6 min read

Where do I begin…?

Emerging from silence with a live-music encounter, a round-up of news, and a clutch of concert picks…


The question in the headline is anything but rhetorical. A full month has passed since the last installment of Night After Night—though not for lack of numerous attempts to get something out before now. You're receiving this newsletter on Dec. 1, and I'm not sorry to see November in the rear-view mirror.

For the small but significant portion of the readership that pays for a subscription: I apologize for not managing to do much more than maintain in fits and starts the master calendar and upcoming releases list. Even that hasn't felt sufficient, though, and I'm trying to work out how best to make it up to you. (Stay tuned.)

So… what's been going on, then?

Above all else, I lost a friend, NPR lost a family member, and our community – the book-loving, nerd-identifying portion, in particular – lost one of the most incandescent advocates I've ever known. Our shared loss of Petra Mayer is enormous, and it's not lost on me that if I can feel so intense an ache after 11 months of entirely onscreen connection, I can barely imagine how brutal this experience has been for friends, loved ones, and colleagues who had the privilege of in-person acquaintance.

Petra's legacy is impossible to summarize, though this episode of the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast and its corresponding collection of links to her work are a lovely gesture and an excellent place to celebrate her memory, or to become newly acquainted with her brilliance. One project central to her advocacy and dear to her heart, Books We Love (formerly Books Conceirge), launched last week, and serves now to honor her memory.

American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) at GatherNYC. (Photograph: Steve Smith)

Even before the unthinkable transpired, it was a dauntingly busy month, and it's not just the newsletter that fell by the wayside; I also was forced to miss several concerts. One I did manage to attend was a winner: GatherNYC, a Sunday-morning musical experience that ran for some time in a now-inactive Greenwich Village performance space, has relaunched in an intimate concert hall at the Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle. I attended a performance by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) on Nov. 14, and quickly concluded that I'd belatedy discovered one of our community's hidden gems.

The programming, by creative and life partners Rupert Boyd and Laura Metcalf (a.k.a. guitar-and-cello duo Boyd Meets Girl), covers an impressively wide range of idioms and styles: nothing too strenuous, as befits the hour and casual tone, but nothing trivial, either. My daughter accompanied me to the ACME concert, an hour-long program of works inspired in some way by storytelling: Caroline Shaw's Entr'acte, Raven Chacon's The Journey of the Horizontal People, Susie Ibarra's Pulsation, and Philip Glass's String Quartet No. 3 ("Mishima").

Prior to the concert, attendees were treated to complementary coffee and pastries. (Vaccination was required and checked on entry, and everyone appeared to be masked throughout.) Also on the agenda were two comparatively unconventional gestures: a two-minute appreciation of silence, during which lights were dimmed, and a brief segment featuring storyteller Michele Carlo, who spun a charming yarn about finding a spider companion to alleviate loneliness during lockdown.

All told, it was a positively delightful way to spend around an hour on a Sunday morning—and, incidentally, an excellent way to share some excellent live chamber music with a seven-year-old without overtaxing her patience. (She liked Shaw's piece best, but puzzled over Chacon's "eerie" sounds; for my part, I found the imaginative narrative strategies Chacon employed fascinating and compelling.)

GatherNYC has three enticing programs ahead this month: a harp recital by Ashley Jackson on Dec. 5 (detailed in Night After Night Watch, below); a meeting of clarinetist James Shields with New York string quartet The Overlook on Dec. 12; and a visit from Boston conductorless chamber ensemble A Far Cry on Dec. 19. You'll find details and ticket links on the GatherNYC website.

Here is the news.

RIP Alvin Lucier. Reputable sources have reported via social media that the groundbreaking composer and educator Alvin Lucier died this morning at age 90. More details and formal obituaries will come, so for now I'll just repeat what I said on Twitter: I'm grateful to have seen Mr. Lucier in person at numerous events during recent years, and to have had the privilege of watching him encounter, in person, what seemed to me to be increasingly abundant acclaim and appreciation. The global online tribute concert Issue Project Room mounted for Lucier's 90th birthday in May remains available for streaming. And by all means, go back and read the excellent New York Times profile Kerry O'Brien wrote on that occasion.

