bill’s work on the hammered dulcimer but I didn’t hear much of it in this version, my only regret.

  • Share/Bookmark

Comments No Comments »

For the first time ever, I arrived at the Met in the morning for a special performance of the Magic Flute starting at 11am.  For the rest of the day, I was under the spell of the clarity of the music (conducted by Erik Nielsen) and of the airy, fluttery, fairy world created by Julie Taymor’s magic touch; she produced and directed the piece and also created the costumes and puppetry. 

In this timeless esthetic, the costumes become geometric objects, the time frame borrows from the Bauhaus, enlightenment architecture as well as transparent, ultramodern design. The sets by George Tsypin offer a circular point of entry into the beyond, through infinite mandalas and petroglyphic symbols of ancient rituals.

The air element is strongly present as the “puppets” – which are more related to Indonesian theater than to the Muppets - are unsubtantiated apparitions that flutter in the wind like flags, made of light fabrics that ebb and flow, with the transparent consistency of a butterfly’s dream.

The Queen of the Night,  performed by Erika Miklósa, was unreal:  how could she produce those smooth high notes at such an early time of day?  She was framed by a double set of wing-like constructions; they were trembling along with her trills, which created an effect that was both magical and comical. It is only later in the performance that I caught a glance of the three performers who were operating the character’s living and breathing costume.  Nathan Gunn as Papageno  projected a refreshing casualness in the role.  The surprise was the three spirits performed by boys in strange  primitive punk  but all white, and as they appeared up in the air on swings (photo from program).

This was is an abbreviated version of the Magic Flute, performed without intermission, in English, which for the most part works pretty well, but in some instances, I have to admit I missed the original German phrasing.  But the staging made it all happen, and even though I have seen many Magic Flutes, I would recommend this one as true to the spirit of the piece.

I have read books on Mozart’s Masonic connection and theories purporting that he had betrayed the secrets of the Masons in The Magic Flute, and was subsequently assassinated by them.  But as far as I can see,  the opera does not actually reveal any secrets.  There is an “initiation” scene, but initiation rites have existed as long as humanity, and represent another timeless element of reference, which is not specific to the Masons.  According to other research, it seems more likely that Mozart was not assassinated, but died of an unmentionable illness that was both common and incurable at the time.

In the score, through the fairy tale, fear and longing are an undertow of the music in certain sections, as if Mozart intuitively knew that it was his last stage work.  This “otherwordly” and timeless resonance of human fate was clearly understood and interpreted in this production.

  • Share/Bookmark

Comments No Comments »

René Pape as Boris Godunov at the Met

From the very first notes of the orchestra, I thought: this music sounds like it was written now. How unexpected. I was delightfully surprised by the compelling clarity of the orchestration, the Russian melodies streamlined into a modern idiom, seamlessly conducted by Moscow’s Valery Gergiev.  The reason for the surprise was the revived original score (critical edition by Michael Rot) using the 1875 first published version and some elements of the original 1869 version.

This staple of grand opera with Bass lead role was heard through most of the 20th century in a revised version by Rimsky Korsakov – even Shostakovich  rearranged it.  And obviously, it is the score’s own modernity that was misunderstood. I heard elements of pre-minimalism in it… and it was a good call from the Met to choose this arrangement, with a very powerful  performance by Bass René Pape in the leading role.  I also noticed bass Mikhail Petrenko in the role of the monk Pimen – the scene where he sings standing over a giant book was remarkable both in terms of staging and singing.

There were many reviews of this outstanding piece already – I am sure you have seen the Tommasini article in the Times - and rather than reiterate what has already been well said, I would like to bring a different point of view. I see that the choice of subject relates to our reality, not just in a timeless manner as many operas would, but specifically in terms of power versus ethics. The hero, Boris Godunov, Tsar of Russia, comes to power through the murder of a child who is heir to the throne. This is not a proven historical fact, by the way, but certainly makes for an intense interplay of feelings, with the Tsar overcome with guilt and haunted by the memory of the act. The crux of the matter is, can one “stop at nothing” to attain power – while crowds of ordinary people are mistreated (the peasants in the Prologue). I can’t help to make a parallel with the way ruthless Wall Street leaders did not hesitate to enrich themselves from the misfortune of countless families losing their homes. However, whereas Boris is heroic in his struggle as he has a conscience, they seem to get away with what they have done, along with a collapse of ethical values as the economy spins out of control. In this respect, the new production of Boris is a courageous choice.

