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Posts tagged 'Michael Hersch'

Michael Hersch and Christopher Cairns Present New Concert Series: ...thus far and no further...

As the landscape of live musical performance continues to change in the era of COVID-19, composer Michael Hersch and his long-time collaborator, the sculptor Christopher Cairns, have planned an intimate series of concerts—each limited to 15 audience members—held in Cairns's studio in Havertown, Pennsylvania. Titled ...thus far and no further..., this series revives Carins and Hersch's practice of small, intimate, informal concerts held in Carins's studio among his work; both artists hope that this new five-event series will help (re-)imagine what live music can look, feel, and sound like in the current global climate. 

Featuring world premeires by Hersch, Missy Mazzoli, Christopher Fox, Alican Çamci, and Patricia Kopatchinskaja—who is increasingly augmenting her profile as a composer, in addition to her work as a violnist—this series will feature some of Hersch's closest collaborators, including Miranda Cuckson, Ah Young Hong, Emi Ferguson, Daniel Gaisford, and the FLUX Quartet.

Carins's sculptures, which were also featured in the set design of Hersch's monodrama On the Threshold of Winter, will surround the small audience, who will be presented with musical programs that pair world premieres with other works of our time by composers such as Rebecca Saunders, Meredith Monk, Georg Friedrich Haas, Anthony Braxton and Isabel Mundry, among many others.  Pre- and post-concert sound installations will also enhance the sonic experience of these five events, allowing audience members time and space to contemplate sculpture and music in a haptic, three-dimensional experience. 

The first of Hersch and Cairns's five programs falls on October 24th, and will pair early vocal music by Machaut and Josquin with three works by Hersch (including the premiere of unwrung, apart, always), book-ended by Morton Feldman's sparse, enigmatic Only, for solo voice. This program will be performed by violinist Miranda Cuckson and flutist/vocalist Emi Ferguson

Cairns's Sculpture Studio

Michael Hersch's "On the Threshold of Winter" Available to Stream Online

“The essence of Michael Hersch’s music,” soprano Ah Young Hong reflects, “is being alone in your thoughts. To be able to have this incredibly earth-shattering silence that is screaming at you—the internal world that we have to grapple with. That is what is so unforgiving and powerful about his work.” 

Hong’s relationship to Hersch’s music is unique: beginning in 2014, she has performed the solo role of On the Threshold of Winterin three productions, the third of which she directed, across six cities in North America, and is the only singer in the world to have performed the work to date. Of the premiere, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim wrote in the New York Times

"Mr. Hersch's music, for all its dark and fragile beauty, offer neither comfort nor catharsis. A traumatized silence clung to the Fishman Space auditorium after the last line sung by the soprano Ah Young Hong, the opera's blazing, lone star."

In 2015, Hong worked closely with Hersch, the chamber ensemble NUNC led by Miranda Cuckson, and director James Matthew Daniel, to produce this filmed performance of the opera, which is now available to stream. 

With what Anne Midgette called a “cold, uncompromising brilliance,”On the Threshold of Winter sets texts by Romanian poet Marin Sorescu, written during the last five weeks of his life while dying from liver cancer. Hersch’s libretto transforms those texts, which were dedicated by Sorescu “to those who suffer,” into a monodrama in two acts, in which Hong’s character is both in time and out of time, at turns raging against death and struggling to accept its inevitability. For Hong, Hersch’s instrumental writing functions to illustrate the structure of her character’s mind, at times with directly audible relationships between her voice and an instrument—always cut short, however, and prevented from reaching resolution. 

It is precisely this denial of resolution that Hong finds so powerful in Hersch’s work: it ultimately enjoins both her and her audience to experience this work alone. That isolation, however, produces a kind of rare empathy, emerging from what she calls the “dark world” of the monodrama into a shared connection and emotional release. She describes this as an exploration of the crevices and folds in one’s soul that normally remains that untouched, with Hersch’s music functioning as a liquid that seeps in, forcing a reconciliation with the pain and agony of death. Indeed, in the last moment of the work, she sings Sorescu’s words: “Terrible is the passage/ Into the fold/ Both for man/ And / Animal.”

In James Matthew Daniel’s 2015 production, Hong is joined on stage by other bodies: or, more precisely, almost-bodies of broken plaster, producing abject remnants of dust and blood. These life-size sculptures, by artist Christopher Cairns, both complicate and emphasize the isolation of Hong’s character on stage; she, too, will become abject in death. 

Indeed, watching this filmed performance in the time of COVID-19 adds another complicating fold to the power of Hersch’s work. At the time of its premiere, suffering, illness, and death were still topics that could still be largely avoided in everyday life. With the world thrust into a pandemic, Hersch’s work perhaps takes on a renewed sense of power in its confrontation with these abject experiences. For Hong, emerging from this work produces a renewed empathy for both herself and her community of family and friends, a renewed reconciliation with human mortality. 

Weekly Playlist: Michael Hersch

PSNY continues its new, weekly Composer Playlist series this week by featuring the work of Michael Hersch, which the Baltimore Sun describes as having "great originality, daring, and disturbing power." Indeed, Hersch's works often explore the profound depths of human experience—as the New York Times describes it, Hersch's work is “viscerally gripping and emotionally transformative music ... claustrophobic and exhilarating at once, with moments of sublime beauty nestled inside thickets of dark virtuosity.” Hersch's music evokes many emotions particular to the current world crisis—and offers, perhaps, a necessary meditation on grief, loss, and ultimately the resilience of the human spirit. 

1. Hersch's 2015 Violin Concerto, commissioned and premiered by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and violnist Patricia Kopatchinskaja

2. Das Rückgrat berstend, also commissioned and premiered by Hersch's longtime collaborator Kopatchinskaja in 2017, in which the violnist also speaks fragment of the poetry of Christopher Middleton, accompanied by cello: 

3. Images from a Closed Ward, Hersch's 2010 string quartet commissioned by the Blair String Quartet, which responds to etchings by the artist Michael Mazur

4. On the Threshold of Winter, a 2012 monodrama which saw a recent production at George Washington University, directed and performed by Ah Young Hong:

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