To say that you’ll never think of Lot’s wife the same way after seeing Maya Beiser’s “Elsewhere,” a new “cello opera” that recently played at BAM’s Next Wave Festival, would be a gross understatement. In the Genesis story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s wife has no name — let alone speaking lines — and is primarily an example of the fate that awaits those who disobey divine instruction: “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”
Even without its clever premise, Jacob Garchik’s latest album would still make for great listening. This is the sort of music that makes you stop in your tracks and mutter, “What is that?” It’s not every day that one hears a trombone choir — let alone one augmented with sousaphone and slide trumpet — playing warm, enveloping tunes that sound like long-lost spirituals.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to brush up on Israeli history before watching “Gei Oni,” the new Dan Wolman film based on Shulamit Lapid’s novel of the same name. Set in the late 19th century, the story takes place during the first wave of European immigration to Ottoman-ruled Palestine, when Jews fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe arrived at the Port of Jaffa in search of new lives. While the film’s main characters are fictional, a few historical figures also make appearances. These include the British Zionist, author, Christian mystic and onetime member of Parliament Laurence Oliphant and the poet Naftali Herz Imber, best known for writing the lyrics to “Hatikvah” in 1878. The real-life Oliphant took Herz Imber as his secretary when he traveled to Palestine in 1882 with the aim of assisting Jewish settlement there.
You might not recognize Raymond Scott’s name, but chances are that you’ve heard his music — and that it makes you anxious. That’s because Scott’s “Powerhouse” (1937), easily his best known work, has been used to accompany scenes of mechanized peril in everything from the classic 1940s Warner Bros. cartoons to “The Ren & Stimpy Show” and a Visa check card commercial. As Warner Bros. animator, director and historian Greg Ford notes in “Deconstructing Dad: The Music, Machines and Mystery of Raymond Scott,” a new documentary film by the composer’s son, Stan Warnow, the disquieting “Powerhouse” became the go-to choice for scoring animated scenes of panic on the assembly line. Raymond Scott (1908-1994) never wrote with animated films in mind (Warner Bros. simply licensed Scott’s back catalogue in 1941), but it’s fitting that he should be forever linked to the image of a swiftly moving conveyor belt — a contraption that makes its operators struggle to keep pace.
What’s your socialist bubbe got to do with the Queen of Pop? That’s the question at the heart of “The Material World,” the new Dan Fishback musical headlining this summer’s HOT! Festival at New York City’s Dixon Place. The setting for the show is a dream-world 1920s Bronx boarding house where a family of Russian Jewish socialists lives with Madonna, Britney Spears and a gay teenager plotting a Facebook revolution.
The first time Anthony Russell heard Sidor Belarsky (1898-1975), on the soundtrack for the Coen brothers film “A Serious Man,” he thought it was Paul Robeson singing in Yiddish. Russell, an African-American classically trained operatic bass, wasn’t yet familiar with work of the Ukrainian-American opera singer and conservator of Jewish music, but he was drawn in by the deep, dark timbre of Belarsky’s voice.
On March 26, a day after the premiere of the new season of “Mad Men,” a group of New Yorkers packed into Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher hall to soak up another dose of mid-century nostalgia: the New York Philharmonic’s spring gala program “Anywhere I Wander: The Frank Loesser Songbook,” featuring the works of the Jewish composer and lyricist who reigned during the glitzy heyday of the American musical comedy.
Photo by Pawel Mazur
Bah humbug! This is a trying month for those of us with sensitive ears. Which is worse: the saccharine “holiday” drivel saturating the airwaves, or the ceaseless griping of those cheerless snobs who make a winter sport of proclaiming their distaste for the season’s musical offerings?
Courtesy of GAT publicity