srijeda, 28. studenoga 2012.

Missy Mazzoli - Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt

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Missy Mazzoli, a 32-year-old composer from Brooklyn, says she never wanted to write an opera until she read the journals of Isabelle Eberhardt, a Swiss adventurer from the turn of the 20th century. Oddly enough, Mazzoli first learned about Eberhardt while listening to NPR. Years later, she stumbled upon the explorer's journals in a bookstore.
"I knew from the second that I read the journals and felt I needed to make a piece about her that it had to be something big," Mazzoli told NPR's Audie Cornish. "Her story is so complicated and so strange that I wanted to create a world that the audience could walk into. And opera is that — you walk into a theater, and there's a set, there's projections, there's costumes."
Eberhardt was born in 1877 in Switzerland. At a very young age, she experienced the tragedy of having her mother, father and brother die within three years of each other. Soon after, at about age 20, she traveled to North Africa by herself, where she dressed as a man, joined an all-male Sufi sect, fell in and out of love with an Algerian soldier, and was drowned in a flash flood at the age of 27.
"The first point of her story that really grabbed on to me and said, 'Turn me into an opera,' is the fact that in this flood, all of her journals and writings were washed away. And her husband and other people had to pull the papers out of the water and dry them off in these big urns. That writing was later published as her journals and became the source of the [opera's] libretto. So I just love the idea of this opera that literally comes out of the flood."
Remixing The Idea Of Opera
In one sense, Mazzoli's opera, Song from the Uproar, is a far cry from Verdi, Wagner and Puccini. The orchestration alone reflects her agile, smaller-is-better approach. The handful of musicians include an electric guitarist, a few winds, double bass and Mazzoli's own sampling techniques inspired by DJs — heard effectively in the opera's "Interlude."
"What you're hearing is prerecorded vocals from another part of the opera, so in a sense it's like a remix, the way that a DJ would take a piece of music then pull out parts and loop them and put on reverb," Mazzoli explains.
"Electronics are a big part of the opera. I spent years, literally, inviting all the singers from the opera over to my living room, giving them a cup of tea and asking them to sing specific things into a microphone, and I would record them. I would take those audio samples and rework them back into the live performance."
Mazzoli is still figuring out what makes a good opera. But one crucial element, she says, is a connection to the story.
"One of the things that attracted me to [Isabelle's] story was all the ways that I felt it paralleled not only my life but the lives of lots of other people, particularly young women today. Isabelle didn't feel like she had any role models, she felt like she was carving her own path. I took great comfort from her words and her journals."
The DIY Aesthetic
Like Eberhardt, Mazzoli is carving her own path. In a landscape that is ever changing and ever challenging for today's composers, Mazzoli thrives on a kind of do-it-yourself aesthetic borrowed from the indie rock world. She's a composer who performs her own music in her own band. She helps run a new music festival, and she teaches, privately and on the Internet. She's lucky, she says, that she has commissions to help pay the bills.
"Because funding in the arts is so tricky and there's all these economic factors that we have to contend with a lot more these days, composers are really branching out," she says. "So you see much more of this eclectic way of living — composers who have their own ensemble, and perform and work for other composers, and run record labels."
The idea of the composer alone in his studio and cranking out masterpieces, mailing them away and never talking to anyone is an idea on its way out, Mazzoli believes. Still, it's a powerful image that holds sway over how people think of composers. But for Mazzoli, the reality could not be more different.
"Everything that I do feeds everything else," she says. "I don't think I could be an effective composer without being a teacher. And I don't think I would be an effective composer without also being a performer. So I'm juggling 10 things at once on any given day, but it just feels like my life. It's just what I do." -

