from Saturday, February20th of the year2010.
Guess what! While everybody was sleeping, Bedroom Community has put out two super-exciting new releases.
First, Valgeir wrote the soundtrack to the film DraumalandiÃ°, which itself is an adaptation of a wonderful book. Check out the book/film website here. The soundtrack is a crazy amalgam of electronic sounds, acoustic sounds, long melodies, and short repetitive patterns. I play a lot on it, conducted it, and co-wrote one of the trax. Nadia played on it too; we threw her on a plane to Iceland for three days to lay down what turned out to be some iconic viola solos. Get into it here.
Then, a new addition to the Bedroom Community Roster: DanÃel Bjarnason and his first album Processions. It is a series of works in assorted sizes, from the intimate to a giant piano concerto. I adore SÃ¦unn Ãžorsteinsdóttir, the cellist, who is all over this album. This album is exciting for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that it has chamber and orchestral music under the same roof. This doesn’t always happen. Also, electronic content is elegantly folded into the texture of the music just as, say, an oboe would be; it’s not electro-acoustic music, it’s just music.
I went last night to the Philadelphia premiere of Tan Dun’s opera Tea: A Mirror of Soul. As with the best pieces, its triumphs and problems are encapsulated by the title. What I believe he means is Tea: A Mirror of the Soul, right? The libretto, which the composer co-wrote, is in a very stylized version of English. What you end up with is lines like “though bowl is empty, scent glows… though shadow is gone, dream grows.”
I am going to be really honest here and just say that I don’t really know where to file this re: like, Race & Language. This shit was written IN ENGLISH; the music is gorgeous, poetic, and fluid; surely this Mr. Miyagi-ass grammar is a hindrance to the flow? Or should I say: Pidgin: A Hindrance to Flow? The “bowl is empty” line occurs six or seven times over the course of the opera; each time, the vocal line would actually be helped by adding “the” to it. I will confess here to Not Getting It. All of this reaches a particularly distressing point with the climactic sex scene:
oolong, dark dragon, rises.
moli, jasmine flower, opens.
loonching, dragon well, overflows.
Okay. I think I just have to leave that alone. The commas, the dragon…I think it is speaking from a Place to which I Have No Access. Does anybody else know what a dragon well is? Because I didn’t. Apparently it’s Longjing tea? So then that line should read as, “pressing the Longjing tea, Longjing tea overflows?” If that’s what it means, what does that mean? The lines are translated inside themselves? Do I need to file this under “is you is or is you ain’t my lotus blossom?” I will leave you with my overall impression which is that the music is beyond gorgeous, an overflowing stew of textures, lines, and geologically percussive textures, all in the service of a libretto that literally sounds like a series of fortune cookies strung together in order to teach us the age-old lesson that Str8 Men Will Kill Each Other 4 Pussy.
(I will add here that it was fabulous to see that the three onstage percussionists were Haruka, Chihiro, and Yuri, all three my gurlz from Juilliard, whom Tan Dun employed with a series of Dada-esque tasks: ripping paper, spanking water, molesting giant scrolls).
What I am interested in, here, though, is the idea that maybe I’m crazy and maybe what occurred, vis-Ã -vis That Libretto, is totally great and fine and I’m just having a strange reaction. But the other thing is this: thousands of people have seen this opera, in a variety of stages. Did anybody every perhaps lightly interrogate the libretto? This is an issue particularly close to my heart at this time; my opera which is happening at the ENO in two years and at the Met in four had a workshop in October. We (that being me, the Met, the ENO, the director, the librettist) invited a small group of friends and trusted advisers to come and hear it, and before we started, I told everybody that one of the conditions of their presence was that they be completely frank about anything that struck them as weird: length of sequences, specific words, vocal quirks, plot issues, believability “” literally all of the possible things. At the end of it, I got a series of emails from said friends & advisers which addressed a lot of those little details, and then some bigger things: “That whole section is way too long.” “That lady’s character is under-developed.” This is good to hear! I need to hear this stuff! And anybody, anywhere, who is ever invited to a piece of work in a developmental stage, is under a Literal Moral Obligation to make her comments known. That’s the whole point of the Process, of Life, of Making Art in the first place. Interrogate your friends and they will do the same for you; it’s about a project of complete honesty and gut reactions; between friends, wound heals quickly; with audience, much stifled laughter.