Phil Kline Songs, Including World Premiere Song Cycle, Coming to BAM’s Next Wave Festival

Composer and lyricist Phil Kline

(BROOKLYN, N.Y.) – From Thursday, October 25, 2012, through Saturday, October 27, 2012, at 7:30 p.m., Out Cold / Zippo Songs – a double-bill of dramatic song cycles with music and lyrics by Phil Kline (Unsilent Night, John the Revelator) – will be presented as part of BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music)‘s 30th Next Wave Festival, in a co-production with American Opera Projects (AOP).

Both cycles will be performed by vocalist Theo Bleckmann and the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), with stage direction by Emma Griffin and lighting design by Mark Barton. ACME players for Out Cold / Zippo Songs are Michi Wiancko, Ben Russell, and Caleb Burhans, violins; Nadia Sirota, viola; Clarice Jensen, cello; Logan Coale, bass; Alex Sopp, flute; Michelle Farah, oboe; Timothy Andres, piano; and Chris Thompson, percussion.

These will be among the first performances in BAM’s spectacular new Richard B. Fisher Building (321 Ashland Place), a state-of-the-art black box theater recently profiled by the New York Times.

The first half of the evening features the premiere of a new chamber ensemble version of Kline’s much-lauded Zippo Songs, written in 2003 for Theo Bleckmann and recorded on Cantaloupe Music. Zippo Songs originated when Kline discovered the practice of scratching poems onto the sides of Zippo lighters by American GIs in Vietnam. These inscriptions contain a world of emotion that speak purely and without political commentary. The songs follow like a harrowing series of haikus, expressing the gamut of emotions young men feel in the throes of war. “One of the most brutally frank song cycles ever penned,” wrote Alex Ross in The New Yorker. Zippo Songs was originally written for small amplified rock ensemble, but will now be heard in its entirety for the first time in an arrangement for string quintet, piano and percussion. The new scoring, called “luminous” by the New York Times, reveals subtle shades of color without losing any of the original’s punch.

Vocalist Theo Bleckmann

The second half features the world premiere of Out Cold, an all-new song cycle written for Kline’s muse Theo Bleckmann and ACME, and co-commissioned by American Opera Projects. Kline began to think of the project during a New York blizzard in January 2010. He started with the idea of the great romantic song cycle Winterreise (winter journey) -Schubert’s long walk out into the cold – and fused it with the ethos of Frank Sinatra’s “suicide song” LPs with Nelson Riddle from the 1950’s (particularly Only the Lonely). The winter landscape is replaced by a mythical bar at 2:45am, with a man haunted by the past and searching for something, singing sad and beautiful songs with a ten-piece band from a dark corner of heaven. Despite the cozy environs, the singer is “out cold” in the sense of being an outcast, and in the sense of being unconscious, even in his waking moments.

These three October performances mark the first presenting partnership between AOP and BAM, both located in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

An artist panel discussion will follow the Friday, October 26, performance. Tickets are $20 and available at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music).

A fixture of New York’s downtown scene, Phil Kline stands out for his range and unpredictability. He makes music in many genres and contexts, from experimental electronics and sound installations to songs, choral, theater, chamber and orchestral works. Early in his career he cofounded the rock band the Del-Byzanteens with Jim Jarmusch and James Nares, collaborated with Nan Goldin on the soundtrack to The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, and played guitar in the notorious Glenn Branca Ensemble. Some of his early work evolved from performance art and used large numbers of boom boxes, such as the Christmas cult classic Unsilent Night. Other diverse works include John the Revelator, a setting of the Latin mass written for early music specialists Lionheart, and dreamcitynine, which mixed 60 percussionists with hundreds of iPhones around the plaza of Lincoln Center. Kline is currently working with Jarmusch on an opera, Tesla in New York.

Theo Bleckmann is a Grammy-nominated and ECHO award-winning vocalist and composer whose work spans concerts, installations, theater, cabaret, and performance art. He currently tours with his acclaimed Kate Bush song project, Hello Earth! as well as with drummer-composer John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet and Large Ensemble. For over a decade he has performed with guitarist Ben Monder and in Meredith Monk’s ensemble, and is a longtime student and mentee of vocalist and NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan. He has collaborated with artists such as Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Uri Caine, Julia Wolfe, John Zorn, and the Bang on a Can All-stars, among others. Bleckmann has garnered praise from the New York Times, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, New York magazine and the Village Voice.

Led by artistic director and cellist Clarice Jensen, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) is dedicated to the outstanding performance of masterworks from the 20th and 21st centuries. The ensemble presents cutting-edge literature by living composers alongside the “classics” of the contemporary. Known for their work with the Wordless Music Series as well as indie music icons such as Grizzly Bear, ACME’s dedication to new music extends across genres, and has earned them a reputation among both classical and rock crowds. ACME has performed at (Le) Poisson Rouge, Carnegie Hall, All Tomorrow’s Parties in England, The Kitchen, Whitney Museum, Guggenheim, and Stanford Lively Arts in California, among others. ACME’s instrumentation is flexible, and includes some of New York’s most sought-after, engaging musicians. Since its first New York concert season in 2004, the ensemble has performed works by Louis Andriessen, Elliott Carter, George Crumb, Philip Glass, Charles Ives, Olivier Messiaen, Nico Muhly, Steve Reich, Arnold Schoenberg, Charles Wuorinen, Iannis Xenakis, and many more.

Emma Griffin is a theater and opera director based in New York City.  She is a frequent collaborator on new music/theater pieces; these include Corey Dargel’s Removable Parts, Thirteen Near Death Experiences, and The Three Christs; Susan Bernfield and Rachel Peters’ Stretch, a fantasia; Chris Well’s Big and Salty; and Phil Kline’s Zippo Songs.  Opera credits include Les Mamelles de Tirésias at Juilliard Opera; The Cunning Little Vixen and Wozzeck at the Opera Company of Philadelphia/Curtis Opera Theater.  She is the Artistic Director of the OBIE-award winning Salt Theater; highlights includeStage Door, The Cherry Orchard and Conquest of the Universe.  Regional work at theaters such as Perseverance Theater, Geva Theater Center, Syracuse Stage, Southern Rep, Actor’s Express, Virginia Stage, Williamstown Theater Festival. She is Adjunct Faculty at New York University, where she teaches directing.

Beginning in September 2011 and continuing for 16 months, the sesquicentennial will celebrate BAM’s unique and resonant contribution to the artistic landscape of New York with commemorative events, special programs, and the publication of BAM: The Complete Works (Quantuck Lane) – a narrative and visual chronicle of the institution and its artists. In 2012 BAM looks forward to its exciting future with the unveiling of the newest addition to the BAM campus – the Richard B. Fisher building, the first new BAM venue since the Majestic Theater (now the BAM Harvey Lichtenstein Theater) opened in 1987.

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