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Greenroom Composer Spotlight: Morton Subotnick's "Crowds and Power"



When Nonesuch Records released Morton Subotnick's Silver Apples of the Moon in 1967, it was the first electronic record ever to be commissioned by a classical record label. Recorded on a Buchla synthesizer, Subotnick developed a provocative and unfathomably original work the likes of which had never been heard before.

Now 50 years following that release, Subotnick is the subject of a new documentary film and the centerpiece of a three-night series of live performances at Lincoln Center Festival, including Silver Apples as well as the world premiere of a bold new work, Crowds and Power. Musicologist Ted Gordon explores Subotnick's legacy and takes an early look at his newest composition in a new PSNY Greenroom feature. Read the feature here.

Andrew Norman in the PSNY Greenroom



PSNY recently sat down in the Greenroom with Andrew Norman
to discuss his first opera—A Trip to the Moon—which is set to premiere at the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, on June 17th. Inspired by George Méliès' 1902 silent film A Trip to the Moon, Norman has written a work that deftly combines his compositional intensity with idiomatic vocal writing, creating an opera ostensibly for children that retains a much wider scope. Co-commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, A Trip to the Moon will have its UK premiere on July 9 and US premiere on March 2, 2018. 

In developing the work, Norman comments, 

What appealed to me the most about this story was the fact that I could use it to explore how communities deal with the 'other' in their midst. This is, of course, timely in all sorts of ways all over the world.  I was deeply affected by contemporary events while writing the opera, and in many ways this project is a response to the devastating rhetoric of fear, anger, and hate toward the other that I see welling up in so many places.

Check out the full discussion, along with a sampling of Norman's other works, here.

Vijay Iyer's "Trouble" at Ojai and Beyond

As the Music Director of the 2017 Ojai Festival, Vijay Iyer believes that festival-goers will "discover a great deal—not just about music, but about themselves." Stacking the festival program with close collaborators such as violinist Jennifer Koh, and legendary ensembles such as the AACM and ICE, Iyer wants to force an "update" of what contemporary music can mean today. 

On June 8th, Iyer will perform the American premiere of Emergence for jazz trio and orchestra, along with bassist Stephan Crump, drummer Tyshawn Shorey and the International Contemporary Ensemble alongside players of the Oberlin Conservatory Contemporary Music Ensemble. Emergence, which premiered in 2016, combines the forms and notational traditions of classical music with the possibilities of improvised traditions, asking performers to listen to each other in real time and make performative decisions. 


(Koh with Oberlin Sinfonietta and Tim Weiss in workshop performance of "Trouble"; photo: Yevhen Gulenko, courtesy of Oberlin Conservatory)

That evening's concert also includes the world premiere of Trouble, featuring violinist Jennifer Koh, accompanied by ICE and the Oberlin Contemporary Ensemble, and led by Steven Schick. Trouble is a violin concerto in three movements, the second of which is dedicated to Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American auto-worker killed in a hate crime in 1982. During rehearsals at Oberlin, Koh's colleague Claire Solomon, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies and Comparative Literature, was inspired to write a "voluntary response" to the piece (you can read Solomon's full account in our PSNY Greenroom, part of our new "Composer Spotlights" series). As Solomon writes, 

Trouble opens up something scarce and endangered that classical music doesn’t even know it needs. Trouble isn’t programmatically anti-racist; it doesn’t represent Chin’s murder but testifies to the rhythmic relay of lives of which his was only one, and demands that we see the pattern. It grieves the racial tragedy that shapes our future because we do not work through it, and it opens up a space for what Derrida called the work of mourning as he might have pointed out an area for his cleaning lady to take care of – but Trouble doesn’t let us off the hook as rubberneckers; it summons us to a reckoning. As Vijay said in the Museum Q&A, it pins us to the present: a moment in which to tell white audiences not to be racist.

Trouble will also be performed at UC Berkeley and Tanglewood, both of which co-commissioned the work.  

The rest of the Ojai Festival is packed with talks and performances, including two that feature flautist Claire Chase. On June 9th, Chase will perform excerpts from Marcos Balter's Pan, and on June 10th, Chase performs a free pop-up concert of Mario Diaz de Leon's Labrys and Mysterium

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