Saturday Oct 4 at 8pm, Inspired by Art, a program of new orchestral works drawing on art and architecture, including the premiere of my latest work SUSPENSION, which is inspired by majestic and mighty bridges of my native New York City.
Growing up in Queens, my psyche formed around New York’s many grand bridges, these mysterious goliaths that are at once splendid yet gritty, mighty yet rust-eaten, silent yet thundering, terrifying yet comforting. Each bridge has its own distinct character, and together they form the skeleton of my dreamscape version of New York, the beautifully dreary, grainy, mysterious, centuries-old nest of so much mobile humanity. Now, from my apartment in northern Manhattan I look out every day over the George Washington Bridge that spans the Hudson River, and I’ve grown to see these architectural marvels—with their miraculous distribution of weight, their mesmerizing lines, and their juxtaposition to their surrounding context—as some of the greatest works of art in my emerald city.
“a unique and entrancing album that exists at the unusual intersection of minimalism and impressive classical guitar technique.”
“The impressive technique displayed by Duo Noire is perfectly suited to Lustig’s delicious compositions, and you wouldn’t regret getting a hold of this; if you like acoustic guitar, bluegrass, minimalism, blues—or music at all—you’ll definitely enjoy this excellently produced and mastered album.”
Huge thanks to Mary Mackenzie, Joshua Roman, Karen Kim, David Kaplan, Bill Kalinkos, and Daria Binkowski for a transcendent premiere of my latest piece BEAUTY SPREAD UNEARTHLY WHITE, for Pierrot ensemble with soprano. It was a thrill to work with this all-star team of musicians, and an honor to share the bill with composers Joshua Roman, Amir Shpilman, Wang Jie, and good old Arnold Schoenberg for an evening of wildly diverse responses to Schoenberg’s avant garde landmark work Pierrot Lunaire. A huge thanks goes to Seattle Town Hall and their Town Music series, for their adventurous spirit and warm support.
The program was the brainchild of cellist/composer Joshua Roman. Each of us composers was commissioned to compose a new work that somehow reflected their relationship still-to-this-day radical Pierrot Lunaire. We knew nothing of each others’ plans and each worked on our own, and it was very neat to see how differently we all responded. Joshua’s piece sprung from Pierrot’s text and supplanted Schoenberg’s 20th-century infatuation with the Moon with a 21st-century eye to Mars. Amir’s piece took Pierrot’s extended vocal technique and precision to a stunning 21st-century extreme. Wang Jie’s piece picked up on the 20th-century sensuality of Pierrot and unleashed it with a very 21st-century vividness in a mini song cycle of her own. My piece picked up on Schoenberg’s renowned fascination with numbers; its subtitle THREE TO THE SEVENTH isin reference to Schoenberg’s subtitle for Pierrot, Three times Seven Poems from Albert Giraud’s “Pierrot lunaire.” In my piece, every note emerges from a single three-note cell that is replicated on seven different timescales.
I really like this kind of programming, the kind that shows how differently we all can see the very same thing. That is what art does for us, helps us appreciate the differences in our perception.
The whole gang, L to R, Bill Kalinkos, Karen Kim, me, Joshua Roman, Mary Mackenzie, Amir Shpilman, David Kaplan, and Wang Jie.
Composer Amir Shpilman and I getting all over beautiful Seattle.
Quick beer stop.
Post-concert with (L toR) composer Amir Shpilman, the intrepid soprano Mary Mackenzie, and me.
Composers Wang Jie, me, and Amir Shpilman having Alaskan Salmon for lunch at Pike Place Market, Seattle
The text for Beauty Spread Unearthly White comes from Walter de la Mare’s poem “Winter,” with its solitary depiction of a fleeting moment of near-perfect light, as day changes to night in a snow-blown landscape. In response to the cold white perfection, I wanted to give over to my obsessiveness about order and clarity, to compose a piece where every note needed to be related to the greater structure in a very direct way, and to subjugate all musical elements to this single idea. Like fractal patterns or crystal structures, a single three-note motive is replicated on seven timescales simultaneously; the overall structure therefore exhibits the same relationships as those in the piece’s shortest note values, and everything in between. My desire in submitting to this rigid process was to mirror the hypnotic clarity and simplicity of de la Mare’s transcendent image.
My debut solo recording is now out! At last, all six FIGMENTS for two guitars are available on a gorgeous new EP recording with the extraordinary DUO NOIRE, recorded with master engineer Ryan Streber at Oktaven Audio, Yonkers, NY, and with a spectacular package design by John Walter Lustig I am so proud of this recording, honored to have worked with all these gifted artists in putting it all together, and grateful to all my friends, family, and colleagues who have supported and encouraged this project. Thank you!
I’m so happy to learn that my brother John Lustig‘s brilliant short film Eye in Tuna Care just won the Animation category at the Très Court International Film Festival in Paris. Congratulations to John and everyone who worked on the film, including violist Stephanie Block, who played my music hauntingly. As a surprise they flew in one of the film’s stars, the eyeball man, to present him with the award (um, they had someone come onstage in an eyeball man costume).
For those not in Paris, it’s also screening at the IFC Center in New York on Monday, May 5 at 8pm, and in other cities worldwide, as part of the same festival.
Just back from a trip to Barcelona with my family, where we went for much-needed R&R and inspiration (and the exquisite nourishment Barcelona is famous for). We were most excited to see all the Guadí works, and didn’t get nearly to all of them. The monumental cathedral of Sagrada Familia is mind-blowing, and I didn’t even bother taking pictures because they could do no justice, but here is a place where you can find plenty of pictures that also do no justice to the astounding amazingness of Sagrada Familia.
I did snap some pictures in the fantastic museum in the basement, that detailed what excited me most, the geometry behind the strange shapes:
We also spent time in the amazing Park Guelle. A mystical place. I mean, look at this.
I did grab a few entirely insufficient shots of Gaudi’s amazing Casa Batlló:
Totally tourists, at the Park Guell:
Our home away from home in Barcelona. Upstairs from Joanet, where lunch is both homey and to die for at the same time:
The mysticism of Barcelona has a lot to do with its natural setting. Franciscan monks were drawn to the unearthly mountain landscapes surrounding the city to build Montserrat and other monasteries. And the whole region is swarming with pilgrims who hike and climb in these strange and mysterious mountains.
Here’s a video that shows a bit of the background on my LATENCY CANONS, but at 2:20 gives a preview of my experiments with composers Paul Haas and Paul Fowler on a new collaborative work we’re planning that will unite concerts in different places into one evening-length event.
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 of GOTAN Project, 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.)