Missy Mazzoli's Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt is the latest in an exceptional series of recordings from NY-based New Amsterdam Records. Conceived in collaboration with filmmaker Stephen Taylor, director Gia Forakis, and librettist Royce Vavrek and available as an original cast recording featuring mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer, Now Ensemble, and a vocal quintet consisting of Celine Mogielnicki (soprano), Amelia Watkins (soprano), Kate Maroney (alto), Tomas Cruz (tenor), and Peter Stewart (baritone), Mazzoli's first opera is somewhat reminiscent in overall design of Sarah Kirkland Snider's Penelope, with both being chamber vocal works of ravishing melodic character and narrative design. Mazzoli, incidentally, is not only a composer but also a pianist and keyboardist who performs with Victoire, whose debut full-length CD, Cathedral City, was issued by New Amsterdam in 2010.
Anyone vaguely familiar with Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904) might know of the tumultuous life she led. In encapsulated form, she left Switzerland at the age of twenty following the deaths of her mother, brother, and father for an adventurous and nomadic life in the deserts of North Africa. She dressed as a man, calling herself Si Mahmoud Essadi so as to be able to travel in Arab society, became a Sufi, and then fell in love with an Algerian soldier, Slimene Ehnni, after moving to Africa, and married him in 1901, before ultimately drowning in flash flood in the desert at twenty-seven. Mazzoli's score makes full use of the emotional and dramatic potential of the story as it follows the many twists and turns of her life. The material often possesses a tone of desperation, anguish, and yearning—not surprising, perhaps, given the title character's tragically short life. During “The Hunted,” Eberhardt herself seems aware of her fate in giving voice to lines such as, “I am inching towards an abyss / The assassin's prey / I am the hunted,” though even here she's defiant (“With faith and pride intact / My soul tempered, I am not weakened”). In the penultimate song, “Mektoub (It is Written), Part One: O Capsized Heart,” we find her resigned to her fate and accepting of death: “Death is familiar, death is my companion / Guide me to oblivion...”
The instrumental support contributed by the Now Ensemble to the recording lends it remarkable distinction. Pianist Michael Mizrahi (whose issued his own impressive collection, The Bright Motion, earlier in 2012), clarinetist Sara Budde, and flutist Alexandra Sopp leave especially memorable fingerprints on the recording, though double bassist Logan Coale and guitarist Mark Dancigers make their presence felt, too. In the absence of vocals, “Oblivion Seekers” becomes an impassioned showcase for the ensemble players' versatility. During an instrumental interlude, we hear seagulls, a boat's creaking hull and bells, with clarinet and distant voices providing instrumental colour. Coale also has a powerful solo spotlight that finds him coiling his hypnotic lines around the vocalist's equally entrancing performance. If anything, Song from the Uproar is as much a Now Ensemble showcase as it is one for the vocalists. The vocal dimension of the recording shouldn't be downplayed, however, as Mazzoli's composed a score that offers its singers, mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer and a vocal quintet, an incredibly fertile playground within which to play. Much of the work's emotional impact rests on Fischer's shoulders, of course, but it's a challenge she more than meets.
Emotive wordless vocalizing by baritone Peter Stewart and alto Kate Maroney dominates the haunting, scene-setting overture, their expressions heard amidst atmospheric crackle, Mizrahi's staccato piano chords, and Budde's clarinet. In the subsequent piece, Fischer enters, her vibrato-heavy voice conveying the desperation of a woman left to make her way alone in the world after the loss of her family. The accompanying vocalists function as a Greek chorus of sorts, commenting on the action during those pieces when Fischer's absent. “I Am Not Mine” revisits the sound design of the overture, the crackling now joined by Eberhardt's emotional outpouring as she sings of the selflessness brought on by faith. “Here Where Footprints Erase the Graves” is a suitably mournful closer, given Eberhardt's imminent death, though even here she's at peace, singing “a tranquil heart is mine.”
A John Adams influence emerges at times, with a few sequences in Mazzoli's work calling to mind certain plaintive passages in his work. Like Adams, Mazzoli possesses a startlingly original imagination plus superb command of vocal-and-instrumental interplay. His presence is felt during “100 Names for God” in complex vocal passages that sometimes assert themselves with an almost military force and in the mournful passage (“tears of sadness / tears of joy”) that calls to mind the similarly mournful vocal passages in The Death of Klinghoffer and even perhaps Pat Nixon's moving aria in Nixon in China. (Mazzoli also lists as influences Philip Glass, David Lang, Michael Gordon, and Julia Wolfe as well as Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert.)
Vocally and instrumentally, the performance proves to be a mesmerizing experience for the ears, with so much physical music packed into the piece one's attention never has a moment to drift. In doing so, the material captures the adventurous spirit and unquenchable appetite of the titular protagonist. The project is timed well, too, at sixty-five minutes long: long enough to be a full-scale work but not so long it becomes daunting—it's no four-hour, Wagner-styled epic, in other words. Song from the Uproar is the latest in what's, frankly, been a rather staggering run for the New Amsterdam label. Every one of its recent album releases has, it seems, been a standout and Mazzoli's is no exception.

