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3/25/10
Live from Inside the Cabinet
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I would be remiss as a composer if I did not promote something in which I was directly involved.  Tonight, Thursday night, I’ll be on stage with the inimitable John Wesley Harding as part of his Cabinet of Wonders.  And if you can’t make it out, there’s another on April 15 (on which a piece of mine, Music Doesn’t Want Me, my first book of madrigals, with words by Mr. Wesley Harding—or Wesley Stace, as is his given name—will be played) and another still on May 20th.  Allow me to lay some praise down for Wes, the mastermind behind these things.John Wesley HardingHis tastes are fantastically catholic (note the small “c”) and as he is very accomplished in two careers—as a singer-songwriter and novelist—it is not surprising that his broad professional acquaintanceships range into the musical and literary.  Ergo a night like tonight where you’ll hear a reading by Sarah Vowell (her recent book The Wordy Shipmates is indeed a masterpiece everyone should read), comedy by Eugene Mirman (here pause for the sad cancellation of the show “Flight of the Concords,” on which Eugene was featured) and performances by Errolyn Wallen (a brilliant and singular composer), Jake Slichter (of Semisonic), Freedy Johnston, John Roderick and Langhorne Slim. Quite a lineup!(The night of April 15, I will be appearing with none other than writers Rick Moody and Ben Greenman, comedian Eugene Mirman, and musicians Sondre Lerche, Nicole Atkins, and Leona Naess.  More on that later!)But it ought to be known that Wes, or Mr. Wesley Harding, is well worth the price of admission, as is his band, the English U.K. His songs are smart, crafty, witty, and downright gorgeous (I especially love his new record Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead) and he’s a great performer (especially backed by this all-business band).  Honestly, what drew me to Wes and his whole zany mise-en-scène was his broader notions of inclusiveness.  Not to toot my own horn, but he gives artists who are worthwhile a space and never fears the blurring of lines, crossing of genres, or thinks “will someone who likes Sarah Vowell also want to hear acoustic folk?  Will a Rick Moody fan want to hear comedy by Eugene Mirman?  Will anyone at all be interested in new madrigals?”  Rather, he just allows, in a spirited way, bringing together not only people who are talented but also willing.  So when you come to the Cabinet, as eclectic as the gathered talent tends to be, they all have this one important thing in common: they want to be there.Plus I get to play piano not only for the theme that Wes and I wrote together, but also for two David Bowie songs. I love David Bowie.Elsewhere, I know that tonight is the final performance of The Nose at the Metropolitan Opera.  I saw the opening night (swoon: studded with stars!  Alas I was seated in the heavens—and to quote Lou Reed: “There’s no stars in the New York Sky.  They’re all on the ground,” Mr. Reed being among the present luminaries) and while I now encourage the impossible, if one can obtain a ticket, do, as the show (well, the production rather) is well worth it for William Kentridge’s vision alone.  The piece: I’ve now seen three productions (this being by far the strongest) and listened to it on record, and while I really want to love it, as an opera—meaning a piece of sheer music drama—it has never really done it for me.  Though, as the composition of a man of 22, I am impressed of course (I should write such bad theatre at 22), but as a listener, I’ve just never been taken with it.But here’s an interesting point of discussion: what do you do about those things that you are dying to love, that seem like something you should love because they fit many of your criteria, many smart people around you love them deeply, and yet when confronted with the actual stuff, you are left cold?  Perhaps a future blog on this…Daniel Felsenfeld is a composer who lives in Brooklyn.Image: John Wesley Harding by Xavier Thomas.

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SundayArts is made possible in part by First Republic Bank and by the Rubin Museum of Art. Funding for SundayArts is also made possible by Rosalind P. Walter, The Paul and Irma Milstein Foundation, The Philip & Janice Levin Foundation, Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown, Jody and John Arnhold, and The Lemberg Foundation. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional funding provided by members of THIRTEEN.