So the other night we made a triple house concert: three different ensembles in three different living rooms, playing together on a Google Hangout. Riffing on my transatlantic orchestra piece Latency Canons(which premiered last April with American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and Gildas Quartet and conductor Dane Lam in Manchester, UK), this time I had two co-conspirators, composers Paul Haas (NY, NY) and Paul Fowler (Boulder, CO), and each had his own house concert going on. All three living rooms came together as one performance space. And yes, there’s delay on those lines, a gorgeous swirl of delays as the music comes rolling in from afar.
My daughter’s bedroom was graced by four incredibly gifted musicians: Mariella Haubs (vln), Mina Um (vln), Jameel Martin (vla), and Ken Kubota (vc). In Boulder, CO were composer Paul Fowler and vocalists Rose Fuller (soprano), Tara Uren (alto), Tom Morgan (tenor), and Brian du Fresne (bass). Elsewhere in Manhattan were composer Paul Haas, Josh Henderson (viola), Chern Hwei Fung (viola), Sam Quiggins (cello), and Amanda Lo (violin).
Here’s a test of music by J.S. Bach/Paul Haas, plus music by me at 1:11. Watch how impossible it is to stay together, and how fun that is! (S0rry about the wacky sound quality!)
Now from the audience point of view, here’s a clip of one of my pieces:
I’m going to have a long list of some serious thank-yous to give to so many wonderful, kind, spirited, and generous souls down here. One of whom is James Brown. No, not that one, another one, the Lexington cycling guru at Crankworks, who has outfitted me for the week with the best bicycle I’ve ever mounted, a two-wheeled rocket, so that I might better enjoy more of the broad beautiful horse country of Kentucky. I started with a sunrise ride through the Delong area yesterday. I popped a flat about a mile from home and my ride turned into a jog, but a lovely one. Very glad that nail was not sitting on the ground 10 miles away. Now we’re repaired, outfitted with a patch kit, and ready for tomorrow’s Kentucky inspiration.
It saves my life to have a bike to ride, as this is donut country. If you’re going to have donuts, have them here, because they’re incomparable.
As well as lots of festival fine dining.
And of course the finest bourbon in all of the universe.
The local sandwich here is the “hot brown.” It’s turkey, bacon, fried green tomatoes, and greens, served open-face on rye, with mornay sauce. So tasty. It’s a Kentucky thing that you have to try.
If you ever have the chance to meet Charlie Stone of Lexington Kentucky, jump at it! He is not the mayor of Lexington, but he may as well be. He’s the founding director of the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, and a magical man whom everyone, EVERYONE, here seems to love like family. And he’s created this amazing chamber music festival that seems to turn all of central Kentucky (and beyond) on its head. He and the festival’s founding violinist Nathan Cole have brought together this dizzyingly talented group of musicians–pianist Alessio Bax, violinist Akiko Tarumoto, violist Burchard Tang, cellist Priscilla Lee, this year’s guest artist tenor Nicholas Phan, and guest ensemble Windsync–plus a power team of other talented creative and organizational types, to make it all come together. It’s like this two-week city-wide party. This is no small city and I went into a downtown cafe yesterday–A Cup of Common Wealth (great cafe!)– and got talking with the two baristas, and it turns out they not only know of the festival but they already have their tickets. This town is chamber-music-mad!
Some highlights I’m really looking forward to (beyond the premiere of my own piece Boys’ Ambition) include: Schubert’s Schwanengesang with Nick Phan and Alessio Bax; theRavel string quartet with Nathan Cole, Akiko Tarumoto, Burchard Tang, and Priscilla Lee; the Shostakovitch cello Sonata with Alessio and Priscilla; and some wild Wieniawski violin with Nathan and Alessio. Not to play favorites with the piece though. This is just what I’ve been hearing in rehearsals and it’s all sounding sublime already.
I’m in beautiful Lexington, Kentucky all this week as Composer in Residence for this amazing festival of chamber music. One of the things I love about people who love chamber music is that they more often than not love really good food, great coffee, great art, and especially here in Lexington, the very finest bourbon on the planet earth. And here these wonderful chamber music lovers of life also have an unhealthy obsession with horses, which is pretty neat for a New York City boy to behold. The Fasig-Tipton Pavilion, the gorgeous main concert hall for the festival, is probably better known here as a place where horses are shown for auction. There is literally-no-joking a ring of hay around the stage for performers who get the munchies. Festival cellist Pricilla Lee was kind enough to supplement that with a ring of croissants (incredibly delicious ones) for us non-horse occupants of the stage. It is truly trippy and wonderful. Both the horses and the musicians relish the great acoustics of the space.
