The other evening, I attended a concert that had as much to do with movement as with listening. I found it hard to stay in my seat — and I was hardly the only one. The performance featured Zach Fredman and the Epichorus Big Band as well as Dan Nadel and Musicians, two groups whose musical intelligence enlivens and invigorates the contemporary Jewish music scene.
Drawing on a mix of spoken and musical sounds, on western instruments like the violin and on eastern ones like the oud and the riq; on improvisation and form, on flamenco and piyut (yes, you read that correctly); on contemporary renderings of age-old melodies, the two groups offered a musical experience that was nothing if not layered: at once an exercise in cultural reclamation and re-interpretation.
The setting in which the concert took place was itself a study in layering. I can’t imagine a more perfect venue in which to receive and absorb this music that the sanctuary of B’nai Jeshurun, a riot of color and decorative motif that ought not to hang together, but which does in ways that make our current fondness for minimalism look utterly misplaced. The sanctuary, which dates to the 1920s, reflects an Art Deco vision of Moorish architecture — smack in the middle of Manhattan.
Recently, the New York Times discussed the difficulties faced by the contemporary orchestra, from a diminishing base of subscribers to latter-day listening practices, which are somewhat at odds with the protocols of the traditional concert hall.
Given the immersive, engaging musical experience I enjoyed the other evening, I can’t help wondering whether that kind of concert might be just the ticket.
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