Elliot Sharp Archives

Walter Benjamin Opera: Port Bou by Elliott Sharp

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Performance: December 7, 2016 | 8pm

Tickets (sold at the door): $20

 

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The opera PORT BOU by Elliott Sharp presents the last moments in the life of philosopher Walter Benjamin at Port-Bou in 1940 as he was fleeing Nazi-occupied France. The work features the astounding Nicholas Isherwood, bass/baritone, the virtuosi Jenny Lin, piano, and William Schimmel, accordion, as well as Sharp’s recorded electroacoustic sound files and the video sets and settings of Janene Higgins.

In his spoken introduction to the Berlin performance of PORT BOU, Volker Schlörndorf, director of The Tin Drum stated:  “Anybody’s agony, the night before closing the door on the world, is hard to transcribe in musical notes, I thought, even more so a philosopher’s Angst. Yet, it can be done, and his voice, this particular voice, roaming a hotel room in exile, is proof of it. A metaphysical achievement.”

The Final Moments in Benjamin’s Life

What might we surmise about the internal state of a man deciding that life is no longer livable, especially when that man is Walter Benjamin in 1940 in the border town of Port Bou, attempting escape? As the Second World War was increasing in magnitude it was not uncommon for Jewish writers, artists, and professionals to carry the means of suicide with them, believing it to be preferable to internment and torture at the hands of the Nazis. This was a time of desperation and götterdämmerung was in the air, whether global or personal.

Benjamin was unafraid to delve into the myriad philosophies and modes of living presented to him but never would fully give himself to any of them. Whether it was domestic tranquility, mysteries of the Kabbala, political Zionism, the erotic, pure Communism, or academic abstraction, all offered seductions and enticements but never enough for a complete commitment. Benjamin was solipsistic and sybaritic, sufficiently fulfilled by his solitary obsessions and interests to remain an autonomous free-agent. His strengths were of the esthetic, the cerebral, not those of a man who might suffer and fight for his ideals.

While attempting to reach Lisbon and from there, ship’s passage to America, Benjamin attained a realization that the obstacles to his salvation were insurmountable. Then and there, he chose to submit by the obvious means at hand to remove himself from conflicts both internal and external. We might see this as an act of exhaustion, not a willful exit but a collapse of will, the loss of inner reserve.

In PORT BOU, Sharp attempts to manifest this state, all taking place in the last few minutes of real-time for Benjamin. As composer and author, he acts as an antenna for the imagined emanations of Benjamin’s distress and translate them to the frequencies of music and drama. Benjamin was heroic in his thoughts but PORT BOU does not attempt to make a hero of the man. He is yet another innocent casualty of a great tragedy, one in which he might never have imagined himself a protagonist.


ELLIOTT SHARP is a central figure in the avant-garde music scene in New York City for over thirty years, Elliott Sharp leads the projects Orchestra Carbon, SysOrk, Tectonics and Terraplane, and has pioneered the application of fractal geometry, chaos theory, and genetic metaphors to musical composition. Winner of the 2015 Berlin Prize in Music and a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship, Sharp has has been featured in the Darmstadt and Donaueschingen festivals, New Music Stockholm, Au Printemps-Paris, Hessischer Rundfunk Klangbiennale, and the Venice Biennale. His Storm of the Eye, composed for Hilary Hahn, appeared on her Grammy-winning album In 27 Pieces. His opera Port Bou premiered in NYC in 2014 and in Berlin in 2015. Sharp’s range of collaborators have included Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; Ensemble Modern; Debbie Harry; blues legends Hubert Sumlin and Pops Staples; RadioSinfonie Frankfurt; jazz greats Jack Dejohnette and Sonny Sharrock; JACK Quartet; turntable innovator Christian Marclay; and Bachir Attar, leader of the Master Musicians Of Jahjouka, Morocco. His work is the subject of the documentary Doing The Don’t and he has been featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered”. Installations include Foliage, Fluvial, Chromatine, and Tag. His Cryptid Fragments was included in the Bitstreams show at the Whitney Museum. 

JANENE HIGGINS is a graphic designer and video artist based in NYC. Her short videos have been presented in festivals and galleries internationally. In the realm of video performance, she has collaborated with many of New York’s preeminent composers and improvisors of New Music. Her work as a graphic artist and designer of motion graphics has been featured in major magazines, CD covers, and the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue.

