Summer Writing Projects

Though COVID sadly (but understandably) canceled what would have been my third summer working at the Aspen Music Festival and School, I am grateful to have received a few writing opportunities from Aspen as well as the Music Academy of the West in Montecito. Below are the fruits of that labor, which take the form of both blog posts and program notes for each festival’s virtual summer season. Click the highlighted links below to read each piece. Enjoy!

(There might be one more blog post in the pipeline for Music Academy of the West, but I’m not 100% sure at the moment. If it does go through, I will add it to the list below.)

“Driven into Paradise: Émigré Composers at the Music Academy of the West” – Blog post (Music Academy of the West, July 4, 2020)

“What’s in a (Nick)name?” – Program note for a virtual, spliced-together performance of the finale from Haydn’s “London” Symphony, played by Academy fellows (Music Academy of the West, July 9, 2020)

“Notes Before a Recital” – Two program notes for a virtual recital of Handel, Bach, Ives, and Bolcom, presented by pianist Jeremy Denk (Music Academy of the West, July 16, 2020)

“Serious Frivolity: Juggling the Profound and the Lighthearted in Beethoven’s Third and Fifth Cello Sonatas” – Blog post accompanying a virtual recital of two of Beethoven’s Cello Sonatas, performed by cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan (Aspen Music Festival and School, July 27, 2020)

The LSO’s 30 Day Classical Challenge

One small but fun thing that I have enjoyed during quarantine is participating in a 30 Day Classical Challenge on Instagram. Hosted by the London Symphony Orchestra, followers of the orchestra’s Instagram account were encouraged to take a screenshot of the pink bingo card-like template and each day, share one piece of classical music that fit the category. Naturally, I couldn’t resist and had a blast coming up with and sharing my selections each morning.

To the right is a picture of the LSO’s official template, and below is a listing and Spotify playlist of my own picks. (My goal was to select a totally different composer each day, but I accidentally chose two selections by Ravel. Whoops!) Anyway, free to use the orchestra’s template and create/share your own version!

  • Day 1: A piece that makes you want to dance – Márquez: Danzón No. 2
  • Day 2: A piece that reminds you of nature – Ravel: L’enfant et les sortilèges
  • Day 3: A piece to help you sleep – Bach: Trio Sonata from The Musical Offering
  • Day 4: A piece that’s epic! – Messiaen: Turangalîla-Symphonie
  • Day 5: A piece that reminds you of summer – Stravinsky: The Soldier’s Tale
  • Day 6: A piece with an unexpected instrument – Ligeti: Violin Concerto
  • Day 7: A piece about mornings – Haydn: Symphony No. 6, “Le matin”
  • Day 8: A piece to sing along to – Copland: Old American Songs, “I bought me a cat”
  • Day 9: A piece for romantics – Clara Schumann: 3 Romances, op. 11
  • Day 10: A piece about the ocean – Ravel: Une barque sur l’océan
  • Day 11: A piece to play LOUDLY – Adams: Harmonium, III. “Wild Nights”
  • Day 12: A piece that’s brand new – Shaw: The Listeners
  • Day 13: A piece about the woods – Weber: Der Freischütz, Hunter’s Chorus
  • Day 14: A piece about city life – Ellington: Harlem
  • Day 15: A piece about unrequited love – Schubert: Winterreise
  • Day 16: A piece to accompany a storm – Britten: Peter Grimes, “The Storm”
  • Day 17: A piece that’s full of drama – Shostakovich: Symphony No. 4
  • Day 18: A piece inspired by a legend – Clarke: Morpheus
  • Day 19: A piece that’s full of melancholy – Pärt: De profundis
  • Day 20: A piece about an animal – Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie, “Rossignols amoureux”
  • Day 21: A piece by a living composer – Thorvaldsdottir: Aeriality
  • Day 22: A piece that reminds you of home – Chopin: Scherzo No. 1
  • Day 23: A piece with a stunning solo part – Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 2
  • Day 24: A piece that’s inspiring – Price: Symphony No. 1
  • Day 25: A piece you know thanks to someone special – Poulenc: Les biches
  • Day 26: A piece about a place – Higdon: All Things Majestic
  • Day 27: A piece about a person – Handel: Giulio Cesare
  • Day 28: A piece with a number in the title – Feldman: Madame Press Died Last Week at Ninety
  • Day 29: A piece about space – Adès: Polaris (Voyage for Orchestra)
  • Day 30: A piece that’s BIG – Mahler: Symphony No. 8, “Symphony of a Thousand”

Krumping with Rameau

As I stated in my November 2018 post “Debussy + Trampoline (shameless self-plug!), in the art world, there are times when the combination of two or more dissimilar elements can lead to something truly astonishing and transporting.

Another case in point: this incredible production of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s 1735 opera Les Indes galantes. Rameau’s work is technically an opéra-ballet, which unites both sung and danced elements to create a dramatic whole. In this particular staging, from the Paris Opera in fall 2019, Baroque music and period instruments live in harmony with… krumping? Yup. For their updated reimagining, film director Clément Cogitore and choreographer Bintou Dembélé chose to use modern dance styles throughout the opera instead of historically-accurate ballet.

The original opera is, quite frankly, a bit of a Eurocentric (i.e., racist) mess from a modern standpoint. The plot follows various love stories set in “exotic” locations (the Ottoman Empire, Peru, Persia, North America) and ends with a peaceful coming-together of Europeans and Native Americans courtesy of a “savage” dance. Yikes and double yikes. However, this modern staging somehow appears to transcend all of that, more bluntly addressing issues of prejudice, otherness, and what it truly means to be a global community.

At the very least, though, it’s a mesmerizing production to watch. Check out the video below and see for yourself…