Caramoor Invites the Birds to Take Part in a Songfest
KATONAH, N.Y. — Birds have always participated in concerts here at Caramoor, where the performances are open-air. Especially in the early evening, they lend their voices and sing their songs. Why not? They live in the tall trees and bucolic grounds of this former estate. The musicians are just visitors.
But this weekend, Caramoor welcomed the birds outright and stirred conversations between human and avian musicians in a series called “Caramoor Takes Wing! Celebrating Birdsong.” The main offering was a magnificent performance of Messiaen’s “Catalogue d’Oiseaux” (“Catalog of Birds”), a dauntingly difficult suite of 13 piano pieces lasting more than two and a half hours, performed by Pierre-Laurent Aimard in three installments over two days.
Messiaen was fascinated with bird song from his early years. But in the “Catalogue,” written between 1956 and ’58, he explored it with almost obsessive intensity, making each piece a portrait not just of a particular species, but also of its region in France — the colors, temperature and “perfumes,” as he called them, of the landscape.
To broaden its scope, this mini-festival included an outdoor performance of John Luther Adams’s “songbirdsongs” by the Sandbox Percussion ensemble and two piccolo players, along with two Sunday morning bird walks, facilitated by the Bedford Audubon Society, and a panel discussion that asked if it was a stretch to describe the vocalizations that birds make as song.
Are birds just conversing, in their own wondrous ways? Do they make music, as humans think of it?
Musicians have been fascinated with bird song since ancient times. Vivaldi’s most famous piece, “The Four Seasons,” is rich with evocations of birds, as the sonnets accompanying these concertos make clear. So the festival got off to an early start on Saturday afternoon, when the mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital was the soloist with the Venice Baroque Orchestra in a program that included “Summer” from “The Four Seasons,” with Mr. Avital playing a version of the elaborate violin solo part.
But the idealized bits of chirping and cuckooing that Vivaldi folds into the music are nothing like the astonishing sounds of actual birds that hooked Messiaen — extremely high registers, breathless tempos, uncanny rhythmic complexity and accuracy, bursts of notes that can sound like pointillist atonal riffs.
The series began in earnest early Saturday evening in Caramoor’s Sunken Garden, where the clarinetist and naturalist David Rothenberg engaged in a live improvisation with the birds. As bird sounds drifted into the area Mr. Rothenberg imitated them. But it took his turning on a recording of such sounds to really get the conversation going.
As dusk passed into night and Mr. Aimard appeared in the Spanish Courtyard to play the first installment of the Messiaen cycle, birds were chirping away. To me, it seemed like Messiaen’s music inspired them to join in even more.
The 13 pieces depict various birds at different times of day. Mr. Aimard grouped the evening, morning and afternoon pieces into three sub-suites. The first piece he played, “Le Courlis Cendré” (“The Curlew”), was suggestive of the overall approach Messiaen takes. Passages of bird song break out in frenetic, every-which-way bursts. Sometimes streams of tangled notes combine to suggest piercing sonorities. Chirpy repetitive riffs may sound fleet and charming, yet also manic and a little terrifying.
Episodes of bird song alternate with passages that unfold in thick, resonant harmonies, like dense chorales, or restless spans of leaping cluster chords that seem to reflect the emotions the birds stir up. Early on Sunday morning, at 7:30, it seemed that scores of birds were ready and waiting when Mr. Aimard began the second installment. In “Le Bouscarle” (“The Warbler”), the pointillist webs came so thick and fast that even the most fiercely modernist pieces of Pierre Boulez, a Messiaen student, would have sounded tame by comparison. Yet the piece was also rich with gorgeous harmonic episodes and delightfully twittering runs.
The question of whether birds sing, as we understand it, came up first thing during the panel discussion. The ornithologist J. Alan Clark said that, to him, whether you refer to bird songs, or calls, or vocalizations is just semantics. Yes, some birds, especially males, sing to announce their presence and stake a territory in order to attract a mate, he said. But, citing the ornithologist Richard O. Prum’s recent book “The Evolution of Beauty,” Mr. Clark added that birds, like many animals, may have an innate appreciation of beauty that inspires their singing. For his part, Mr. Rothenberg questioned whether what people do should be called music. After all, he said, birds were around, and making their sounds long before we were.
In his comments, Mr. Aimard placed “Catalogue” in the context of Messiaen’s development as a composer. During the 1950s, he said, Messiaen was in a creative crisis. Music was going through radical changes, with avant-garde techniques like serialism capturing the intellectual high ground. Messiaen genuinely loved birds. But he also saw the modernist qualities of their songs as a means to develop his own musical language.
The most challenging aspect of these pieces concerns their episodic structures. Each one came across like an arbitrary series of events, despite many recurring bits. The most extreme is the cycle’s central work, “La Rousserolle Effarvatte” (“The Reed Warbler”), an audacious 30-minute piece, at once engrossing and confounding. Still, as played by Mr. Aimard to end the series on Sunday afternoon in the Venetian Theater, every scintillating, teeming and intense moment hooked me.