  • Share/Bookmark

Comments No Comments »

Once I was in a workshop where each participant was prompted to say “I am an expert in …. because…” and when my turn came, I began to explain that I practice in several fields including music composition and performance, technology, art and design – which was the wrong answer from the point of view of the workshop, but certainly an uncompromising answer, which makes it right for me.

The tendency to value over-specialization shrinks people’s minds to one particular field and may discourage forays into anything else. Marshall Coid is a perfect example of someone who did not “specialize” and is excellent in many disciplines: as a composer, a performer – not only as an outstanding violinist (he plays in the Broadway show Chicago every night), but also as a countertenor with remarkable technique and delightful tone. I  loved the way he interpreted the role of Ray Johnson in Orfreo, one of my operatic collaborations with Michael Andre. I consider Marshall a kindred spirit, a Renaissance mind who is interested in all related things (did I mention his acting, musical direction, and conducting?)…

I am particularly fond of one-composer events, as they provide perspective and insight into someone’s music, while listening to various orchestrations, music of different time periods in the composer’s life, and recent work.   I have revisited Marshall Coid’s opera The Bundle Man many times and have always liked his music, which shows a unique  sense of melody, harmony and dissonance.

On this all-Coid concert, I heard  Tempest Songs (after Shakespeare) for countertenor, flute, oboe, string quartet and harpsichord; Cityscape, for flute, oboe, string quintet and harpsichord; Soon the Radiance, a recent work for solo violin which I found strangely emotional with a very lush violin sound and legato melodies, while an aging male dancer in black veils slowly girated; unusually touching,  the piece made me think of the radiance  associated with “going towards the light” right after dying – the myth provides some degree of comfort even if it is one; I have no idea what kind of  “radiance” was meant by the composer and I didn’t ask, because I thought any radiance would do in this case, and so it did for me. Marshall’s violin sound was vibrant, passionate, spiritual. The piece was followed by a new string quartet, a recent commission.  The love of legato for strings is another element that I share with Marshall: he can write an enchanting piece for strings without using pizz at all, with dynamic consonance to dissonance overlapping the instruments, in his modestly titled String Quartet in One Movement.

The concert closed with the hilariously very well crafted Vampire Cantata actually I was at the first performance several years ago (was in on Halloween?), and for this occasion, the musicians were clad in black capes, however not without dignity.

The Queen’s Chamber Band (core members Elaine Comparone, harpsichord; Robert Zubricky, violin; Lori Miller, violin; Veronica Salas, viola; Peter Seidenberg, cello; Marsha Heller, oboe and guest performers Judith Mendenhall, flute and Logan Coale, double bass) gave a sincere performance, smooth and deeply felt; it really seemed as though everyone was playing from the heart and really enjoying Marshall’s music, as did the audience.  So many times, in other events, I have deplored that a new piece was obviously under-rehearsed and kind of rushed through, without enough time spent to digest and interpret. In this case, it is just the opposite: a polished, elegant and reflected performance. The performers have exceptional stage presence especially Elaine Comparone, the harpsichordist extraordinaire, and deliver spoken lines and act as well as play instruments.

For more than ten years, The Queen’s Chamber Band and Harpsichord Unlimited have produced an entire program of new music every spring.  This makes the ensemble very special. They should be recognized for the great service they provide to the music community in presenting new compositions for Baroque ensemble – which otherwise would never be heard – as the norm for other Baroque ensembles is to limit their sights to music of written before a certain year (usually early 19th century).

This unusual concert took place at St Marks on the Bowery, on Sunday Mary 23 at 3PM. It was packed.

