The Magnetic Fields to Premiere ‘50 Song Memoir’ at MASS MoCA

50-song-memoir(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – After a two-week residency working on their vast new repertoire, The Magnetic Fields will premiere the material off the group’s upcoming album, “50 Song Memoir” – featuring 50 new songs written by bandleader Stephin Merritt, one for each year of his life – in a staged performance in the Hunter Center at MASS MoCA, over the course of two nights, featuring songs 1 to 25 on Friday, November 18, and songs 26 to 50 on Saturday, November 19. Both concerts being at 8pm.

Merritt will be joined by a seven-person band playing 50 instruments from his eclectic collection. This remarkable show recounts his Merritt’s decades on planet Earth, from his conception by hippies on a houseboat in St. Thomas to his current position as one of America’s greatest living songwriters, living in the artist’s retreat of Hudson, N.Y. Songs include “’74: No,” “’86: How I Failed Ethics,” “’93: Me and Fred and Dave and Ted,” “’02: Be True to Your Bar,” and “’13: Big Enough for Both of Us.”

Although Merritt has several musical projects, including Future Bible Heroes and the 6ths, it is his orchestral synth-pop group The Magnetic Fields that has become a bona fide euphonic sensation over the past 25 years. Most noted for its iconic 1999 three-disc album, “69 Love Songs,” the band has cultivated a vast repertoire of timeless masterpieces over ten albums. At MASS MoCA, the Magnetic Fields’ two-day performance kicks off its 2016-2017 tour. These shows, which promise to touch on everything from bedbugs to Buddhism, feature the entirety of the upcoming album, “50 Song Memoir,” a five-CD or five LP boxed set to be released in March 2017 on Nonesuch Records. Following its residency and world premiere in North Adams, the Magnetic Fields will travel to the Brooklyn Academy of Music with “50 Song Memoir.”

Stephin Merritt (photo Seth Rogovoy)

Stephin Merritt (photo Seth Rogovoy)

Emphasizing pop hooks and eccentric, romantically reflective lyrics, the Magnetic Fields has captivated a loyal fan base with its wit and sarcasm, wrapped up in a slyly charming stage presence that The Guardian recalls is “as frumpy, geeky and dour as the Glee band hitting middle age — yet, aesthetics be damned, they provide one of the most sublime live experiences in music.” Through its lengthy career, the band has experimented with sounds that range from densely layered, electro-burbling to elegant baritone ballads spouting sardonic wit — all with the air of “idly plucking melody after divine melody out of the air like low-hanging fruit from a tree” (Pitchfork).

Merritt began recording “50 Song Memoir” on his 50th birthday: February 9, 2015. Unlike his previous work, the lyrics on “50 Song Memoir” are nonfiction — in Merritt’s words, “a mix of autobiography (bedbugs, Buddhism, buggery) and documentary (hippies, Hollywood, hyperacusis).” As he says in the album’s liner note interview with Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket, “I am the least autobiographical person you are likely to meet. I will probably not write any more true songs after this than I did before, but it’s been interesting working on it.”

In addition to his vocals on all 50 songs, Merritt plays more than one hundred instruments on “50 Song Memoir,” ranging from ukulele to piano to drum machine to abacus. In concert, the music will be played and sung by a newly expanded Magnetic Fields septet in a stage set featuring 50 years of artifacts both musical (vintage computers, reel-to-reel tape decks, newly invented instruments), and decorative (tiki bar, shag carpet, vintage magazines for the perusal of idle musicians). The seven performers each play seven different instruments, either traditional (cello, charango, clavichord) or invented in the last 50 years (Slinky guitar, Swarmatron, synthesizer). The stage extravaganza will be directed by the award-winning Jose Zayas (Love in the Time of Cholera, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter).

Stephin Merritt (photo Marcelo Krasilcic)

Stephin Merritt (photo Marcelo Krasilcic)

To date, Stephin Merritt has written and recorded eleven Magnetic Fields albums, including the popular and critically acclaimed “69 Love Songs.” A song from that record, “The Book of Love,” has been covered by Peter Gabriel and has appeared in numerous TV shows and films; notably, the Nairobi Chamber Orchestra performed the song at an official state dinner in Kenya, before presidents Barack Obama and Uhuru Kenyatta delivered their toasts. Merritt has also composed original music and lyrics for several music theater pieces, including an off-Broadway stage musical of Neil Gaiman’s novel “Coraline,” for which he received an Obie Award. In 2014, Merritt composed songs and background music for the first musical episode of public radio’s “This American Life.” Stephin Merritt also releases albums under the band names the 6ths, the Gothic Archies, and Future Bible Heroes.

Dinner and snacks are available from Lickety Split before the show. A full bar serves Bright Ideas Brewing beers and Berkshire Mountain Distillery spirits. Tickets are $35 in advance and for students, $45 day of, $55 preferred, $60 advance for both nights, and $100 preferred for both nights. Tickets for all events are available through the MASS MoCA box office located on Marshall Street in North Adams, open 10am to 6pm every day, with extended evening hours to 7pm on Thursdays through Saturdays through September 5. Beginning September 7, the box office is open 11am to 5pm every day except Tuesdays. The museum is closed on Tuesday, September 6. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during box office hours or purchased online at MASS MoCA.



MASS MoCA is one of the world’s liveliest (and largest) centers for making and enjoying today’s most important art, music, dance, theater, film, and video.

Gallery admission is $18 for adults, $16 for veterans and seniors, $12 for students, $8 for children 6 to 16, and free for children 5 and under. Members are admitted free year-round. The Hall Art Foundation’s Anselm Kiefer exhibition is open seasonally, spring – fall. For additional information, call 413.662.2111 x1 or visit MASS MoCA.







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