It was a perfect touch that in a space above a row of lights near the stage there was a bird’s nest. A mother bird kept flying in with what looked like morsels of food to feed her family. Other birds visited, too — sometimes to sing, sometimes just to listen.
Caramoor Takes Wing! Celebrating Birdsong
Performed Saturday and Sunday at Caramoor, Katonah, N.Y.
Anthony Tommasini is the chief classical music critic. He writes about orchestras, opera and diverse styles of contemporary music, and he reports regularly from major international festivals. A pianist, he holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from Boston University. @TommasiniNYT
Strike the Beach in Style: Neoprene Handbags and Accessories to Rock on the Sand
Strike the Beach in Style: Neoprene Handbags and Accessories to Rock on the Sand
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When you’re loading for a family holiday or a women getaway, it is essential to have a carry bag that’ll fit your beach checks out, sunscreen (don’t forget to reapply!) and … the very best sun hat. Not just will it complete your cute summer attire, but it’ll also help block the rays and perhaps avoid age areas. Not to mention, a glam floppy hat looks fantastic on the ‘gram. Whether you desire an easy packable visor or statement woven straw hat, these choices will have you reserving your next escape.
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Summer season is here and we’re already preparing our next kayaking journeys or beach get-together. Among the things you shouldn’t overlook when making plans is picking an excellent hat, whether it’s for a vacation or for everyday use.
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Lady Gaga: Start your tour with a shocking change of image
Lady Gaga has returned to the stage after the break caused by her illness. He has done it in Barcelona, in the first of the two concerts at the Palau Sant Jordi, and he has done it in style. With an intense concert where it has been delivered to an audience, which sold out all the tickets. Mind you, get ready to see a Lady Gaga more changed than ever. A change of image that has impacted its fans.
A few months ago Lady Gaga left with her mouth open to all her fans when she announced that she was postponing her tour because of her fibromyalgia problems. Well, he has returned and he has done it through the front door. Barcelona, the first city of his return, surrendered to the pop star. On this occasion, he drew attention to the soberness of his wardrobe. No makeup or outlandish dresses, we saw a Lady Gaga soberer than ever.
Naked stage, with a long mobile platform that has been filled with dancers as the singer went to glam-rock in A-Yo and took the landmark poker face out of the hat. She started the show like a cowgirl with a glitter hat on Diamond heart, between nostalgic stanzas of when she was “young and wild” and allusions to that rape: “an asshole ruined and ruined my innocence”, which she told a few months ago. make public their problem.
Lady Gaga: Support the LGBT community
Lady Gaga spent so much time singing and talking. “How many members of the LGBT community are there? How many are not? It does not matter, we love everyone. ” And we already know that the artist is a defender of rights.
Gaga, the richest young woman in the world, started in Barcelona the European section of her “Joanne World Tour”, with which she presents her latest album, “Joanne”, entitled in homage to a deceased aunt of his. In October, Gaga announced the reprogramming of the European tour, in which the spectators will be able to listen to their usual songs, but also their fifth studio album, ‘Joanne’, disc that debuted recently at number 1 of the Billboard list , standing as the first female artist to achieve it four times consecutively in this decade.
What do you think of his return? Do you think it was up to the expectations?
Director Bryan Singer is accused of raping a 17-year-old boy
A few days after being fired as director of the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody,” filmmaker Bryan Singer was sued on Thursday in Washington state on charges of raping a minor in 2003, according to media reports specialized.
The victim, Cesar Sanchez-Guzman, accused Singer of raping him on a yacht when he was seventeen. According to his testimony, the director forced the young man to have oral sex on him and then penetrated him.
Later, Singer told the young man that he was a well-known Hollywood producer and that he could help him enter the industry with roles as an actor if he did not reveal what happened.
“He told Caesar that no one would believe if he reported the incident and that he would hire people who could ruin his reputation,” the suit filed in a Seattle court.
The yacht was owned by Lester Waters, a billionaire investor in the world of technology “who often organized gay homosexual parties in the Seattle area,” according to the text.
It’s not the first time Singer has been accused of anything like this.
Three years ago he was accused by Michael Egan III of sexual abuse when he was a minor in 1999.
Egan III stated that she was “repeatedly raped” in a Los Angeles (California) mansion where “sordid parties” were routinely performed in which guests, related to the Hollywood industry, were naked and had sex with teenagers.
The 20th Century Fox studio fired Bryan Singer last Monday for the post of director of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a movie about British band Queen.
The decision was made because of the filmmaker’s repeated absences on the set of the film.
Earlier, Fox had announced on the 1st of this month that the recording was temporarily suspended because of an “unexpected problem” of Singer.
A representative of the producer stated that his absence was due to a “personal health issue.”
The director, 52, has signed films such as “The Suspects,” “Superman Returns,” and four of the “X-Men” saga.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is set to hit theaters on Christmas Day 2018.