  • Share/Bookmark

Comments No Comments »

In the mid-20th century, the composer was still a rare individual with very specialized knowledge, skills and years of training, making complicated mathematical statements that were hard on the ear. Composers were still considered as a kind of mysterious and elusive lot… mostly male in gender, as that occupation had not been open to women, with a few exceptions.

Now at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, not only women composers (who have emerged in large numbers in the latter part of the 20th century), but just about everyone can be a composer right at home with a computer. Styles are so numerous that it is difficult to even draw up a list. There is at this point in time an explosion of musical styles that reflect different social environments, histories, geographies, ethnicities, coming together as a global culture, and as far as I am concerned they are all valid, from the street to the Metropolitan Opera.

Composing is demystified. It is not the pride and privilege of an elite. Everyone can afford access to music composition and production tools – some like GarageBand are readily available free with every Mac computer. This program offers a very intuitive interface and a series of musical loops that can be arranged and manipulated into songs. Like a child’s construction set, it comes in pieces to rearrange. And everyone has the opportunity to get into the game of songwriting and composing. Even the tone deaf could do it.

It is interesting that while music is widely distributed through free or low-cost downloads, therefore becoming accessible to millions of people, the general interest for music has expanded considerably. And in typical 21st century fashion, people want to “interact” with the music;  they want to create it themselves and make use of the tools that are available – hundreds of affordable software packages (Logic, Reason, Cubase, Digital Performer, Ableton, Kontakt, and many more) teach everything from songwriting to composing to sound manipulation to music production, while notation software (Finale, Sibelius) can display a score from a performance on a midi keyboard without anyone sitting down to write it. The new DAW (digital audio workstation) software is forgiving for those who do not have much keyboarding technique. With Reason, for instance, you can actually pencil in your notes – they appear as little rectangles. Which means you can create something using a visual interface without having to play an instrument and without knowledge of traditional music notation. I think this is a break-through in terms of creativity.

I am particularly sensitive to this turn of events because of my current teaching job at New York City College of Technology where I introduce both musicians and non-musicians to the creation of music on the computer. Some non-musicians are thrilled that they actually can enjoy the type of self-expression that is afforded by their own music. Some students tell me that they dreamed about making music but felt inadequate because they did not have training on an instrument. It’s been a long time since schools offered music classes, and a lot of people miss them.

When I went to elementary school I had weekly music classes and choir practice as part of the regular curriculum; we  had public performances where the school children sang and played the recorder. In high school I remember performing in the chorus of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, again part of the high school program. I know… it was in Europe. But that early education may have had a powerful impact on my desire to make music.

Now the education in America is science and technology oriented. It is therefore not surprising that music creativity is finding some new outlets with technology and computers. Even cell phone ring tones make a statement about a favorite piece or can be easily created by the users themselves. Music still is a very important part of our lives… it just comes through different channels.

  • Share/Bookmark

Comments No Comments »

New York is teeming with various benefits for Haiti – famous models, even Iggy Pop get involved in supporting this worthy cause… Gerald Hammill of Other Music has curated a benefit even.  Funds will go to Doctors Without Borders and also support a special mission to Haiti. The fest is taking place at Public Assembly in Williamsburg (70 North 6th) starting at 8 PM.

This is an especially momentous event for me as I will have the chance to premiere a new set of French tangos with Jonathan Hirschman on guitar. I am playing the tangos on synthesizer some on a sparkling piano sound and some very much like a bandoneon. Some may wonder why I am seemingly suddenly doing tango… Actually I have a long history with tango: my first tango was prompted by a friend in Paris, painter Robert Malaval who simply asked me to “write him a tango”. And so I did, even though I was in the throes of my punk days back then, hair pink or shaved, using early synths and dysfunctional TVs in my performances. But I loved tango music and I did write the piece but it was not performed at the time. When Malaval died (shot himself) about ten years later I remembered the piece and started playing it in his memory.  An instrumental version was published by Tellus as a cassette along with tangos by David Garland, Zeena Parkins and other composers on the scene.  I also recorded a version with a vocal in French. But this remained in the drawer for some 20 years until it was unearthed by Unseen Worlds to be included in the Piano Works Revisited 2-CD set they just released.  Last year I performed this tango at Issue Project Room and several of my artists friends said “we want more tangos”…