On March 3, NYC new music hotspot The Kitchen packed the house for the final performance of the world-premiere production of Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt by Brooklyn-based composer, Missy Mazzoli and presented by Beth Morrison Projects.  Song from the Uproar is a visually and aurally ravishing chamber opera for solo mezzo soprano, chorus, and instrumental ensemble based on the short and tragic life of Isabelle Eberhardt, a Swiss woman who lost her family at the turn of the century, and at nineteen, ran away to Algeria.  While there, she disguised herself as a man and joined a Sufi order, fell in love with an Algerian soldier, survived failed assassination AND suicide attempts, and ultimately perished in the desert during a flash flood at the age of twenty-seven.  Ms. Mazzoli was inspired to compose an opera (previously a song cycle) on Eberhardt’s colorful, if not operatic, life after coming across her journals eight years ago.  She teamed up with a fantastic production team that deftly combined music (both live and pre-recorded), movement, and intriguing original abstract video by filmmaker Stephen Taylor.  The video depicted images of people, barren desert vistas, and flashes of light projected on three hanging curtains onstage as well as a large screen overhead, creating a captivating, multimedia spectacle in the intimate space.

Missy Mazzoli – Photo Stephen Taylor
Portraying the enigmatic protagonist was Abigail Fischer, elegant and beautiful in both looks and sound.  Ms. Fischer’s powerful mezzo voice cut through the chamber orchestra with ease, and her nimble but always graceful carriage combined with her boundless dramatic energy made it impossible to look away from her.  She captured the essence of every emotion from supreme confidence, to abject vulnerability and was in short, everything that one hopes for in a leading lady.

Abigail Fischer – Photo by Stephen Taylor
Supporting Ms. Fisher was a fine ensemble of singers who also served as the corps de ballet, taking on a range of characters from prim Victorian Era ladies and gentlemen to whirling dervishes, with utmost skill and beauty.  The acclaimed six-piece NOW ensemble (flute, clarinet, electric guitar, double bass, and piano), led by Stephen Osgood, supported the drama well and played with great precision.  Maestro Osgood had a fantastic command of his players and expertly balanced the voices and instruments throughout.

Abigail Fischer – Photo by Stephen Taylor
Ms. Mazzoli’s score was eclectic, hauntingly lyrical, and full of surprises.  Her use of the chorus was particularly impressive as was her masterful orchestration, which was always appropriate, colorful, and never overpowering.  Mazzoli’s fans should appreciate that Song from the Uproar builds on elements that have become hallmarks of the composer’s musical sound, including a clever interplay of live instruments and electronics, Glass-esque repeating musical figures that transmute over time, “pure” voices performing vocalises senza vibrato, and low drones supporting the entire musical texture.  This opera called to mind many of Mazzoli’s earlier compositions including the 2009 “A Thousand Tongues” for voice, cello, and electronics, and “A Song for Mick Kelley” (2010), written for her ensemble, Victoire.  Director Gia Forakis deserves the highest praise for her work.  She and her team conceived and choreographed a stunning artwork of sight and sound that worked extremely well the intimate space of The Kitchen, but would not feel out of place on a larger stage as well.  Song from the Uproar is a thrilling drama that deserves to be performed many more times in the future. –Lauren Alfano