NICHOLAS ISHERWOOD is a US-born bass singer, who specialises in contemporary and baroque music. Notable roles include “Lucifer” in the world premieres of Stockhausen’s Montag, Dienstag, and Freitag from Licht at La Scala and the Leipzig Opera, and in Donnerstag aus Licht at Covent Garden. Isherwood has worked with Joel Cohen, William Christie, Peter Eötvös, Paul McCreesh, Nicholas McGegan, Kent Nagano, Zubin Mehta and Gennadi Rozhdestvensky as well as composers Sylvano Bussotti, Elliott Carter, George Crumb, Hans Werner Henze, Mauricio Kagel, György Kurtág, Olivier Messiaen, Giacinto Scelsi, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Iannis Xenakis in venues such as La Scala, Covent Garden, the Théatre des Champs Elysées, Salzburg Festival, Concertgebouw, Berlin Staatsoper, Vienna Konzerthaus, Tanglewood).  His operatic roles include: “Antinoo” in Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria with Boston Baroque; “Claudio” in Händel’s Agrippina with Nicholas McGegan; “Satiro” in Rossi’s Orfeo and “Pan” in Marais’ Alcione with Les Arts Florissants; “Joas” in Porpora’s Il Gedeone with Martin Haselböck; “Frère Léon” in Saint François d’Assise in the last composer supervised production; “Der Tod” in the two productions of Ullmann’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis with the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart and 2e2m, “Roméo” in Dusapin’s Roméo et Juliette at the Avignon Festival; “Lear” in Hosokawa’s Vision of Lear for the Munich Biennale; “Il Testimone” in Bussotti’s Tieste at the Rome Opera, and “Micromégas” in Mefano’s Micromégas. Recent performances include works by Sylvano Bussotti at the Stockholm New Music Festival in 2008.

JENNY LIN was born in Taiwan and raised in Austria and the USA. She began her piano studies at the age of 4. She received an Artist Diploma from Peabody Conservatory and also holds a bachelor’s degree in German Literature from Johns Hopkins University. She has worked with Richard Goode and Blanca Uribe in New York, and with Leon Fleisher, Dimitri Bashkirov and Andreas Staier at the Fondazione Internazionale per il Pianoforte in Cadenabbia, Italy. Jenny Lin’s concerts have taken her to Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Kennedy Center, MoMA, Whitney Museum, National Gallery of Art, Corcoran Gallery, and to festivals worldwide including the Chopin Festival in Austria, Ars Musica Festivals in Belgium, Shanghai New Music Festival, Divonne Festival in France, Schleswig-Holstein, Potsdam and Husum Festivals in Germany, Millennium Festival in Spain, and Festival Archipel in Switzerland.

WILLIAM SCHIMMEL, accordion, is one of the principal architects in the resurgence of the accordion, the revival of the Tango in America and the philosphy of Musical Reality (composition with pre-existing music). He has performed with most major symphony orchestras in the United States as well as virtually every chamber and new music group in New York. He is the founder of the Tango Project and worked with John Cale, Sting and Tom Waits, who made the legendary statement: “Bill Schimmel doesn’t play the accordion, he is an accordion”.

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WhiteBoxLab >> Elliott Sharp: Binibon

WhiteBoxLab>>SoundLounge : Binibon by Elliott Sharp

WhiteBoxLab >> SoundLounge presents

Binibon

October 11 – 16, 2016

Composed and Directed by Elliott Sharp

Text by Jack Womack

Projection design by Janene Higgins
Featuring Jedadiah Schultz, Ryan Quinn, Julie Brown, Jack Womack

Open rehearsals | October 11th – 13rd | 11am-6pm

Theatric performance | October 14th & 15th | 8pm

Matinee performance & Panel | October 16th | 3pm

BUY NOW

New York City – WhiteBox is pleased to present the work of composer and opera creator Elliott Sharp and writer Jack Womack as part of WhiteBoxLab>>SoundLounge. For one week, WhiteBox’s main exhibition space will act as a laboratory hosting the work of Elliott Sharp, culminating in three theatrical performances of Binibon, an Opera portraying an off-beat, milestone tale transpiring in a distinctly Downtown New York City cultural moment. Binibon premiered at the iconic venue The Kitchen in May 2009.