The Tango set is part of a series of charity events that will take place in March and April as Jonathan and I volunteer in several Lower East Side Nursing Homes. We will also perform at Lafayette Bar & Grill on Saturday, March 27 at 8PM, a fundraiser for Lower East Side Performing Arts to support new venues for artists downtown.

Coming back to Arms Around  Haiti, not only will I perform the new Tangos composed in Paris this winter but I will also perform with Arthur’s Landing, along with old members of the Arthur Russell group and some of my oldest friends including Steven Hall (voice, guitar) Peter Zummo (trombone)  Mustafa Ahmed (percussion) Bill Ruyle, (drums) John Scherman (guitar), Joyce Bowden (voice) an Ernie Brooks (bass). We have been recording an album together this winter for Strut and I have really enjoyed the band and found the Arthur Russell material refreshing after years of working in strictly classical music, although there are classical elements in this essentially crossover music that weaves many styles in a unique way.

To sing or not to sing… definitely an issue for me, as I got tired of being pushed into a more ‘feminine’ singing role by males so I focused more on the keyboards and composing rather than the singing.  Early on I was a songwriter and singing came with the territory.  I had some opera training and later on Indian music training with LaMonte Young, Marian Zazeela and Pandit Pran Nath at the DIA Foundation and Akhmal Parwez at NYU – a lot of Indian music singing!  But as soon as I realized that I could use my voice to compose and have others sing, I was fulfilled.  I do enjoy singing on occasion, even if I don’t practise it very much. I can also do extended techniques – for which I do not have a lot of use these days…

But now that the Arthur Russell material is coming back, I am prompted to reconnect with vocals….and last Thursday I performed Arthur Russell’s “Go Bang” with Peter Gordon and members of Arthur’s Landing at Santos… funny that  I was never credited for my performance on the original version of Go Bang, given that I was then unknown, but you can definitely recognize my voice on certain sections of the Dinosaur L recording posted on Youtube. Conversely, in Arthur Russell’s “Miracle”  my involvement was acknowledged not only as a singer and keyboardist but as a co-writer. The tune was renamed “In The Light of The Miracle” by the record label Point because there were too many other songs named “Miracle” that were already published….but the tune was originally known to us creators as “Miracle” and I always found the other title fuddy-duddy. This is why I  renamed the new version of Miracle that I have been recording “Miracle 2″ and if there still are too many songs named Miracle 2 then it  could very well be “Miracle 2 U”!

So… do not miss this opportunity to catch up with us as performances like this are few and far between… If you need directions or map I have one posted on the web site:


  • Share/Bookmark

Comments No Comments »

fameMonsterWhen I first heard the name “Lady Gaga” I was both intrigued and amused. This choice of moniker reminded me of the punk days, when performers called themselves Vicious or Rotten…but to choose a name associated with elderly despondence is a sign of a certain sense of humor, which I found consistently in every aspect of her work. The lyrics contain gibberish phrases that even include the word gaga. The wigs, costumes and artifacts are extreme, and so are the storyboards of the videos, from soap-opera to rap. The young woman is obviously very intelligent as she  somehow manages to express certain interesting perceptions and feelings about people and society in her songs despite the commercialism of the package.  What I noticed is that, beyond the glitter and Vegas-ness of the performance, Lady Gaga somehow escapes vulgarity by keeping her gestures precise, never lascivious. She is perfect for the smart generation who shows us how to text on the cell and other technology tricks. Her message is purposely universal with a wide appeal to dance, rock and rap crowds of all ilks, persuasions and sexual preferences. Also she appears somehow twice removed from her own stage persona, possibly by the multiplicity of her characters.

