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Posts tagged 'Beth Morrison Projects'

Spotlight on Mary Kouyoumdjian

Over the past decade, Mary Kouyoumdjian has explored music's power to respond to both historical and contemporary social and political realities both by evoking complex emotions through her unique musical aesthetic and also incorporating the sounds from history itself into that aesthetic: a kind of documentary music-making that bravely confronts conflict. 2015's Silent Cranes, for example, addresses the Armenian genocide that displaced her own family one hundred years earlier, by incorporating testimony by genocide survivors, as well as contemporaneous field recordings of Armenian folk songs.

Kouyoumdjian continues to explore the emotional, political, and cathartic possibilities of music's reaction to history with a set of ongoing collaborative projects that invent new ways for music to harness its communicative power. Adoration, an opera in development with Beth Morrison Projects, is an adaptation of the Atom Egoyan film of the same name. It tells the story of Simon, an orphaned high school student who, for a high school English assignment, appropriates the details of a terrorist attack as an explanation for his parents' death. When Simon's narrative goes viral online, he uses the fervor to highlight racism and bigotry within his own community and on the internet. Simon's late parents, a violin maker and a concert violinist, serve as a bridge between the libretto, written by Royce Fabric, and the music—a string quartet. Kouyoumdjian's writing for string quartet will incorporate electronics, sampled field recordings, and documentary audio footage, enveloping the audience in a multi-sensory environment. 

Kouyoumdjian's interest in multi-media narrative will also be explored in Paper Pianos, an ongoing project in collaboration with Alarm Will Sound. This evening-length work has grown out of interviews conducted by Kouyoumdjian with director Nigel Meister with four refugees and resettlement workers: the Afghan pianist Milad Yousufi, Getachew Bashir (Ethiopia), Hani Ali (Somalia), and Akil Aljaysh (Iraq). Kouyoumdjian's music incorporates audio from these interviews, and is also accompanied by live animation by Syrian artist Kevork Mourad. The piece takes its title from Milad Yousufi's story of creating a silent "paper piano" while in Afghanistan to avoid deadly punishment from the Taliban, and is a meditation on the power of music, community, and communication to respond to the inhumanity of war, displacement, and violence. 

Kouyoumdjian is also in residence this year at Buffalo String Works, which since 2014 has been offering musical education to refugee populations in the greater Buffalo area. Kouyoumdjian will compose a new work for over 85 students, bringing the emotive power of her music to young performers to experience as performers, as well as their families as audience members. 

Ted Hearne's "Coloring Book" On Tour with Roomful of Teeth

Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth is currently touring the country, with stops in Colorado, New Mexico, Washington, DC, Rochester, and many more in between. Their program features Ted Hearne's  Coloring Book, which they commissioned and premiered in 2015. Coloring Book consists of five songs, which set text by Zora Neale Hurston, Claudia Rankine, and James Baldwin.

Hearne's musical and political work is tied deeply to current issues surrounding power, identity, and resistance in contemporary America. After premiering in 2014 at BAM, his ambitious "modern-day oratorio" The Source, which sets texts from Wikileaks and deals with the life of Chelsea Manning, has been performed at the LA Opera, reviewed by Pitchfork, and released as an album on New Amsterdam Records. With Manning's recent presidential pardon by Barack Obama, Hearne's music is more powerful and topical than ever. 

Hearne's music will also be heard at National Sawdust on February 3rd, in an evening of music performed by The Crossing and produced by Beth Morrison Projects. Sound from the Bench collects works by Hearne that set legal and judicial texts to music, directly addressing the affective power that the American justice system has over our everyday lives. Sound from the Bench includes a performance of Hearne's Consent, for 16 voices. An album of Hearne's choral works recorded by The Crossing will be released via Cantaloupe Music on March 24. Check out an excerpt of Consent below. 

Ted Hearne's "The Source" in Los Angeles and San Francisco

"A 21st-century masterpiece. Remarkabe and essential. It does what great art should: It pushes you to think and feel about the world in new ways."
— The New York Times

Ted Hearne's ambitious opera project, The Source, will see its West Coast Premiere in an upcoming tour to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Originally commissioned and produced by Beth Morrison Projects, The Source explores the identity of Chelsea Manning, the source of hundreds of thousands of leaked texts given to WikiLeaks, through "an assemblage of Twitter feeds, cable news reports, chat transcripts, and classified military video." Hearne's powerful work positions four singers around the audience, surrounded by a four-channel video installation, with an ensemble of seven players.

Featuring vocalists Mellissa Hughes, Samia Mounts, Isaiah Robinson and Jonathan Woody, The Source's West Coast tour will premiere at LA Opera on October 19th; the production will move to the San Francisco Opera's SF Opera Lab on February 24th

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