Category Archives: 2018-2019 Season

Message from the Artists: Movement Art Is

Creating Love Heals All Wounds has been an amazing process and is a true embodiment of all the powerful work MAI has created in the last few years. The show tackles a range of potent issues — from environmental racism, systematic oppression, police brutality, and the many ideologies that keep humans from connecting to one another and the world around them. This work has been a transformative challenge for the cast and creators — we’ve not only had to develop the right movement language alongside the narrative, it was essential to face our own mental barriers and to thread those discoveries into the work. The vision of Love Heals All Wounds is to inspire audiences to look deeply within themselves in the hopes that together, we will carve pathways forward to creating real solutions for true healing.

—Jon Boogz

Love Heals All Wounds brings together an exceptional myriad of artistry. Mixing the incomparable words of Robin Sanders, original music by Jason Yang, Daniel Bernard Roumain and Chizzy, and an unparalleled mastery of street dance styles such as popping and Memphis Jookin, this collaborative work strives to bring awareness to important social and global issues and how they affect us all. Giving a one-of-a-kind experience through the inimitable lens of MAI, Love Heals All Wounds aspires to have positive social impact in communities around the world by uniquely using art as a tool to help inspire action and ultimately lead to positive, sustainable change.

—Lil Buck

Love Heals All Wounds By MOVEMENT ART IS featuring Jon Boogz & Lil Buck and special guests; Thu, May 23 at 8PM Royce Hall

Message from the Artist: Nico Muhly

Archives, Friends, Patterns is an evening of music written for friends. The first part of the evening focuses on the music of Philip Glass. Much of his early work was written for a core group of his friends, comprising woodwinds, keyboards, and voices. Having his own ensemble allowed him to explore musical processes which would be quite difficult to achieve with ensembles of strangers, and therefore, much of his music from the 70’s and early 80’s feels shimmeringly cosy: an ensemble of friends working as a community to make music. I’ve tried, here, to take some of Philip’s lesser-known works (taken from the film score Étoile Polaire, the epic Another Look at HarmonyMonsters of Grace, and the CIVIL warS, the last two collaborations with director Robert Wilson) and re-arrange them for an ensemble of my friends. Although the sonic language is different, the fundamental philosophy of collaboration and community music-making remains the same.

The second part of the evening has a more convoluted origin story. In the 1930’s, the Canadian composer and musicologist Colin McPhee went to Bali, and made transcriptions of gamelan music. He transformed this music — deeply compromised by the almost Colonial processes on which most ethnomusicology relies — into music for two pianos, which he and the composer Benjamin Britten recorded in Brooklyn in the 1940’s. McPhee’s transcriptions and other work deeply informed the musical language of Britten’s work in the 1960’s and 1970’s, particularly after a trip Britten and his partner, Peter Pears, took to Bali in 1957. Thomas Bartlett, one of my oldest friends and collaborators, shares an obsession with the McPhee & Britten recordings, heartbreakingly foxed and worn in their transfer to the digital format, and we decided to write a set of songs loosely based on them. These songs are, collectively, part of a project called Peter Pears; here, we present the songs interspersed with the aforementioned gamelan transcriptions.

The final part of the evening is the smallest and most personal: a collection of drone-based music, played by two friends I’ve known for the better part of two decades: violinist Lisa Liu and violist Nadia Sirota. My Drones cycle is simple: a combination of any instruments create a drone consisting, usually, of two notes, over which I wrote long lines, athletic activity, and lyrical episodes. The community comes together, makes a simple noise together, and one member steps out for reflection, movement, and action.

—Nico Muhly

Message from the Center: Anoushka Shankar

Photo by Anushka Menon

Anoushka Shankar once said of the Syrian refugee crisis that she “felt overwhelmed with a sense of powerlessness to alleviate the suffering and injustice taking place as the world looked on.”

I know the feeling. Today we are constantly confronted with opportunities to feel overwhelmed by our powerlessness. We’re all thrown backwards into an uncertain future, encouraged to literally and figuratively wall ourselves off from each other. How do we resist collapsing into passively nihilistic despair?

