6 min read

Push and pull.

Finding creative agency in editing for radio… plus current news and selected events for the week ahead.


Gil Rose and Boston Modern Orchestra Project recording in Mechanics Hall, Worcester, MA. (Photograph: Chuck Furlong/BMOP)

I don't tend to overemphasize the work I'm performing as a temp editor for NPR here, not because it's not meaningful, but simply because the vast majority of what keeps me busy there doesn't apply here in this space devoted to contemporary-music practices.

Sometimes, though, I manage to get something of my own design on the air. As an editor, I'm not the one doing the reporting; I don't get to dictate the specifics of what's in a story past a certain point. But when I've partnered with a reporter to pursue a story of my devising – as opposed to something a reporter pitches to me, or something a show like Morning Edition or All Things Considered requests specifically – those have been the times when I've felt creative agency.

Yesterday's story about the Boston Modern Orchestra Project is a great example of my determining a subject I wanted to cover, and then finding the reporter with whom to pursue it: here, Andrea Shea of Boston's WBUR-FM. There was some creative push and pull over what voices we'd use: founder and conductor Gil Rose was a certainty, and I specifically asked Andrea to include composer Lei Liang, whose BMOP-commissioned A Thousand Mountains, A Million Streams won the 2020 Grawemeyer Award. Andrea picked two more voices, and the result speaks for itself. The story was meant to air last Friday, but having it delayed until yesterday meant it arrived on Rose's birthday—a serendipitous flourish.

Another example is coming on Friday, when Bay Area reporter Chloe Veltman tells the story of Angel Island, a new chamber oratorio composed by Huang Ruo for Volti and the Del Sol Quartet. I'd had a smashing time collaborating previously with Chloe on a variety of stories. So when a press notice hit my inbox detailing this new project, based on poems by Chinese immigrants detained under harsh conditions between 1910 and 1940 at a facility in San Francisco Bay, it took maybe 10 minutes for me to get Chloe onboard.

You can hear the story this Friday on All Things Considered—the day the piece has its world premiere at the Presidio Theatre in San Francisco, repeating the next morning on Angel Island itself. Also well worth hearing is A Dust in Time, a new album on which Del Sol plays a gorgeous Huang Ruo piece. The music is available in convenient downloadable formats… but the CD comes tucked inside a sweet coloring book. (Just saying.)

Here is the news.

Anthony Davis (Photograph: Erik Jepsen)

Tell it like it is. Speaking of Boston Modern Orchestra Project, that band and Gil Rose's other ensemble, Odyssey Opera, jointly announced a new initiative earlier today. Supported in part by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, As Told By: History, Race, and Justice on the Opera Stage finds both organizations and another vital Boston institution, Castle of Our Skins, teaming up to present five new or overlooked operas by five Black composers over the next five years.

The first offering, X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X by Anthony Davis, arrives in June 2022, in a version newly revised by Davis. (As reported last month by The New York Times and others, X will come to the Metropolitan Opera in Fall 2023.) The balance of the initiative includes neglected operas by William Grant Still (Troubled Island) and Ulysses Kay (Frederick Douglass), nestled between a new version of Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom by Nkeiru Okoye and a newly commissioned work by Jonathan Bailey Holland, The Bridge, a chronicle of Martin Luther King Jr.'s days in Boston.

In these Times. Two excellent stories that appeared over the last week in The New York Times are not to be missed. Seth Colter Walls offers a compelling critic's notebook devoted to the music of David Sanford, a composer whose music partakes of big-band jazz, Helmut Lachenmann, minimalism, and quite a lot more. Gil Rose and BMOP – them again! – feature prominently for their excellent 2019 CD, Black Noise. Sanford's new album on Greenleaf Music, A Prayer for Lester Bowie, is sensational.

Also compulsory reading is a big feature by Brandon Wilner about the present revival of eL/Aficionado, a chamber opera by Robert Ashley running Thursday through Saturday at Roulette. (Details below.) The central thrust of the article – preserving Ashley's operas for future generations through making them performable by new artists – is a subject I covered a few times myself at the NYT, so it's no surprise I'm smitten with this detailed, beautifully spun yarn and its fantastic photos, both vintage and new. Performances planned for 2020 were scuttled by the pandemic, but a new cast recording was completed; pick it up and put it next to the original version on your CD shelf.

