Category Archives: music

Lembit Beecher’s A Year to the Day

Lembit Beecher at Copland House (photo credit Karen Ouzounian)

A Year to the Day is a new song cycle, with lyrics and concept by Mark Campbell, composed by Lembit Beecher for tenor Nicholas Phan, violinist Augustin Hadelich, cellist Karen Ouzounian and pianist Orion Weiss. This is an exquisite work, and the performance of the musicians, both singly and in ensemble, are brilliant. But don’t take my word for it: listen!

Beecher’s program note for the work may be found here, and an excerpt is below:

“This is a piece about a singer’s relationship to music and the way that relationship, both personal and professional, is tested by the pandemic. Though the onset of the pandemic is the instigating narrative event of the song cycle. and though at the center of the cycle is the question of what we do and who we become as performing artists when the act that defines so much of our lives, performing, is taken away, the cycle does not focus on the pandemic but rather on an artist’s complicated love of music.”

An interview with Beecher about the piece may be found here, and an excerpt is below:

“LB: Mark Campbell brought me into the project and came to me with the concept for the cycle in late 2020. I really resonated with the idea; I think since the relationship of musicians to music during times of upheaval is something I have spent a lot of time thinking about. My grandmother was a young pianist when WWII broke out, and she had to escape her homeland of Estonia: her relationship to music through the war, years of immigration, and her new life in America was critically important, both professionally and emotionally.

“For the first year-and-a-half of the pandemic, I had weekly Zoom calls with a small group of musicians, mostly string players. This group became a very tight circle of friendship and support, and we talked a lot about our intense and complicated emotional connections to music and how the lack of performing opportunities and lack of opportunities to make music with each other were affecting us.

“Everyone’s experience was different, but I think we all experienced moments of darkness, sorrow, self-discovery, and rediscovery. These potent personal experiences were always on my mind as I wrote the music for ‘A Year to the Day.’”

A conversation with Beecher, Campbell, and Hadelich about the piece may be found here, and an excerpt is below:

“Augustin Hadelich: I think most musicians went through some version of what the protagonist of this work goes through. The interruption of normal life, followed by isolation, anxiety, manic efforts to keep busy, reflection, grief, and eventually new hope. I recognized many of these emotions and thoughts!

“I think the story of A Year To The Day will resonate deeply with listeners.”

Variations on a Hanaci Girl

It’s often interesting to see an artist’s early work. This one, by Gustav Klimt, caught and held my attention. It’s called “Study of the Head of a Hanaci Girl” (c1883) (Appendix I) and variations on that theme, such as “Head Study of a Girl von Hana.” So of course I had to try a couple collage-style variations on the theme.

Continue reading

The Quinces Again, A Pile of French Novels, and Other Rainy Day Pursuits

I could not seem to leave van Gogh’s Quinces alone, particularly after my friend Curt* alerted me to abstracts by Serge Poliakoff. I intended to do more with the Quince collage above, but a Poliakoff cut-out admonished me that it wished to stand alone.

Continue reading

Melon and Lemon, Quince and Marguerite

Gaughin had many talents, as we know. I was, however, completely unaware of his talent for still life—until I ran across Melon and Lemon (c. 1900), in which he shows us what makes a lemon such a magnificent object to depict. So, of course, I had to make a collage (actually two) of this painting. Above, you’ll find the lemon and melon superimposed on Tamara Lempicka’s Abstract Composition (1960).

Continue reading

Eve Beglarian’s She Gets to Decide, sung by Lucy Dhegrae

This is a challenging piece, both emotionally and intellectually. Beglarian wrote of it:

Read more: Eve Beglarian’s She Gets to Decide, sung by Lucy Dhegrae

She Gets to Decide began as a meditation on the controversial Balthus painting Thérèse Dreaming. While the painting seems unquestionably pervy to me, I am also struck by the power and self-sufficiency Thérèse radiates.” [The complete program note, from which this excerpt is taken, may be found here]

In a wide-ranging discussion, Eve and Lucy discuss Lucy’s project, “The Processing Series,” of which Eve’s piece is a part (I commend the whole of their conversation, but at the very least Eve’s description of the piece, which starts at about 1:16:50):

Continue reading