One answer is music. As Shankar says, music has the power “to express how even within chaos, one can find beauty when in connection with another human being.”

No matter how powerless we feel, or how chaotic our situation, music reminds us that we have the ability to be present with others in a moment, to resonate together to an intersubjective hum. We experience that beautiful connection with each other when artists, audiences and architectures combine through the alchemy of performance to reveal something irreducible, something beyond us.

Moments of genuine human connection are rare in our atomized and “optimized” society, but we do not leave these moments unchanged. They remain with us, we are empowered by them, our capacities to affect and be affected are modified, and our worlds are expanded.

We hope that your world is slightly expanded by Anoushka’s performance, and that you leave Royce Hall feeling a little more connected and, perhaps, a little more human.

—Andrew Hartwell

Anoushka Shankar performs at Royce Hall Fri, Apr 19 at 8PM

A Note from Judith Pisar, Former Executive Director of Merce Cunningham’s Company

The first thing that struck me about Merce Cunningham, when we met in the early 1960s, was the strength of his quiet presence. He moved with the soft grace of a panther. At first, a bit intimidating, he soon became warm and affectionate.

It was music that led me to the world of dance. I was representing John Cage through “The Composer Speaks” – the lecture bureau I had established for composers who were breaking through onto the world stage.

Merce took a keen interest in our work. The trust that he and John gave to the timid young woman I then was, was no different than the trust they lavished upon so many young artists and performers in all fields.

One morning, as our first musical season was wrapping up, John came over to my office with a totally unexpected offer. Did I want to manage Merce Cunningham’s dance company? At first, I demurred: “John, I know a thing or two about music… But dance?” It did not take him long to convince me.

And thus began the greatest of adventures, that would take us to the four corners of the Earth, where there was a stunning thirst for the American avant-garde.

Merce had a charismatic and mysterious presence. Yes, he was introverted and shy. But he could also be terribly funny. One of his favorite things was to sneak out and meet me at MoMA to catch a Fred and Ginger movie.

Onstage, Merce was pure magic, breaking barriers with every step. The image of him sitting in a grand plié in “Summerspace” is forever etched in my mind.

The creative process was totally unique: First he would choreograph the piece; then he would commission or select the music (which, as we know, did not need to be in synch with steps); and then would come the sets and costumes. Thus came together some of the greatest creative minds of the post-War era: John Cage and other composers like David Tudor, Morton Feldman or Toshi Ichiyanagi; visual artists like Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Marcel Duchamp, Buckminster Fuller, Andy Warhol, Bill Anastasi and Dove Bradshaw. Together, these artistic pioneers, many of whom had met at Black Mountain College, revolutionized the world of dance.

Several years after accepting that job, I moved to Paris with my husband, Samuel Pisar, and ran the American Center on boulevard Raspail, where I invited Merce and John to perform. When I told them that the audience would include some famous French intellectuals and personalities, John chuckled: “Then Merce and I are going to be particularly naughty!”

They of course had a triumph. In those days they were perhaps more beloved, and better understood, in Western Europe than in the United States. They returned often, under the guidance of the marvelous Benedicte Pesle — one of the greatest champions of American contemporary art in Europe.

It is difficult to believe that Merce would be 100 this year. He seemed at once immortal and eternally youthful. The magic he communicated from the stage to his audience is, to this day, unlike anything I have ever seen. And I feel humbled and proud to have helped to bring to the world some of America’s true greatness.

Judith Pisar, UNESCO Special Envoy for Cultural Diplomacy, was the Executive Director of Merce Cunningham’s company from 1965-68, in tandem with Lew Lloyd. During this time, she established a life-long friendship with Cunningham and Cage. Today, she continues to be an unwavering supporter of their work.

Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event | Tue, Apr 16 at 8PM | Royce Hall

Colm Tóibín on The Gloaming








What you notice first in the work of ‘The Gloaming’ is the energy that comes from the clash and then the connection between tradition and innovation, between following contours that have been inherited and then creating a new tonal realm for that very inheritance. The music is nourished by diversity and range, it is open to the world, but it is also rooted in Ireland; it comes from a close study and deep knowledge of a tradition strong enough to be played with and enriched.

