5 min read

Chunga's revenge.

Slowly coming to terms with Frank Zappa… plus a crucial Olga Neuwirth premiere in New York and more listings for the week ahead.


(Photograph: Steve Smith)

King Crimson has come and gone, and I'm grateful to have seen the band twice on what's been described as its final U.S. tour. Likely this situation is and isn't true: proper emphasis belongs not on the word final, but rather on tour, and no one should be surprised if extended engagements in scattered cities start to pop up in 2023. (Evidently it'll take that long because drummer Gavin Harrison is otherwise engaged next year.)

One unanticipated consequence of the two concerts I attended is a renewed appreciation for some of Frank Zappa's music, thanks to the appealing advocacy of the Zappa Band, who opened both shows. It was especially exciting during the Beacon Theatre performance when longtime mates Harrison and Jakko Jakszyk of King Crimson joined the Zappa Band for a blissful account of "What's New in Baltimore"—the extended grooves of which almost certainly resulted in the set's abrupt ending, to avoid going overtime. (Hey, kids: live music!)

Frank Zappa at the Roxy in 1973 (Photograph: The Frank Zappa Vault)

I still find much to lament in loads of later Zappa, definitely from Sheik Yerbouti onward. (Paradoxically, precisely those records shaped my worldview until just after college.) But it's been a genuine pleasure in recent days to wrap my ears around The Roxy Performances, a seven-CD set of live recordings from 1973—and to perceive, at last, the pleasures therein just as Ben Ratliff described them in a review published by 4 Columns in 2018:

Zappa, who died in 1993 at fifty-two, was a protean composer-improviser-bandleader, and this was his most representative music by his best band. It is fussily complicated and swinging, shaped by the non-resolving clangor of midcentury European composers like Boulez and Messiaen and the American vernacular of blues and soul. It is time-wastingly puerile and sometimes moving. It is central to the current, West Coast, jazz-and-hip-hop-adjacent sound worlds of Thundercat and Kamasi Washington, and in other ways it seems to have sunk to the bottom of the ocean. It bristles with control and beams outward with serenity. It is a sort of miracle, a broad vision with noble execution, and it is sometimes unbearable. Zappa remains an and proposition, not an either/or one. Committed ambivalence is the way to go with him.

It's sobering to be reminded that Zappa died at just 52. And it's gratifying to know that, in addition to his imposing discography, the best of his art lives on in the hands of his closest collaborators and most fervent admirers.

Event of the week.

PHACE performing Die Stadt ohne Juden in London (Photograph courtesy Ricordi)

With all due respect to the New York Philharmonic – concerning whose return this week I paid all due respect in The New Yorker, anyway – and to the highly touted Sun & Sea (listed below), as well, the most vital performance in the city this week is being presented by Talea Ensemble at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music on Saturday night. In an event supported by the Austrian Cultural Forum New York, Talea will accompany a screening of Die Stadt ohne Juden ("The City Without Jews"), a 1924 Austrian silent film that predicted the proliferation of anti-Semitism and fascism, with an urgent new score composed in 2017 by Olga Neuwirth – an extraordinary composer and an Austrian Jew – in its U.S. premiere.

The film, directed by Hans Karl Breslauer, was based on a rueful 1922 satire by Jewish journalist Hugo Bettauer. (A year after its release, Bettauer was murdered by a Nazi; in 1940, Breslauer joined the Nazi Party.) You can, and should, read Stuart Jeffries's consummately researched, vividly revealing 2018 interview with Neuwirth for The Guardian, and you can learn more about the project and view the score on the Ricordi website.

The film can be viewed on YouTube, albeit with Spanish titles and an emphatically not-Neuwirth soundtrack. Further resources are available from the Jewish Culture in Sweden website, and advance tickets can be ordered through Eventbrite.

Night After Night Watch.


Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė and Lina Lapelytė: Sun & Sea
BAM Fisher
321 Ashland Pl., Brooklyn
Wednesday, Sept. 15–Sunday, Sept. 26, times vary; $25
Proof of vaccination required

Direction and set design by Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė; libretto by Vaiva Grainytė; music and musical direction by Lina Lapelytė. This provocative Lithuanian installation-opera, presented by the Brooklyn Academy of Music in its U.S. premiere, won a Golden Lion at the 2019 Venice Biennale. Indelible memories of a previous creation from this same team, Have a Nice Day! – which I reviewed for The New York Times during the 2014 Prototype Festival – has me eagerly anticipating this promising new work.


PRISM Quartet: Heritage/Evolution Marathon
DiMenna Center for Classical Music
450 W. 37th St., Manhattan
Wednesday, Sept. 15 at 7pm; $30, seniors and students $20
Masks and proof of vaccination required

Compositions by and collaborations with Chris Potter, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Melissa Aldana, Terell Stafford, and Matthew Levy.


Alarm Will Sound
Nolan Park
Governor's Island
Saturday, Sept. 18 at 1 & 3pm; free
No COVID precautions mandated in outdoor spaces—exercise caution

I wrote about Alarm Will Sound playing Ten Thousand Birds by John Luther Adams at Caramoor in July for The New Yorker, and the same description applies here. (Note that the ferry to Governors Island presently requires reservations.)


Contemporaneous: Day of Imagination
Irondale Center for Theater, Education and Outreach
85 S. Oxford St., Brooklyn
Saturday, Sept. 18 at 2, 5, and 8pm; $20 each set, $30 full day
Proof of vaccination or negative test result required

2pm: Dylan Mattingly - Stranger Love, Acts II & III; 5pm: Andrés Martínez de Velsaco - Particles and Fields; Kara-Lis Coverdale - Aftertouches; 8pm: Brian Petuch - Portrait and a Dream


Eli Keszler
(Le) Poisson Rouge
158 Bleecker St., Greenwich Village
Saturday, Sept. 18 at 8pm; $20, advance $15
Proof of at least one vaccination dose required

Percussionist, composer, and installation artist Eli Keszler performs in support of his newest album, Icons, released in June.


Talea Ensemble
Presented with support from the Austrian Cultural Forum
DiMenna Center for Classical Music
450 W. 37th St., Manhattan
Saturday, Sept. 18 at 8pm; $20, students $10
Proof of vaccination required

Olga Neuwirth - Die Stadt ohne Juden (U.S. premiere, accompanying a screening of the 1924 silent film by Hans Karl Breslauer)


Taka Kigawa
(Le) Poisson Rouge
158 Bleecker St., Greenwich Village
Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 7:30pm; $30, advance $20
Proof of at least one vaccination dose required

György Ligeti - Selections from Études for Piano; Pierre Boulez - Second Sonata for Piano; Third Sonata for Piano (version 2021 - Antiphonie, Trope, Constellation - Miroir)

Read even more listings in Night After Night Watch: The Master List, detailing events for weeks to come, exclusively for paying subscribers.