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Highly Selective Listings

Brooklyn Rail Highly Selective Music Events

A thoughtful, discerning, and carefully compiled list of the most notable, promising and unique musical events for the month of May in New York City.

Four Episodes from Robert Ashley’s Vidas Perfectas

Sealed off from the clamor of a major New York art event, a viewer who sat through successive episodes was rewarded with the sense of a parallel world unfolding inside a space the size of a storage closet.

Contrapunctual Music for Spoken Words Only

It took 40 years for Robert Ashley’s The Trial of Anne Opie Wehrer and Unknown Accomplices for Crimes Against Humanity to receive a New York staging.​ The last of three Ashley operas performed at the 2014 Whitney Biennial, the Trial of Anne Opie Wehrer, written in 1968, marks a starting point in the composer’s nearly 50-year groundbreaking process of creating a truly American opera format for of 20th century. This performance established it as a seminal work in contemporary opera.


We remember a person most acutely in the sharp period after we learn of their passing. After reading about Robert Ashley’s death on Kyle Gann’s blog Postclassic, I went scouring music and book sites to see what recordings and writings of his I might be missing.

La Cumbiamba eNeYé at Roulette

La Cumbiamba eNeYé performed March 15 at Roulette with their full, 11-piece ensemble for the first time in four years, part of the World Music Institute (W.M.I.) series, World to Brooklyn!. The series aims to achieve a higher level of engagement between international musicians and their audience, and La Cumbiamba’s (the name refers to a traditional outdoor dance party in Colombia) performance resulted in a culturally immersive, festive, and impressive experience.

STRUMMING MUSIC: Charlemagne Palestine

On the evening of March 7, Charlemagne Palestine approached the massive Aeolian-Skinner organ at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights with dogged determination and a childlike sense of wonder. A soft drone was reverberating throughout the airy room even before Palestine took his seat.

The Alexander Technique

During the 1990s, I went to hear Alex Chilton at every conceivable opportunity. This was the late-model Chilton: a no-frills trio, Chilton on guitar and vocals, a bassist, and a drummer. His unassuming, low-key demeanor was an enigma, not quite jibing with a wildly oscillating career and famously turbulent past.

And in the Margins, the Mad Scientists: Synth Nights at the Kitchen

Live electronic music is never quite in the moment. It’s concerned with creating the future or busy sampling the past. It’s delivered from laptops with dimly-lit Digital Audio Workstations, or performed by robots. It’s fascinated with space and time, but never explores the moment in which it actually exists. It’s also rarely visually engaging.


Since I was a kid I’ve been fired from four jobs, two of which I never got paid for. The first paying job: clerk in an art supply store. Reason for termination: too slow. The second paying job: in a print shop. Reason for termination: too stoned. The two freebies were: emcee of a festival, a job I held for 12 or more years—reason:


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2014

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