In the music of ‘The Gloaming’, there is also a tension between complexity in studio work and arrangement and a sort of simplicity and directness in the way the music hits the listener’s nervous system. In the playing of Martin Hayes and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh there is always a melancholy undertone which becomes more forceful as the music lifts and entertains the possibility of joy, paying attention to the rhythm and the melodic line while offering homage to high and hard-won emotion.

Iarla Ó Lionáird’s voice has a force that is both haunting and tender. In the versions here of poems ranging from a lament by the seventeenth century poet Eoghan Ruadh Mhac an Bhaird to work by twentieth century poets such as Seán Ó Riordáin and Liam Ó Muirthile, Ó Lionáird has a lovely way of lingering on a note, taking his time on a phrase, varying the way he approaches a line ending. The stark power of his singing is tempered by sheer musical intelligence that is matched by the playing of Dennis Cahill and Thomas Bartlett (Bartlett’s restrained and inspired playing on ‘The Pink House’ is masterly.)

When you listen to a track like ‘Doctor O’Neill’ on this album, what emerges is the brilliant intuition and unique tact of the band. Listen to Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh as solo player on a hardanger d’amore on the opening of this track being slowly joined by other instruments. The aim is control and subtlety, the maintenance of a single emotion, and then the release of a soaring energy. The ensemble offers a dynamic play between the instruments that, like so much of the music on this album, creates a rare and exhilarating kind of beauty.

— Colm Tóibín

The Gloaming | Fri, Apr 12 at 8PM | The Theatre at Ace Hotel

Message from the Artist: Caetano Veloso


I have wanted to make music with my sons for a long time. When they were children, I always sang them to sleep. Moreno and Zeca liked it, while Tom used to ask me to stop. Although they took different paths, they each moved towards music at some point in their lives.

Singing with my family is like a celebration that fills me with happiness. I went on tour with Moreno some years ago and now we are joined by Zeca and Tom on this new concert called “Ofertório.” We will be performing some of our favorite songs like “Um Canto de Afoxé Para o Bloco do Ilê,” plus some contemporary music, as well as a selection of my songs chosen by my sons. For instance, “O Leãozinho,” a song often requested by other people’s sons, was a song my sons always liked to ask me to sing. We will play some of the hits from my career, and also music that is new to all four of us.

During our first talks, we thought about inviting other musicians to enrich the arrangements. But we decided to keep it to only us four on stage – acoustic and simple. I’m the one who only plays guitar. Moreno, Zeca, and Tom take turns on various instruments. It’s an intimate concert, born from my will of being happy. Having kids was the most important thing that happened in my adulthood. This concert is dedicated to their moms, to Cezar Mendes, and in memory of my mother. — Caetano

Message from the Artist: Lars Jan on Joan Didion’s The White Album









The dancing fools

And the watching fools

Are the same

So why not dance

— Awa-Odori Festival chant

I first encountered “The White Album” when I was 16 and full of anti-establishment zeal. I fell in love—admittedly a teenage love—with the cool remove, the collage, the word-to-word manufacture of the sentences, and with Joan Didion herself. That same year, I was lucky to see Roger Guenveur Smith’s brilliant solo performance A Huey P. Newton Story. Ever since, the Black Panthers, theater, revolution, and Didion have been tangled in my mind. There’s nothing like the art, the people, the movements that knock you out when you’re young and the brain is both awakening and pliable.

“The White Album” is the piece of writing to which I’ve returned most frequently. I’ve built my artistic identity around the double-edged truth of the first sentence, which has evolved in emphasis as I’ve aged: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” First, storytelling is living, is the workbench where meaning is honed. Second—and this is the sharper of the edges—stories are creative acts of self-delusion, coping mechanisms to get by.