Hooked on a feeling. Hooker Vision, the storied cassette label operated by Georgia music makers Grant and Rachel Evans, returns from the dead on Halloween. The couple launched their vital imprint in 2008, issuing their own various projects and collaborations as well as dozens of releases from artists and acts like Brainworlds, Brian Lavelle, Thoughts on Air, The North Sea, Sundrips, Pierrot Lunaire, and Derek Rogers. Grant and Rachel shut down the label in 2014, though they quickly resumed action on a smaller scale with Adversary Electronics. Now, the mothership is launching anew with a split tape featuring Grant's first solo outing as Modern Lamps on one side, and Rachel's reliably transporting Motion Sickness of Time Travel on the other. In a throwback to the halcyon days of super-limited runs, only 16 copies will be made. (Please understand that I'll be doing my best to beat you to one of them.)

Night After Night Watch.

Kronos Quartet (Photograph: Jay Blakesberg)

All events listed in Eastern Standard Time


Kronos Quartet
Merkin Hall, Kaufman Music Center
Thursday, Oct. 21 at 7:30pm; $25
Masks and proof of vaccination required

Appearing under the auspices of the Bridges series, an immersive residency hosted jointly with Montclair State University's Cali School of Music, the seasoned explorers of Kronos Quartet present world-premiere performances of compositions by inti figgis-vizueta, Peni Candra Rini (arranged by Jacob Garchik), and Aruna Narayan (arranged by Reena Esmail), along with further pieces by Sky Macklay and Jlin. Beforehand, the Special Music School Quartet plays Charlton Singleton's Testimony and the Kodak Quartet performs Trey Spruance's Séraphita; in the end all forces combine for Quartet Satz by Philip Glass.


Robert Ashley: eL/Aficionado
Kayleigh Butcher, Brian McCorkle, Bonnie Lander, Paul Pinto
509 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn
Thursday, Oct. 21–Saturday, Oct. 23 at 8pm; $35, advance $30
Proof of vaccination required

This one I wrote up for The New Yorker


Kris Davis
The Stone at The New School
55 W. 13th St, Greenwich Village
Thursday, Oct. 21–Saturday, Oct. 23 at 8:30pm; $20
Masks and proof of vaccination or negative PCR test result required

Dynamic pianist, composer, bandleader, and label entrepreneur Kris Davis reopens John Zorn's Stone series at The New School, which resumes with three-night bookings instead of the previous five-night runs. (Bookings will expand to four nights in 2022.) On Thursday Davis leads a quartet with trumpeter Milena Casado Fauque, bassist Ben Street, and drummer Johnathan Blake. Davis's trio with Blake and bassist Stephan Crump appears Friday; on Saturday Davis is joined by guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist Noah Garabedian, and drummer Kenny Wollesen in a record-release celebration for Zorn's second Bagatelles box set.

23, 25

S.E.M. Ensemble
Willow Place Auditorium
26 Willow Place, Brooklyn
Saturday, Oct. 23 at 8pm; free with registration
Proof of vaccination required for entry

Bohemian National Hall
321 E. 73rd St., Upper East Side
Monday, Oct. 25 at 7pm; free with registration
Proof of vaccination required for entry

The intrepid composer, flutist, and conductor Petr Kotik leads the Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble in its first performance since May 2019—performances plural, actually, since the formal date on Monday in Manhattan is preceded by an open rehearsal at the group's Brooklyn headquarters Saturday. The program includes Kotik’s Wednesdays at RW on Spring Street, Phill Niblock’s Exploratory, Rhine version “Looking for Daniel,” and Christian Wolff’s Invisible Terrain, each in its American premiere. Works by John Cage and Pauline Oliveros round out the bill, with violinist Hana Kotková and composer-accordionist Lucie Vítková featured as soloists.

Update Oct. 21: The Cheryl Duvall concert listed here previously has been postponed to some undetermined future date. Please do go watch the arresting video photographer/filmmaker Ella Morton made for Duvall's performance of Late Winter for the Left Hand by composer Anna Höstman, which Alex Ross shared a few weeks ago. I'll share a new date for the event when it's rescheduled.

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