ONE OF THE BEST MUSIC THINGS OF 2011
I guarantee you have 17 minutes in your culture calendar for this. Get a bagel/croissant + coffee, sit somewhere comfortable-ish, crank your volume, and then click the embedded audio player below to hear Mos Def (soon-to-be named Yasiin) performing Frederic Rzewski’s 1972 minimalist work “Coming Together” with the newly reconsecrated Brooklyn Philharmonic last Thursday:
(The free stream of the full concert, hosted by WQXR, will become inactive on Thursday, Oct. 20th. Does every music lover on the Internet have a stream-capture program by now? Yes? Because I’m probably going to put this performance on my year-end list of favorite music, and I don’t want to hear any talk like “I didn’t know about this / don’t live in NYC / couldn’t hear it / didn’t know how to make a copy of the audio.” OK, let’s continue.)
The NY Philharmonic, over in Lincoln Center, is sometimes given loads of credit just for SHOWING UP to do a 20th Century piece. (I have given them some of that credit.) But playing “Coming Together” is what I’d call city-specific programming with a purpose beyond aesthetics, or mere “good taste.” When the Brooklyn Philharmonic played the piece — the text of which is drawn from an Attica inmate’s letters — in Bed-Stuy last week, it was covered by HipHopDX, for example (see image-grab above).
While there, Mos dedicated the piece, sensibly, to Troy Davis. These are things I think Rzewski — who scored the piece, in open-ended/radical fashion, for “speaker, bass instrument and ensemble” — would be all the way into. (You can read more about how “Coming Together” works as a piece, over here.)
“Does New York really need another philharmonic?” is a question you’ll hear from certain people at certain times. The answer turns out to be: Yes, unambiguously. America-at-Large could use more philharmonics like this, as well, though that’s a bigger conversation to have probably after we figure out some other stuff.
“Talk to guards and inmates,” aight, everyone in the 99%?