Sarah Kirkland Snider and Nathaniel Bellows: Memories of Unremembered

/
An hourlong cycle of 13 songs for three vocalists, chamber orchestra, and electronics, 'Unremembered' is the most extensive project to date from the composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, who collaborated with an old friend and renewed acquaintance, Nathaniel Bellows, a noted poet, novelist, singer-songwriter, and illustrator. Now touring the piece, Snider and Bellows sat down recently to trawl through memories of 'Unremembered.'

Spektral Quartet: Celebrity for a Day, Feldman for Six Hours

/
I can’t think of any more profound contradiction to the Grammys than Morton Feldman’s Quartet No. 2. You may have heard that our album 'Serious Business' was nominated this year in the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble category. Our good buddies (and Chicago neighbors) in Third Coast Percussion took home the prize for their superlative Steve Reich album… and we took home some indelible memories.

Amanda Gookin: The Art of Revolution

/
Springtime is nearly upon us – some days lately have felt like it's already here, plus ça climate change – and with the new season's arrival comes a fresh programmatic thrust at National Sawdust: Spring Revolution, a festival that focuses this year on female empowerment and discourse. The series gets off to a strong start on Wednesday, March 1, with a performance by Amanda Gookin, a cellist, activist, organizer, and founding member of PUBLIQuartet.

Caroline Polachek and Choral Chameleon: Giving Useful Music a Voice

/
Up until now, the versatile singer, songwriter, and producer Caroline Polachek has been best known for her work as the singer for the popular, adventurous pop duo Chairlift. Now, as part of Polachek's National Sawdust residency, her recent electronic project comes to life onstage February 23 and 24, with new vocals supplied by the adventurous vocal chamber ensemble Choral Chameleon.

James Rhodes: Music Has Quite Literally Saved My Life

/
Music has infiltrated and influenced our lives as much as nature, literature, art, sport, religion, philosophy and television. It is the great unifier, the drug of choice for teenagers around the world. It provides solace, wisdom, hope and warmth and has done so for thousands of years. It is medicine for the soul. There are eighty-eight keys on a piano and within that, an entire universe. The unassailable fact is that music has, quite literally, saved my life and, I believe, the lives of countless others.

David Smooke: Narrative Possibilities and Exploding Boundaries

/
One of my favorite things about composer David Smooke is how wide open his ears are. No matter how bizarre the music, he will want to check it out. His own music demonstrates this sort of receptivity in its colorful variety, dramatic textures and quirky spirit. The works on his debut portrait album, Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, range from brooding and creepy to funky and joyous, wrapped up a combination of thoughtful composition and spontaneous improvisations.

Performance Response: Yuka Honda, Revert to Sea

/
How vital is it to know the literary underpinnings of what's essentially an abstract musical work? Does something fundamental get lost in translation, so to speak, when you hear such a work without knowing the literature that inspired it?

Performance Response: Ariodante Workshop at National Sawdust

/
I am on my way to see a workshop of a "new performing edition" of Handel’s four-hour opera Ariodante, the vision of director R. B. Schlather and musical director Geoffrey McDonald. I am nervous and slightly cynical about what “new” means to an opera composed in 1734, and how contemporary rhetoric keeps sending the message that opera is dead and everyone needs to bring it back to life. Am I going to another post-modern memorial service?

Another Brooklyn: Reflections on Race, Response, and Reconcilation

/
When Jacqueline Woodson, a writer of beautiful and arresting works, agreed to host and curate a National Sawdust+ program – quickly tapping her “dream team” Toshi Reagon and Carl Hancock Rux to join her – I knew we were in for a powerful evening. But I had no idea it would prove so provocative an experience, eliciting reactions from the audience that ranged from deep sadness to tremendous inspiration on that cold December night.