Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Not Dead

Oh dear yes. It's been a good while. Do I have a damn thing to say? Lessee...

I probably need to add Nico Muhly not only to my blogroll but to my own habitual reading--he seems awfully clever with the words (um yes that is my way of admitting I'm 100% ignorant of his music) and all my friends like him, so yes. It's on my list of things to do. One of these aforementioned friends pointed me at his most recent posting, which includes the funny if also frustrating statement "I fear an opera queen, I have to tell you" and some musings on same, and on what differentiates oq's from new music people. I think what would be kind of hilarious is to get a turf war, a real Jets/Sharks rumble, going between opera queens and new music fans, as there is surprisingly little overlap so it could be total carnage. Me, I don't think I could characterize new music fans as a group, although I have this idea they all daydream about getting gang-banged by Eighth Blackbird.

Anyway Friday* found me at the one place, that particular day, you might find a number of Sharks and Jets, that being of course the Armory. No, we weren't arming ourselves for the rumble, just attending the Lincoln Center Festival's massive production of Die Soldaten. By the way as much as it's a default to look to Alex Ross on these matters, I'd have to say I found his piece on Die Soldaten particularly illuminating, so go read it if you can get past the terribly, terribly controversial cover of this week's issue. (Most sincerely I say: do not get me started.)

So, Die Soldaten is a tough one for opera queens per se, at least if you think of us as living purely for pretty yodeling. There are, as the AR piece points out, not a lot of interesting vocal lines--and this is not just a matter of being atonal, because god knows Berg manages--but then [and at this point, like Puccini, I lay down my pen, and have to try and remember what I was saying.] Well say, I'm in Cleveland now, and have you ever taken the train? Because there's this odd moment if you're in the station next to another train where you're not sure if your train is moving or the other is, and it's--for like a second--deeply disorienting, almost nauseating.

This effect is put to astonishing use in the now long gone production of Die Soldaten. I am telling you this, despite the fact that I found it the more thrilling for not expecting it, because you can't see it now, but the very first thing that happens is you and everyone else watching notice that the center runway thingy is moving except then it turns out YOU ARE MOVING TOWARD THE STAGE across the gigantic hall of the armory. You've probably read about that by now, but I think it's the most radical theatrical effect I've ever experienced, for all it may seem, what, gimmicky? I was sitting two rows behind Laurie Anderson, total thrill in itself, and because I get these daydreams where I am pals with famous people, but only really high quality ones, I wanted to go up to her and say, super casual-like, "so did you ever think of moving your audience around? Hey, I like your earrings."

Missed opportunity for transition there, because I did in fact see Laurie Anderson's show "Homeland" a couple of weeks later, but first I will note that my immediate reaction to Die Soldaten was something to the tune of "that was great, and I never want to see it again" (because, honestly, the raped-by-Santa-Claus thing is not something you're up for all the damn time) and yet, a few weeks later, I'm having to recant. If Mortier's plan for entertainingly obliterating City Opera includes it, you will find me there with bells on. Sleigh bells. Ew.

[It was an obvious target for wit, but my favorite comments were "and here I thought Santa only came down the chimney" and a bewildered humming of "I saw Mommie kissing Santa Claus." Don't dare say my friends aren't funny or I will cut you, bearing in mind that the phrase "cut you" is getting moldy.]

Oh I had so much more to say about Die Soldaten. Eheu, fugaces labuntur blatherings.

Anyway yes I did see "Homeland," my fourth Laurie Anderson show and probably my favorite, and not wholly because it was so lovely to see her kiss Lou Reed on the cheek. One number, apparently not written originally for this show, bids fair to be a classic moment of Laurie Anderson in the mold of "O Superman" though wholly, wholly different. The song is "Only an expert can deal with the problem" and it's quizzically angry where Superman comes from that hypnotic L.Anderson place, topical rather than cryptic, but especially in the current arrangement, which isn't yet on youtube, electrifying. It's a spare show, not much tech beyond the vocoder, but well paced and a good mix of song and the kind of fractured narrative, in her somehow very comforting artificial cadence.

I don't know how it will fare as an album, but then I don't think much of her stuff easily becomes a 100% aural experience. There's something so integral to the experience about watching her create it. During "The End of the Moon" at BAM, I saw her, of all people, have a tech breakdown, and it was a traumatic crack in the thereto unconscious feeling that she just stages her concerts in her head and manages to invite you in by force of will.

Here's a story I like from her interview with The Onion's AV Club about the time she worked at a McDonald's in the city for a brief period:

...I went in thinking, "I'm going to see a factory." How do you make things that appeal to a mass audience, whether you're making hamburgers, or CDs, or whatever? How much sugar do you put in these things? And, in fact, I had a great experience there. I really loved the people I worked with, and it was very surprising to me....I just went in and got the half-page application form and started working there. People I knew did come in, and I would look at them, and they would look at me. I would say, "Good morning, welcome to McDonalds," whatever. And I thought, "They're going to say something," so I'd wink, and they didn't recognize me at all. I'm standing three feet away from them, but because I wasn't supposed to be there, I wasn't. It was really odd.

In the program notes, by the way, she professes a disdain for blogging, so I guess that's not gonna be my entree for how she and I are going to hang out and go for coffee and stuff.

So this is my Lincoln Center Festival posting I guess. I also went to see Liam/Ralph Fiennes/Neeson, never have known which is which, in Beckett's Eh Joe but really, what can you say about that? But really, this time. It's half an hour of a guy silently looking worried as he's taunted by a female voice (in the original televised production, Sian Phillips.) The actor's craft is, I daresay, a bit invisible in this one, though I'm happy to have gone; Beckett, I am coming to find this year after a lifetime of ignorance of his stuff, is rarely irrelevant. So.

Coming soon, soon being "within the next month" I may post about Regina Spektor. Just because.

*Many, many Fridays ago at the time this...may go out.