I keep seeing a meme of a woman who clearly lived the Sixties holding a sign that reads, “I can’t believe I still have to protest this fucking shit.” I can’t believe it either. And then I realize that the story I’ve been telling myself, some variant of ‘things will bend toward justice if we help bend them,’ may be my longest-running delusion of all.

“If I could believe that going to a barricade would affect a man’s fate in the slightest,” Didion writes in “On the Morning After the Sixties,” another essay included in the 1979 White Album collection, “I would go to that barricade, and quite often I wish that I could, but it would be less than honest to say that I expect to happen upon such a happy ending.”

I’m grateful to Joan Didion for channeling her experience of the narrative’s fracture into words, for laying bare the near breakdown of her coping mechanisms and, thereby, crafting one of the most illuminating stories of all. I am humbled to have the opportunity to do this dance with Didion’s voice, to turn the monologue into a conversation.

Didion spends time in the essay with striking students at San Francisco State College. This group of anonymous young people has become an inspiration for me—it’s their voices I’ve been hearing and have most wanted to feature alongside Didion’s in this performative conversation. I’m referring not only to that particular group of students, but also to their legacy, when people form coalitions over shared grievances and go about the messy work of doing something about it.

In the spirit of my 16-year-old self, I remain a believer in the barricades, whatever form they take and wherever we may erect them. I hope to meet you there, armed with the power of a delusion well-sharpened.

—Lars Jan, March 2019


On Zakir Hussain and Masters of Percussion


Drumming crosses cultures and unites us in the dance of the heart. Zakir Hussain is not only the acknowledged master tabla player of that most sophisticated of the world’s musical heritages, the classical North Indian, but also a student of an astonishing array of percussion traditions.

Zakir Hussain’s Masters of Percussion, an outgrowth of Zakir’s duet tours with his late father, the legendary Ustad Allarakha, began their biennial appearances in 1996 to provide a platform for rarely heard rhythm traditions from India. Over time, the ensemble has expanded to include great drummers and percussionists from many world traditions, including jazz, as well as the occasional stringed instrument. 2019 will be the centennial year of Allarakha’s birth, so this will be a very special MOP tour.

2019 will see him joined by the peerless Eric Harland (Charles Lloyd, Sangam) on Western drums, and the Kerala Drummers from the Southwestern coast of India.

They will perform together and separately, and it will be awe-inspiring, because they really are Masters, and Zakir Hussain is a true maestro who can bring out the magic in everyone on the stage – and in the audience.

—Zakir Hussain’s Masters of Percussion

Performance Thu, Mar 28 at 8PM at Royce Hall 

A Conversation with Nano Stern

Nano Stern

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Chilean singer-songwriter Nano Stern on his upcoming LA debut, the political power of art, and working with UCLA music students. The conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What does your LA debut mean to you?

It is quite incredible that we’ve never played in LA before. And it is extremely exciting, because it is the capital in a way, of entertainment, of show business and everything.

But also going beyond that, there’s so much interesting alternative music coming out of here, you know? Specifically working with UCLA and working with the quartet, and being able to interact a bit more in-depth with the people here, with the culture here, with the music that is going on here is really interesting for me.

I always appreciate when there is the chance to build a relationship that goes beyond getting into on city, playing and leaving the next morning to the next town. So I’m glad that LA is opening itself in this way. And also that we’re gonna play at the, the Ace Hotel which is a really beautiful theater, a very sort of fancy venue that I am also excited about.

Do you know the history of the Ace?

Not really, I know that it’s very old, and I’ve seen pictures, but I don’t know the history.

It’s called the United Artists Theater. It was opened by Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford, and it was built in a response to the big movie studios. They wanted to create their own films that represented them. And so that’s why it’s called United Artists. Knowing this history, how do you feel about performing in that space?

I was not aware of the history of this place, and now it becomes more exciting!  I mean, Charlie Chaplin is a character that is incredible, a superb talent, that I really enjoy so much. Also he was such a committed artist, living in such a critical time of the history of the 20th century.  So I think it really makes sense these days, you know, to be aware of that history because what we are living now, in a way, has a lot to do with those times. You know? With this sort of radicalization of society and what is the role of artists then, and I think he understood it better than anyone, probably, at that time.

