Your 'hot spot' for all classical music subjects. Non-classical music subjects are to be posted in the Corner Pub.
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Hope we'll see some classical and opera orientated programs on the schedule at some point. Regards, Len
The Shed Opens With a Purpose. And a Party.
The new $475 million arts center at Hudson Yards opens with Soundtrack of America, a five-concert exploration of black music from the slavery era through blues, jazz and pop.
By Jon Pareles
March 28, 2019
On opening night at Lincoln Center, in 1962, Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, joined by opera singers and a choir, performed music by Beethoven, Mahler, Copland and Vaughan Williams for an audience in tuxedos and gowns.
The atmosphere should be decidedly more funky at the concerts that inaugurate the Shed, the 21st-century arts complex devoted to presenting new work, which is just two miles from Lincoln Center. Its first concert series, Soundtrack of America, will celebrate not the European classical sphere but the heritage of African-American music across a broad historical and stylistic spectrum, from spirituals to hip-hop. Most of the crowd will share a dance floor.
It’s a statement of purpose, though it also promises to be a party. It signals that the Shed, a $475 million arts center within the Hudson Yards development of luxury retail, name-brand architecture and multimillion-dollar residences, will welcome cultural events and audiences well outside the economic elite. As with all of its programs, some tickets — spread across the room — will be only $10.
“Because we’re starting from scratch, we’re trying to customize every decision to being inclusive,” said Alex Poots, the Shed’s artistic director and chief executive. He added: “We commission work across all platforms with parity between performing arts, visual arts and pop. They’re all equal, and there’s no poor relation either in terms of investment or in terms of space, in terms of facilities or in terms of brainpower.”
Soundtrack of America, a five-concert series from April 5-14, is directed by the visual artist and film director Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) and will feature 25 up-and-coming musicians, five per night, playing roughly 15-minute sets. The performers’ mandate is to view the past from the present, placing songs of their own alongside music that influenced them. Their individual artistic paths are intended to add up to an expansive musical constellation.
At first, Mr. McQueen said, he had imagined presenting an orderly linear musical progression, from the African rhythms that survived in Congo Square in New Orleans to the present. But America’s musical history made him reconsider. “It’s not linear,” he said. “It goes back on itself, it goes left, and it goes right. Is the wind linear? Sometimes it blows back and forth. It’s like a garden more than anything else. Things are sprouting up all over the place.”
The opening-night roster includes Jon Batiste, the bandleader for “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” and PJ Morton, the Grammy-winning keyboardist from Maroon 5; other nights feature the rapper Smino; the Grammy-winning blues-rocker Fantastic Negrito; the blues-rooted guitarist Melanie Faye; and the idiosyncratic R&B songwriters Moses Sumney and Eryn Allen Kane.
The Shed sought out musicians who are thoroughly conscious of forebears and possibilities. Serpentwithfeet — the self-described “pagan gospel” songwriter Josiah Wise — is on the bill April 9. “This show holds a different place in my heart,” he said. “I’ve always been a fan of not just black music itself, but of the narrative of black music. I’m thinking about the music of today, and how does that relate to the music of the 1940s, or the 1870s. I’m constantly thinking about it. I don’t have the privilege not to. Black music isn’t just decorative. It always has a lot of legwork.”
The musicians will be backed by a house band — including horns and strings when needed — led by Greg Phillinganes, the prolifically recorded session keyboardist who has been the musical director for Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder onstage, among many others. The music, Mr. Phillinganes said, will be unmistakably live. “This is an Auto-Tune-free zone,” he said.
Mr. McQueen intends the staging to focus on musicians at work. “We want to get as close to the bone as possible, to get to the idea of performance rather than any idea of spectacle,” he said. “I want to see the sweat. I want to see the tears. I don’t need glitter. I don’t need smoke.”
The brain trust choosing and advising the performers also includes the history-making producer Quincy Jones, along with two younger producers, Dion Wilson (better known as No I.D., who produced Jay-Z’s album “4:44” and tracks for Kanye West, Drake, Common and Nas) and Tunji Balogun, an executive producer for H.E.R. and Khalid.
Building Soundtrack of America was a labyrinthine process. To program the Shed, Mr. Poots cast a wide net of ideas — to, among others, Mr. McQueen, with whom he had curated projects in England. One day Mr. McQueen “phoned me out of the blue,” Mr. Poots recalled at an interview in the Shed’s temporary New York City offices. “He said: ‘Imagine hearing the history of African-American music. Imagine a family tree, and you hear from when the boats arrive, and African-American music starts happening all over the country, right up to now.”
Mr. Poots immediately wanted to make that the Shed’s grand opening project, forthrightly declaring that African-American music was central to modern culture. “The minute the idea was hatched, this was going to be it,” he said. “I had absolutely no idea how to do it, and Steve really didn’t, but he said, ‘Let’s just start.’”
Instead of a gala opening featuring superstars, Soundtrack of America will present emerging musicians. “We didn’t think it was strange,” Mr. Poots said. “But people have pointed out, ‘Who launches a new arts center with 25 pretty much unknown musicians?’ To me, it was a logical conclusion to the idea and the goal that Steve had set down.”
Mr. McQueen and Mr. Poots, who are both British, knew they needed American perspectives and solid academic underpinnings, so they called on an expert: Maureen Mahon, a cultural anthropologist and associate professor at N.Y.U. who concentrates on African-American music.
She oversaw a “family tree” — intended as a suggestion, not a canon — of music: from unrecorded African-American music through work songs, spirituals, blues, jazz, swing, bebop, R&B, rock ’n’ roll, hip-hop and onward. A panel of other advisers included the journalist Nelson George and musicologists with specialties ranging from current trap back to little-documented slavery-era music.
The family tree went out to the performers, but beyond that tree, musicians didn’t receive assignments; they defined their own musical genealogy. “It’s hard to pick fruit from such an amazing tree, but no matter which one I pick, I know it’s going to be sweet,” said Tarriona Ball, a.k.a. Tank, the frontwoman of New Orleans poetry-funk-jazz band Tank and the Bangas. “Or maybe even a little bitter, because the history isn’t always so clean.”
Morton, who grew up in New Orleans, plans to incorporate prime New Orleans R&B and Stevie Wonder in his set. “It’s a beautiful thing that we can be influenced by everything now,” he said. “But I do think it’s important to know that these are real people and real things, and to understand how we got here.”
The jazz-soul singer and songwriter Sy Smith is hoping to dovetail her father’s doo-wop, her classical music studies, the go-go music she heard while attending Howard University, the mixtape culture of early hip-hop and her current jazz-tinged mode. “I want people to appreciate that we all come from different places to end up where we are,” she said.
The initial five concerts may not be the end of Soundtrack of America. It will be filmed in a five-camera shoot; it could spin off an educational app. And given the infinitude of African-American music old and new, it could lead to additional concerts in many formats as the Shed welcomes culture without tuxedos. “I don’t view our first five concerts as the endgame,” Mr. Poots said. “That's the starting point. We could do this for years.”
Jon Pareles has been The Times's chief pop music critic since 1988. A musician, he has played in rock bands, jazz groups and classical ensembles. He majored in music at Yale University.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/28/arts ... enter.html
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