One of the festival’s patrons, and host of the festival’s opening patrons’ party, is renowned artist Andre Pater, whose work is heavily inspired by animals, but in particular, horses and horse culture. Unbeknownst to this New York City composer, Andre is a legend in the horse-minded world, his works selling for huge piles of green. Horse lovers, and horses themselves, faint when he walks in the room. Also, he’s Polish, and I’m starting to put it together that horses are tightly interlinked with the spirit of Poland and Poles, ie. the ill-equipped Polish army went on horseback against Nazi tanks, a terribly tragic suicide mission, with such a poignant majesty to it. It was really special to be out there on Andre’s horse ranch in the Kentucky hills and see his gorgeous works in his beautiful home.
I happened upon this while composing my new work centered around the Mississippi River. A powerful and beautiful 1937 documentary on the river’s history and importance. My new piece, Boys’ Ambition, comes from a different vantage, based upon a short story by Mark Twain, but I love Virgil Thomson’s score for the documentary.
Just back from Paris where I got to hang out with my wonderful wife and daughter, to feast all the senses like you do in Paris, and to catch up with some friends, including nuevo-tango luminary Eduardo Makaroff and his beautiful family, and brilliant Paris-native composer Jules Matton, and to make new friends including Jules’s novelist mother Slyvie Matton, and violinist Rachel Koblyakov.
I always find it really funny when the guidebooks, and many Parisians, try to make you think that no one in Paris wakes before 10am, when they go to the cafe, to eat a pastry, read the paper, maybe find out what’s going on with the Tour de France, and then later go to the Louvre, before rounding out the day at the cafe again. Who are we supposed to believe baked the pastry, opened the cafe, printed and delivered the newspaper, trained for the grueling Tour de France, and built the Louvre? I went in search during a spontaneous dawn run to the Arc de Triomph.
Honestly, Paris was pretty dead at that hour. When do all these wonders take place? My god it must be hard to live in Paris and keep up the pretense that your life is an easy breeze.Now it’s back to NYC and down to work on a new commission for the amazing tenor Nicholas Phan and the ensemble of the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, where I’m excited to be Composer in Residence later this summer. Looking forward to exploring horse country and, of course, Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail.
“The greater the risk, of course, the greater the chance the experiment will fail. But computers, Internet connections and live musicians cooperated splendidly for the premiere of Raymond J. Lustig’s entrancing “Latency Canons” on Friday evening at Zankel Hall.”
“A surreally beautiful, contrapuntal soundscape unfolded against a video backdrop of live, blurry images of the musicians. Harmonies overlapped during the stately opening. A brass line underpinned the gentle cacophony of spiraling, ecstatic string fragments that ended the work on a rapturous note.”
“The most inspired experiment, in its marriage of concept and music, was Raymond J. Lustig’s Latency Canons, which took its musical problem from an unlikely source: The inherent glitchiness of Google Hangouts.”
“The overall result was arresting—who could have guessed that such a complex and striking piece of music might have come from such a simple idea? What’s more, the fact that this music was being created by musicians in different parts of the world, their collaboration only enhanced by the imperfections of technology, was genuinely moving. The canon effect worked perfectly, and other unexpected “problems,” like the occasional occurrence of static and feedback, added to the piece’s appeal. Perhaps the most affecting and fitting moment was when the Google Hangout asked us, about three quarters of the way through the performance, ‘Are you still there?’ We were indeed—rapturously.
“Lustig managed to balance chance and control, experimentation and execution. The music fulfilled the promise of his idea, producing a glitchy, gorgeous success.”
Rehearsals for my new trans-Atlantic work LATENCY CANONS are shaping up, with its premiere this Friday at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall. American Composers Orchestra and conductor George Manahan in various places in New York, conductor Dane Lam and the Gildas Quartet in Manchester, UK, all playing together in beautiful latency. It’s an experimental new work that makes use of basic web conferencing software (Google Hangouts) to make music together. It’s brilliant technology, but everyone who’s tried it for music knows there’s delays, freezes, instability, and a kind of weird sound. But in LATENCY CANONS, those “weaknesses” are what will make the piece interesting and beautiful.
Welcome to my new website. Here you can learn more about my music and upcoming performances. I’m currently at work on a new piece for American Composers Orchestra (LATENCY CANONS), for premiere at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall on April 5th. I’m also working on an exciting opera/musical drama based on the tragic life of a visionary nineteenth-century doctor (SEMMELWEIS), in development with American Opera Projects. I’m preparing the release of my first full-length CD (FIGMENTS for two guitars), with Duo Noire; working on a mystery project called RADIOBOUND (I can tell you no more than that it’s a collaboration with four gifted composer friends); scoring a short animated film by my brother John Lustig; and teaching new courses at Juilliard in composition and music theory.
I’m incredibly lucky to exist within a circle of amazingly talented and creative musicians and artists in New York and beyond, whose work I’m very enthusiastic about and inspired by, so you may also find some information here to point you in other beautiful and compelling directions.
I used to be a scientist (once a scientist, always a scientist, no?) and I continue to be inspired by the natural world, the healing arts, and the amazing people whose lives are there focused (including my surgeon wife, my many medical friends, my scientist comrades, the greats of history, etc.)