  • Share/Bookmark

Comments No Comments »

We are living in strange times. I am contemplating the absurdity of a situation in which a nonprofit was denied funding not because of the project’s artistic merit (which was acknowledged) but because there were not enough people in attendance at the event (even though it was free of charge) and because the venue was “hard to find”.

Well, that’s food for thought. In face of the shrinking of the downtown scene, alternative spaces have to be found out of the rabbit’s ear so to speak, and venues that come without a rental fee are precious these days, although they may not offer the best facilities. It is currently very difficult to get people to go out – a lot of my friends have stopped going to events because even if the event itself is free, they hesitate to spend the subway fare or taxi. We are living through tough times. And god forbid it should be a rainy night then  no one will show. So the event is judged on the same criteria as a commercial event – how many people were there determines its success, not the piece that was presented -  and in that particular case the high-tech interactive screens and computer/camera setup took hours (the artists were up on ladders with hammers and nails with no tech help whatsoever), it is rather unrewarding for such painstaking work.

To reflect that these particular funders are unwilling to leverage the merit of the program versus the lack of attendance of one event out of a series leads to a vicious conundrum: not enough funding to properly market the event, not enough staff to coordinate outreach efforts which actually are very time-consuming and difficult to organize especially in terms of schedules, therefore no more funding for future programs, and get to the level at which funders will consider your efforts. This is enough to discourage any grass-root efforts to try and present culture in local neighborhoods, and certainly does not acknowledge good will – it’s a business, the art business, and maybe too much of a business at times for real artists who are more concerned with the work that they are producing than its ever-consuming promotion.

  • Share/Bookmark

Comments No Comments »

Usually after I finish a large-scale project such as The Two-Cents Opera, I find myself somewhat forlorn. After developing a piece for two or three years when it is done, there is almost a sense of loss. This has to do with the nature of musical activities – music is written and performed and gone… fortunately we have recordings, but there is nothing like a live performance and the excitement of being on stage with ten other people is really hard to match.

So I find myself lonely at the piano.The blues which was my first foray into songwriting, and I happened to notice how much the blues is in a way similar to the tango. There is an inherent melancholy of being in tango music, but it is offset by the dance rhythm and the ultimate rubato of the performance. Someone said about tango music that it is “a sad thought that is being danced.”

So I have been writing some tangos… and they may be a little bit French in some ways, as I recall the songs from my childhood – Edith Piaf, Juliette Greco, with actually good words by poets like Prevert and Boris Vian. My first tango was written in the 70s at the request of an artist friend, Robert Malaval, while in Paris. This predated my conversion to classical music.

A version of this tango (with a vocal in French) is on the new release from Unseen Worlds, Piano Works Revisited. Unseen Worlds carefully compiled recordings from Piano Works (Cat Collectors, 1983) and Concerto for Piano and Orchestral Memory (Cat Collectors, 1984, featuring performances by Peter Zummo and Arthur Russell), and also took the trouble to rescue a special live version of Sonate Modale in Toronto at the Music Gallery (1985), which has never been released. This release also includes my own performance of Variations on the Orange Cycle.

I have an on-off love affair with the piano. I am more often immersed in the synthesizers – hard or soft, physical or virtual – as they really draw me in, but once in a while I just have to return to the piano. It has become difficult to find a decent piano to play out downtown. Often they are not maintained and out of tune, or missing altogether from the performing space. For years I was keen on using alternative tunings such as Vallotti Young or Werckmeister III and I do prefer their more natural harmonies, but at this point I would be content to play a piano in standard tuning as long as it actually works! I had to sacrifice my grand piano as I moved to a smaller apartment… those are the times. And the one I have now – a German Neindorf from the 1920s – is nearly falling apart and I feel a great sadness as the snow falls continually.

I will perform tangos soon…
At a Haiti Benefit on March 12, 8PM – Public Assembly, Brooklyn
At Lafayette Bar and Grill on March 27, 54 Franklin St, 8PM
For details go to:

  • Share/Bookmark

Comments No Comments »