A lot of your music is socially and even politically charged, can you speak more about why this is so important to you?

I just learned an interesting word lately, it turns out that the Greek word for someone who is not involved in politics was, in old Greek, “idiota.” An idiot. And I find it very interesting.

It’s not a bad thing necessarily, but they meant it like, someone who only minds their own business. An idiot who doesn’t care about the common business. And I think that whatever you do, there is a personal dimension to things which in music has to do for example, with songs that are more related to the intimate kind of world of your own personal relationships and feelings.

But also this fear of intimacy is constantly being penetrated by the collective, by what happens to all of us. Issues that have to do with us as a society, and a more specifically political stance, belong to that dimension. And I think that it is important to incorporate it, you know?

I don’t judge artists who are not involved in this way. I don’t think that it’s like a necessity, that you have to do it, I mean it’s totally okay… but in my case it’s a thing that I could not avoid doing, you know? Because it is something important for me.

A great Mexican writer used to say, “We are all political beings.” You know? And I agree with him. I think whoever is avoiding this is actually missing out on a very important part, which is looking at each other. We live in communities and we must get around it, and ask ourselves and try to answer, “How do we live together properly?”

And that’s what I think politics is. In that dimension, music is one of the most powerful tools because it creates community. You know? It resonates, and it allows everyone to vibrate together, so both things combined can be a very powerful weapon.

“Music is one of the most powerful tools because it creates community.”

What do you hope the LA audience will take away from your music?

Well, since this is my first time here in LA, I’m really looking forward to performing a concert that’s gonna be very wide in terms of what we do, ’cause we do many different things now.

On the one side, we’re gonna have my, kind of songwriting approach to show the original songs, but we’re also gonna play quite a lot of folk music from Chile and from South America, which is interesting because most people in the US have quite a distorted or partial appreciation of Latin culture, because of the natural predominance of Mexican culture and then a more Caribbean sort of salsa, and there’s these kind of very narrow images of what is Latin America.

But it turns out that you have Mexico, you have Central America, you have Columbia, but once you get past there, it’s a whole other story. Completely. And when you get to Chile, which is in the south of South America, and Argentina, it is a completely different culture, and the music is also very different.

People are not aware of this, so this, I think, plays in my favor because we get to surprise with something which is totally different from that.

When you work with students, what is the, the most valuable thing that you receive in your interactions with them?

So, working with students and working with younger musicians I think it’s a really enriching experience, because there’s a mutual learning process, no? They learn from me in terms that I present to them music which is maybe a little bit foreign. Literally and also in more abstract terms. It’s something else that they’re not used to and they have to really find within them, in their background, how to approach it. In that process, it’s me on the other side really learning constantly from all the possibility that they present.

Also younger musicians tend to be much more flexible and much more willing to experiment with different things, you know? Because I think it’s inevitable as you become older that you tend to be a bit more rigid, because of experience. It’s like a natural thing. It’s like, “Oh, this reminds me of that time that I did this, so I’m gonna kind of do it like that.”

Whereas, that’s the beauty of like really young children. Everything is new. Everything is for the first time, and it’s like being in love constantly, you know? So that happens.

And also, I enjoy in general playing with musicians that I don’t necessarily know. That there is a sort of micro lab of politics in a way that everyone has their own way of doing things. Everyone has their own opinion and we have to come across a way of doing it together in a beautiful manner.

Of course, in a case like this, where I’m presenting my music to them, I am supposed to have some kind of like conductor authority, but I really dislike this situation where I’m supposed to tell you, “This is how it is.” No, I think if I would do this, I am losing a big opportunity to learn from them. To really keep quiet a little bit and listen.

There are always things which are more beautiful happening if you allow yourself to listen to others with an open mind and open heart than if you go with a very clear idea, like “this is what it should be,” and not being able to be flexible about it.

Nano performs at the Theatre at Ace Hotel March 30th.