WhiteBox and Elliott Sharp are jointly responding to and coloring a pervasive, dual changing landscape in NYC, namely the opera scene—stagnant— and real estate gentrification—enlarging. Staging this work in an untraditional, street-bound, enduring alternative art venue allows for the hosting of an intricate, essential panel discussion on the affinities and aspects of divergence between what the multifarious Bohemian East Village neighborhood art-scene represented culturally, and what today’s acutely ‘professionalized’ art district Lower East Side stands for. Discussions will be open to the general art audiences as well as to the local, variegated LES/Chinatown communities.

As a laboratory, WhiteBoxLab>>SoundLounge is delighted to open all musical and staging rehearsals free and open to the public, from October 9 th to the 13 th , preceding the final performances on October 14 th and 15 th at 7pm, and Matinee Sunday, October 16 th at 3pm. A talk with Elliott Sharp and special guests, moderated by Juan Puntes will be held after the performance on the 16 th .

Binibon is a work of both, musical theater, literature and alternative history based on the 1981 murder of Richard Adan by author Jack Henry Abbott. Richard was a waiter and the night manager at the Binibon, a cafe and 24-hour hangout on 2 nd Avenue at East 5th Street in the East Village, a nexus for artists, musicians, neighborhood characters and bohemians true and faux. Abbott was a talented writer, as well as an imprisoned killer who became the protégé of famed author Norman Mailer (Mailer sponsored his release into a halfway house on 3rd Street.) The killing was an important cusp-point in the history of the neighborhood, its culture, its daily life, its real estate, and its future. Elliot Sharp’s music draws upon his own compositional and performance innovations that he developed during the time of these events with ties to punk, No Wave, noise, dance, industrial and exotic sounds. Jack Womack is famed for his “Dryco Series” of novels portraying a post-Apocalypse NYC.

Elliott Sharp A central figure in the avant-garde music scene in New York City for over thirty years, Elliott Sharp leads the projects Orchestra Carbon, SysOrk, Tectonics and Terraplane, and has pioneered the application of fractal geometry, chaos theory, and genetic metaphors to musical composition. Winner of the 2015 Berlin Prize in Music and a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship, Sharp has has been featured in the Darmstadt and Donaueschingen festivals, New Music Stockholm, Au Printemps-Paris, Hessischer Rundfunk Klangbiennale, and the Venice Biennale. His Storm of the Eye, composed for Hilary Hahn, appeared on her Grammy-winning album In 27 Pieces. His opera Port Bou premiered in NYC in 2014 and in Berlin in 2015. Sharp’s range of collaborators have included Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; Ensemble Modern; Debbie Harry; blues legends Hubert Sumlin and Pops Staples; RadioSinfonie Frankfurt; jazz greats Jack Dejohnette and Sonny Sharrock; JACK Quartet; turntable innovator Christian Marclay; and Bachir Attar, leader of the Master Musicians Of Jahjouka, Morocco. His work is the subject of the documentary Doing The Don’t and he has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. Installation include Foliage, Fluvial, Chromatine, and Tag. His Cryptid Fragments was included in the Bitstreams show at the Whitney Museum.

Jack Womack is an American playwright and author of fiction and speculative fiction. He moved to New York City in 1977 where he lives with his wife and daughter. His oeuvre consists of Random Acts of Senseless Violence (1993), Heathern (1990), Ambient (1987), Terraplane (1988), Elvissey (1993, Going, Going, Gone (2000), Let’s Put the Future Behind Us (1996), Lying to Children (2004) “Womack’s fiction may be determinedly non-cyber, but, with its commitment to using Science Fiction as a vehicle for social critique, it definitely has a punky edge.” – William Gibson

 The programs of WhiteBox  are made possible in part by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Press Contact: press@whiteboxny.org

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Whitebox Art Center DCA sponsor

 

BIOLOGICAL MODELS

Lecture/Demonstration and Q&A with Elliot Sharp

Composer/multi-instrumentalist/producer Elliott Sharp will speak about the use of natural forms and processes in his formal compositions. He will focus on such works as Tessalation Row, SyndaKit, and Occam’s Razor and play examples of each as well as performing an improvisation on guitar based on Fibonacci numbers.

Elliott Sharp is a 2010 Artist Fellowship recipient of the New York
Foundation for the Arts (NYFA.) This presentation is co-sponsored by the
Artists & Audiences Exchange, a NYFA public program, funded with
leadership support from the New York State Council of the Arts (NYSCA).
website: http://www.elliottsharp.com
Tour diaries and other writings: http://www.repple.se/datacide/writings.html

FRENCH CONNECTION + ELLIOT SHARP TECTONICS

The French Connection + Elliott Sharp’s Tectonics + White Box

June 24th, 2010, 8:00 PM @ WHITE BOX

A freeform meeting between two French musicians and two New York musicians spanning the spectrum between improvised and composed, noisy and tranquil, loud and soft, formal and irrational, acoustic and electronic.

