An Evening with Joan La Barbara @ North River Music

Greenwich House Music School (GHMS) is pleased to present an evening devoted to vocalist/composer/improviser Joan La Barbara on Thursday, March 17 at 8 p.m., as part of the 25th anniversary of the North River Music series. “One of the great vocal virtuosas of our time” (San Francisco Examiner), Joan La Barbara has explored the human voice as a multi-faceted instrument, developing a unique vocabulary of experimental and extended vocal techniques that have become her “signature sounds.” In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, she will join pianist Stephen Gosling to perform two John Cage works with text by James Joyce – “The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs” (1942) and its companion piece “Nowth Upon Nacht” (1984, in memoriam Cathy Berberian). The program also features Morton Feldman’s shortest composition, “Only” (1947), for voice alone with text by Rainer Maria Rilke, and “Gatekeeper” (2009-2010), for amplified voice and sonic atmosphere – an excerpt from La Barbara’s opera-in-progress inspired by the life and work of Virginia Woolf and dream fragments of Joseph Cornell. The evening will culminate in a solo improvisation, providing a unique and exciting insight into La Barbara’s vocal journey and creative process.

Founded by Frank Wigglesworth in 1985, GHMS’s North River Music is one of New York City’s first concert series devoted to new and experimental music. The concert will be followed by a reception.

WHEN: Thursday, March 17 at 8 p.m.

VENUE: Renee Weiler Concert Hall, Greenwich House Music School

46 Barrow Street (between Bedford St. & 7th Ave. S), NYC

TICKETS: $15 General Admission/$10 Students/Seniors

All tickets are payable at the door from 7:30pm

INFO: (212) 242-4770,

John Cage’s “The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs” uses just three pitches to explore fragments from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, with rapping and tapping on the piano body and closed keyboard cover to hint at sounds of a strange forest. “Nowth Upon Nacht” also uses texts from “Finnegan’s Wake,” but, in sharp contract to the serenity of the preceding work, it is sung like a wild banshee shriek. Both works are included on Joan La Barbara singing through John Cage (New Albion NA035).

For several years, La Barbara has developed an opera on Virginia Woolf’s verbal constructs and the demons that plagued her. More recently, she has explored the fragments of dreams in Joseph Cornell’s journals and some of the dark recesses of Edgar Allan Poe’s mind. “Gatekeeper” draws on these and other sources to weave a solitary journey through the mysterious labyrinth of the mind, exploring the artistic process of bringing the essential internal struggle to fruition as a perceivable object. Ne(x)tworks, the collective of performing composers with whom La Barbara has worked since 2003, are the musicians whose sounds form part of the soundscape.

Morton Feldman’s elegy, “Only,” scored for solo voice, was composed in 1947, when the composer was just 21. Feldman had just been introduced to the works of the abstract expressionist painters – Pollock, Kline, Rothko and Guston – and their influence can already be felt in his use of silence as negative space. La Barbara first performed the work at the Holland Festival in 1988 from the roof of the State Opera House on the Leidseplein, at midnight, in the rain.

Composer/performer/sound artist Joan La Barbara has expanded the traditional boundaries of the voice, developing a unique vocabulary of techniques, including multiphonics, circular singing, ululation and glottal clicks. She has composed for multiple voices, chamber ensembles, music theater, orchestra and interactive technology and has produced eleven recordings of her own works. Her awards include an American Music Center Letter of Distinction, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Meet The Composer/Creative Connections grants, and annual ASCAP Composer Awards. In 1977, La Barbara composed a multi-layered score for voice with electronics for a signing-alphabet animation for Children’s Television Workshop/Sesame Street, which has been broadcast worldwide. Her soundwork 73 POEMS, in collaboration with text-artist Kenneth Goldsmith, was included in The American Century Part II: Soundworks at The Whitney Museum of American Art. She was Artistic Director of the Carnegie Hall multi-year series When Morty met John, co-Artistic Director of New Music America festival in LA; and co-founded the performing composers collective ensemble Ne(x)tworks. Her multi-layered textural compositions have been performed at international festivals including Brisbane Biennial, Festival d’Automne à Paris, Warsaw Autumn, Frankfurt Feste, Lincoln Center, Metamusik-Berlin and Olympics Arts Festivals. La Barbara is a member of the Composition Faculty at New York University and maintains a private studio in New York.


Schedule of Future Concerts:

>> Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 8 p.m.: JENNY LIN

One of today’s most respected young pianists, Jenny Lin will perform György Ligeti’s Études for piano, along with other works. Not to be missed!

>> Thursday, April 8, 2011 at 8 p.m.: MORTON SUBOTNICK

An evening with one of the pioneers in the development of electronic music and multi-media performance and an innovator in works involving interactive computer music systems.

About Greenwich House Music School:

Founded by Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch in 1902, Greenwich House is a nonprofit settlement house which offers cultural and educational programs, social and health services and opportunities for civic involvement to New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds – from any neighborhood. Greenwich House Music School, located in the historical West Village, provides a wide range of concerts and recitals as well as instructional classes and outreach in NYC’s public schools. With a faculty of about 50 instructors, its has 520 students ranging in ages from 3 years old to seniors — from beginner to advanced — in classes and private lessons, in piano, voice, violin and viola, cello, clarinet, flute, guitar, five-string banjo, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, harp and the Chinese qin, a seven-string plucked instrument.

Funding for North River Music is provided, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts, the Virgil Thomson Foundation, and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music.