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Week 3 – The Lou Reed Approach?

Updated: Nov 14, 2018

After my third week, I feel I may have become a surly New Yorker. After seeing many artless projections accompany new music concerts, I’ve had to encourage myself to adopt the Lou Reed approach. According one of my biggest inspirations Laurie Anderson, this involves seeing something good in everything, especially new art. Or at least that’s how I’ve interpreted it.

And really I must hope that people can be that generous towards me, because I fear I may have turned into New York’s biggest ‘gripper’. This is a term I learned from Jazz musicians, and refers to a member of the audience who swoops on an artist after the show, and doesn’t let go.

I have limited time here, and as a result I’ve had to move much faster than I would naturally when it comes to making connections. I’ve also crammed in as many events as I could…

I was amazed to be allowed to sit in on a composers’ seminar at Columbia University, thanks to Hannah Kendall, to hear Tyondai Braxton speak about his music. It was followed by a discussion about orchestral behaviour and expectation. One thought that’s stayed with me is George Lewis’s impression of the orchestra as “a collection of historically imprinted bodies”.

While visiting Columbia I glimpsed some traditional Augenmusik which has influenced my graphic scores, and I also heard Mahan Esfahani perform a concert of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier paired with contemporary pieces. Handel got an earful, and someone got the side-eye for rustling their programme, but other than that it was a welcoming platform for exquisite old music and exciting new.

I arrived there after chatting with Chris Cerrone, a composer whose opera/theatre work was shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize. It was great to meet in his Brooklyn neighbourhood. I had explored some of its dodgier areas by blindly following google maps to a point that I was so convinced I’d be mugged, I moved my passport and phone to my coat pocket so I could just hand over my bag like a welcome pack.

I don't want to be rude about my host city, so here are some images of some cool sites/sights:

The Bad Plus at the Village Vanguard was fun, and when a cab refused to return me to Brooklyn I shared a Lyft with a self-proclaimed homeless man who’d sold all his LA possessions to travel, and saves on hotels by doing a jazz-crawl of NYC until the early hours.

It was nice to contrast all the music with a visit to the Fridman Gallery and its sonic art exhibit by UK-based Aura Satz . It featured images of some of my favourite women in electronic music. One of them was actually there, but I ran away before I could say anything regrettable. I think an opening night was not the best time to hear the detailed sounds of the exhibit, as it was crammed with enthusiastic, noisy and creatively dressed people who genuinely looked like pirates (though sadly didn’t sound like them).

Last night, I heard the string quartet rehearse with the Melodia Women’s Choir of NYC, and it was beautiful. I wrote for strings because Zitkala-Sà, to whom my piece is dedicated, was a violinist herself. The final movement begins with solo voice and violins as a tribute to the music she collected for her Sun Dance Opera, the first of its kind. I'm looking forward to the weekend performances...

Zitkala-Sa in 1898

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Philip Tagney
Philip Tagney
Jan 16, 2019

great blog! I love the term "gripper" - haven't heard that before. And amazing photo of Zitkala-Sa with Matisse-like backdrop

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