Performance as a Life Science: Meredith Monk’s Cellular Songs

By Bonnie Marranca

Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

“As artists, we’re all contending with what to do at a time like this. I wanted to make a piece that can be seen as an alternative possibility of human behavior, where the values are cooperation, interdependence, and kindness, as an antidote to the values that are being propagated right now.” After a half-century as an influential figure in the creation of contemporary performance culture, Meredith Monk goes right to the heart of the challenge.

Her spare new work, Cellular Songs, is conceived for five women performers—Monk and her vocal ensemble consisting of Katie Geissinger, Allison Sniffin, Ellen Fisher, and Jo Stewart. Dressed in layers of white and beige-toned clothes, the women sing, dance, play the piano together, and lie on the floor, all the while modeling behavior of care, comfort, companionship, and collaboration. Glorious colors of sound arise from the intricate musical textures. The only words of the piece are in Monk’s song of wisdom, “Happy Woman.”

Bodies alone make the landscape. Cellular Songs inhabits its own special realm of music-theater in its soulful interweaving of music, theater, image, and movement. Monk describes her process in spatial terms: “Some of the pieces have much more dissonance and chromatic kind of harmonies, and the forms are almost like three-dimensional sculptures. Earlier, my music had much more to do with layering. Now you can almost see or hear the piece rotating as if it were a sculpture in space, though it’s just a musical form.” A visual architecture is built into its rigorous structure, which may look deceptively simple. The 75-minute work is scored for piano, keyboard, and violin and the shimmering chorus of women’s voices that animate the space.

The work of Monk as composer, performer, director, choreographer, and filmmaker has achieved a singular prominence in the world of performance. Her range extends from solo performance to site-specific works, from theater and opera to compositions for orchestra, chamber ensembles, and solo instruments. Monk’s sense of scale is equally versatile in works large and small, as varied as Quarry, Education of the Girlchild, Facing North, The Games, and the more recent mercy, impermanence, and Songs of Ascension. Starting with her own ecological consciousness and recent readings in medicine, she was drawn naturally to the dimensions of the cell. “The cell is the fundamental unit of life, but it can also reflect the fundamental units of the universe, so that it’s got this sense of us as part of a much bigger whole. I’ve become fascinated by their wit and their vibrancy. What is going on in the cell is so complex and it’s a real prototype of the possibility of what a society could be if you take those same principles and expand them.” Monk has always been interested in the reflective power of microcosm and macrocosm, a theme explored in her most recent music-theater offering, On Behalf of Nature (2013).

What is distinctive in the experience of Cellular Songs is to watch its ethical fundamentals unfold over time in the performance on multiple levels: structurally, musically, and thematically. A philosophic worldview is viscerally demonstrated in the way the performers use their bodies to generate a social world. The women literally breathe into the space, creating the feeling of radiance. If, for Monk, the cell is the fundamental unit of life, she also affirms her belief in the purity of perception: “Over the last 10 years I’ve had this impulse to boil down what I am doing to its essence. It is a very worthwhile thing to take on a theme that you can spend time contemplating, a theme that can never be answered and can only be hinted at and glimpsed. Literally, the process of making a piece is the process of contemplating something. To contemplate the ineffable is a wonderful way to spend your life.”

Art takes many forms to address global crises as a way of comprehending reality. Monk’s work has chosen a path different than the response that is a direct statement of conditions, following instead her Buddhist grounding in art as spiritual practice. Subtly, in recent years, she has been offering audiences a genre that has a certain luminosity and softness, emotion without sentimentality, sweetness along with the dissonance. Her work honors the human need for the feelings of joy and love and beauty. In the integrity of its regard, Cellular Songs is of this world but also beyond this world, like all poetic works of the imagination.

Bonnie Marranca is founding publisher and editor of the Obie-Award winning PAJ Publications and PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, which celebrated its 40th year in 2016. She has written or edited 15 books on theater and the arts. ©2017 Brooklyn Academy of Music, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Meredith Monk Cellular Songs Sat, Mar 2 at 8PM Royce Hall