In addition, Sharp will perform music from his new solo Tectonics CD “Abstraction Distraction” on the French label Autres Cordes. This is the latest installment of his continuing exploration of jungle, dub step, free jazz, and psychedelica in his Tectonics series which began in 1992 with the eponymous Tectonics and continued with Field & Stream and Errata.
Elliott Sharp is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer and central figure in the avant-garde music scene in New York City for over thirty years. He leads the projects Carbon and Orchestra Carbon, Tectonics, and Terraplane and has pioneered ways of applying fractal geometry, chaos theory, and genetic metaphors to musical composition and interaction. His collaborators have included Ensemble Modern; Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; Radio-Symphony of Frankfurt; pop singer Debbie Harry, computer artist Perry Hoberman; blues legends Hubert Sumlin and Pops Staples; jazz greats Jack deJohnette, Sonny Sharrock, Oliver Lake, and Billy Hart; turntable innovator Christian Marclay; and Bachir Attar, leader of the Master Musicians Of Jahjouka from Morocco. Sharp¹s work was featured in the 2008 New Music Stockholm festival with the premiere of ³Sidebands² and at the Hessischer Rundfunk Klangbiennale in May 2007 with the premiere of his orchestral work ³On Corlear¹s Hook². He is now woorking on a commissioned opera for the Bavarian Opera in Munich. The documentary film about Sharp¹s work by Bert Shapiro, ³Doing The Don¹t², has just been released on DVD and screened at international film festivals.

Franck Vigroux works in the fields of electronic music, new media, composition and improvisation. He leads many bands and projects such as Push the triangle, Supersonic Riverside Blues. He has played or recorded with musicians such as Bruno Chevillon, Elliott Sharp, Marc Ducret, Ben Miller, Helene Breschand, Joey Baron, Michel Blanc, Stephane Payen,Andrea Parkins, Matthew Bourne, Edward Perraud, writer Kenji Siratori, video artists Scorpene Horrible, Philippe Fontes, Mariano Equizzi. In 2009 he won the prize Villa Medicis Hors les Murs for an artist residency in New York. Franck Vigroux is also the founder of d¹Autres Cordes a record label dedicated to aventurous music. He has played in hundreds of festivals and clubs in Europe and Asia, as a guitarist or turntablist and conducted improvisers orchestras worldwide ( Nagoya, Barcelona, Leeds,etcŠ), he has been commissioned by Ars Nova ensemble instrumental and Radio France . He also presents audiovisual installations such as Recolte and O. Recent works for theater ³septembres² by philippe malone, music for films ³the nishiazabu affair² by mariano equizzi, ³dust² 30mn, directed by franck vigroux in 2007, ³recolte² video suite, 2009, by franck vigroux.

Zeena Parkins Multi-instrumentalist, composer, improvisor, well-known as a pioneer of the electric harp she describes her harp as a ³sound machine of limitless capacity². Zeena¹s unique vision is one that seeks to both meld and highlight opposites. She has broken musical boundaries to create a highly personal and stunning body of work. Or, to quote the WDC Period ³Music that makes you hike up your britches and howl like a coyote².

Helene Breschand was born in Paris and became very fascinated by the harp at an early age. She discovered in the 1970’s the full spectrum of contemporary music from serial to free-jazz and new technologies and joined the Conservatory of Paris to study harp with Brigitte Sylvestre who opened her mind to a different approach of the instrument. Shefocussed ona represention for the hinge between written music and improvisation. She performs extensively as a soloist and in the worlds of improvisation, musical theater and the plastic arts and works with composers Luciano Berio, Emmanuel Nunes, Yoshihisa Taira. Among her groups, there is the Trio Hélène Breschand with Sylvain Kassap and Didier Petit; the duet “sombre” with guitarist Jean-François Pauvros and the group LABORINTUS. Her solo CD “Le goût du sel” has received widespread acclaim.
http://www.myspace.com/helenebreschand – http://www.helenebreschand.fr/

Made possible with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, FAJE, Chamber Music of America, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Florence Gould Foundation, SACEM, and CulturesFrance.