On the air. I've had a hand in a number of very satisfying music-related stories for NPR recently, which I'm very happy to share:

• Andrea Shea, "Wayne Shorter's operatic dream comes true, brought to life with Esperanza Spalding" (All Things Considered, Nov. 11)

• Tim Greiving, "Four centuries of Black American history are told in new Kronos Quartet performance" (All Things Considered, Nov. 17)

• Jeff Lunden, "In 'Eurydice,' Matthew Aucoin and Sarah Ruhl recast opera's foundational myth" (Morning Edition, Nov. 23)

• Allyson McCabe, "Honored onscreen and in sound, Beverly Glenn-Copeland, a messenger whose time is now" (Morning Edition, Nov. 29)

Keep it dark. The irrepressible Los Angeles new-music band Wild Up – whose recording of Julius Eastman's Femenine is among this year's very best things – has just sent out a "save the date" announcement for its annual Darkness Sounding concert series. The 2022 edition of the event, which is devoted to "mindful music for the shortest days of the year," will be held Jan. 14–31, with eight shows spread across three weekends in L.A. and Joshua Tree. More Eastman is on the menu; artists involved include Eliza Bagg, David Brynjar Franzson, Odeya Nini, and Andrew Tholl. Watch this space.

Night After Night Watch.

Ashley Jackson (Photograph: Julia Comita)

All events listed in Eastern Standard Time. Unless otherwise noted, presume that proof of vaccination is required.


Marilyn Shrude 75th Birthday Concert
DiMenna Center for Classical Music
450 W. 37th St.; midtown Manhattan
Thursday, Dec. 2 at 8pm; $20

Appearing in its final concert, the admirable Queens-based institution Lost Dog New Music Ensemble is joined by soprano Ariadne Greif, saxophonist John Sampen, the New Thread Quartet and Momenta Quartet in a program paying homage to composer Marilyn Shrude on a milestone birthday.


New York Philharmonic
Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center
1941 Broadway at W. 65th St., Upper West Side
Friday, Dec. 3 and Saturday, Dec. 4 at 8pm; $148–$296

New York Philharmonic music director Jaap van Zweden conducts the world premiere of Joan Tower's 1920/2021, part of the Phil's ambitious Project 19 commissioning initiative, on a program that also includes Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 17 (with Emanuel Ax at the keyboard) and Dvořák's Symphony No. 7.


Kris Davis
509 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn
Saturday, Dec. 4 at 8pm; $25, advance $20
Free livestream (donations encouraged)

The tireless composer, pianist, bandleader, and label impresario Kris Davis unveils an intriguing new chamber ensemble, featuring microtonal koto, Moog synthesizer, live electronics, and more, in Suite Charrière, a set of new original pieces inspired by excerpts from six films by sculptor, photographer, and filmmaker Julian Charrière.


Museum of Arts and Design
2 Columbus Circle, Manhattan
Sunday, Dec. 5 at 11am; $25

This casual, inviting Sunday-morning series welcomes the fast-rising harpist Ashley Jackson, who explores notions of love and legacy in a program featuring music by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Alice Coltrane, Brandee Younger, Danielle Eva Schwob, and Daniel Temkin.

Soapbox Gallery
636 Dean St., Brooklyn
Sunday, Dec. 5 at 3pm; $20

Clarinetist and counter)induction co-founder Benjamin Fingland is joined by guitarist Dan Lippel and cellist Caleb van der Swaagh in a world premiere by Christian Carey, alongside further solo and trio compositions by Tania León, Kyle Bartlett, Andile Khamolo, Nils Vigeland, and Jessica Meyer.


Music Mondays
Advent Lutheran Church
2504 Broadway, Upper West Side
Monday, Nov. 1 at 7:30pm; free admission

The inquisitive and enterprising violinist Jennifer Koh partners with pianist Thomas Sauer for a new installment in Koh's "Bridge to Beethoven" project, interleaving world premieres by Daniel Bernard Roumain and Deanna Rusnock among Beethoven's three Op. 30 sonatas. Advance reservations are available, but not required.


Face the Music & Imani Winds
Merkin Hall, Kaufman Music Center
129 W. 67th St., Upper West Side
Tuesday, Dec. 7 at 7:30pm; $15 suggested donation

Face the Music, the Kaufman Music Center's teenage contemporary-classical ensemble, partners with woodwind quintet Imani Winds in a program of works by Imani founder Valerie Coleman, Niloufar Nourbakhsh, trombonist-composer Kalia Vandever (who also performs), and Face the Music member Ella Vermut.

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