NRM Season 25: Joan La Barbara, March 17

Joan La BarbaraAn Evening with Vocalist/Composer/Improviser
Joan La Barbara

Works by John Cage, Morton Feldman and La Barbara

Thursday, March 17 at 8 pm
TICKETS: $15 General Admission ($10 Students/Seniors)

Greenwich House Music presented an evening devoted to vocalist/composer/improviser Joan La Barbara on Thursday, March 17 at 8 pm, as part of the 25th anniversary of the North River Music series.

“One of the great vocal virtuosos of our time" (San Francisco Examiner), Joan La Barbara has explored the human voice as a multi-faceted instrument, developing a unique vocabulary of experimental and extended vocal techniques that have become her “signature sounds.”

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, she will join pianist Stephen Gosling to perform two John Cage works with text by James Joyce: “The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs” (1942) and its companion piece “Nowth Upon Nacht” (1984, in memoriam Cathy Berberian). The program also features Morton Feldman’s shortest composition, “Only” (1947), for voice alone with text by Rainer Maria Rilke, and “Gatekeeper” (2009-2010), for amplified voice and sonic atmosphere – an excerpt from La Barbara’s opera-in-progress inspired by the life and work of Virginia Woolf and dream fragments of Joseph Cornell. The evening will culminate in a solo improvisation, providing a unique and exciting insight into La Barbara’s vocal journey and creative process.

Founded by Frank Wigglesworth in 1985, GHMS’s North River Music is one of New York City’s first concert series devoted to new and experimental music. The concert will be followed by a reception.

VENUE: Renee Weiler Concert Hall, Greenwich House Music School
46 Barrow Street (between Bedford St. & 7th Ave. S), NYC

INFO: (212) 242-4770

The Program

John Cage’s “The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs” uses just three pitches to explore fragments from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, with rapping and tapping on the piano body and closed keyboard cover to hint at sounds of a strange forest. “Nowth Upon Nacht” also uses texts from “Finnegan’s Wake,” but, in sharp contract to the serenity of the preceding work, it is sung like a wild banshee shriek. Both works are included on Joan La Barbara singing through John Cage (New Albion NA035).

For several years, La Barbara has developed an opera on Virginia Woolf’s verbal constructs and the demons that plagued her. More recently, she has explored the fragments of dreams in Joseph Cornell’s journals and some of the dark recesses of Edgar Allan Poe’s mind. “Gatekeeper” draws on these and other sources to weave a solitary journey through the mysterious labyrinth of the mind, exploring the artistic process of bringing the essential internal struggle to fruition as a perceivable object. Ne(x)tworks, the collective of performing composers with whom La Barbara has worked since 2003, are the musicians whose sounds form part of the soundscape.

Morton Feldman’s elegy, “Only,” scored for solo voice, was composed in 1947, when the composer was just 21. Feldman had just been introduced to the works of the abstract expressionist painters – Pollock, Kline, Rothko and Guston – and their influence can already be felt in his use of silence as negative space. La Barbara first performed the work at the Holland Festival in 1988 from the roof of the State Opera House on the Leidseplein, at midnight, in the rain.

About the Artist

Composer/performer/sound artist Joan La Barbara has expanded the traditional boundaries of the voice, developing a unique vocabulary of techniques, including multiphonics, circular singing, ululation and glottal clicks. She has composed for multiple voices, chamber ensembles, music theater, orchestra and interactive technology and has produced eleven recordings of her own works. Her awards include an American Music Center Letter of Distinction, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Meet The Composer/Creative Connections grants, and annual ASCAP Composer Awards. In 1977, La Barbara composed a multi-layered score for voice with electronics for a signing-alphabet animation for Children's Television Workshop/Sesame Street, which has been broadcast worldwide. Her soundwork 73 POEMS, in collaboration with text-artist Kenneth Goldsmith, was included in The American Century Part II: Soundworks at The Whitney Museum of American Art. She was Artistic Director of the Carnegie Hall multi-year series When Morty met John, co-Artistic Director of New Music America festival in LA; and co-founded the performing composers collective ensemble Ne(x)tworks. Her multi-layered textural compositions have been performed at international festivals including Brisbane Biennial, Festival d'Automne à Paris, Warsaw Autumn, Frankfurt Feste, Lincoln Center, Metamusik-Berlin and Olympics Arts Festivals. La Barbara is a member of the Composition Faculty at New York University and maintains a private studio in New York.

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