Listeners familiar with the music of composer Missy Mazzoli are unlikely to be shocked by her latest CD, Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt, featuring NOW Ensemble and mezzo Abigail Fischer. She's always had a way with rocking harmonies — not rocking as in "rock" — but rocking as in the gentle, queasy motion of an ocean liner. She writes well for the NOW Ensemble's unusual lineup (double bass, electric guitar, clarinet, piano, flute), but she's always known how to hit their sweet spot of antique melodic instruments and rocking (as in "rock") rhythm section.
She's done it with her own band too — Victoire — and she demonstrated her masterful negotiation between acoustic and electronic sounds on their first record (also on New Amsterdam), so there's no surprise when Uproar opens with these ghostly, poignantly distorted vocals. Those sighing melodic lines? They're practically her trademark.
There are only two kinds of people who will be startled by what they hear on this disc: the lucky newcomers, who've stumbled across an artist blossoming into her prime, and any Mazzoli fans who might have suspected that these now-familiar parameters of her style marked off a limited stretch of musical terrain. Song from the Uproar, Mazzoli's first opera and her grandest work, is also the strongest argument for her aesthetic.
Suddenly, from the mouths of Fischer and the vocal quartet accompanying her, those melodies reveal themselves to have been the stuff of opera all along; the choral writing is rich, strong stuff. Mazzoli's electro-acoustic palette has always been appealing, but the sound of Uproar (produced by the ever-reliable Lawson White) is solid gold. And her ever-canny instrumental writing seems positively orchestral here, building an array of changing textures from handful of instruments.
Without reading the liner notes, it seems unlikely that a listener could ever guess "plot" of the opera (the life of 19th-century explorer Isabelle Eberhardt), but that's hardly the point. Flowing from one number to the next, the music tells its own story, building to a series of emotional climaxes with the narrative assurance of a bonafide opera composer. - Daniel Stephen Johnson

Five Pieces By Missy Mazzoli You Should Know

Last week, the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Gotham Chamber Opera and the New York-based Music-Theatre Group, jointly announced their second composer in residence, the startlingly talented Missy Mazzoli.
The Brooklyn-based Mazzoli, 31, joins fellow resident composer Lembit Beecher (appointed last year) for a three-year residency that should further Mazzoli’s pedigree as an opera composer (she's now at work on her second opera).
Given that she leads her own indie-rock band, Victoire, and has had works performed by groups as diverse as New York City Opera, Kronos Quartet, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and NOW Ensemble, it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to start in Mazzoli’s already comprehensive canon. As a primer, here are five works that serve as a gateway drug to the sumptuous sonic world of Missy Mazzoli.
These Worlds in Us (2006)
Mazzoli based this nine-minute orchestral work (you can hear it played in full by the Yale Philharmonia here) on a poem meditation by James Tate on his father’s death in World War II, and the experiences of her own father, who was a Vietnam veteran. "As we grow older, we accumulate worlds of intense memory within us, and that grief is often not far from joy,” Mazzoli has said of conversations she had with her father. Such a fine line is represented here. There’s a delicate and dizzying balance of militaristic rhythm and soaring personal lines, at once ecstatic and despondent and wholly submerged in an aching nostalgia. This work netted Mazzoli the 2007 ASCAP Young Composers Award.
Still Life with Avalanche (2008)
One of Mazzoli’s trademarks as a composer is taking grand emotions and presenting them with a level of static neutrality that puts the listener in an intimate, active position. Still Life with Avalanche, a work commissioned by the group eighth blackbird (hear it played by them here), epitomizes that coded, conversational aspect. After a pastoral introduction comes a hard dose of real life, rooted in Mazzoli’s experiences at an artist colony in upstate New York and, while there, receiving the news of her cousin’s sudden death. The moment of that collision happens in molasses-slow motion before the ensuing, eponymous avalanche.
“A Song for Arthur Russell” (2008)
It's in her five-person band Victoire that Mazzoli really lets loose with her love of indie rock without losing sight of her classical influences. On their 2010 debut Cathedral City, those influences combine fluidly in "A Song for Arthur Russell." The song is dedicated to an equally prolific and multitalented musician who moved seamlessly between genres in the downtown music scene and whose work, like Mazzoli’s, never lacked for personal resonance (Russell died in 1992 at the age of 40 of complications from AIDS). In this piece, teeming with wordless vocals, electronic ambiance and a setup of keyboards, clarinet, violin and double bass, Mazzoli continues the legacy left behind by Russell and his kind.

Harp and Altar (2009)
Aptly enough, this work—a love letter to the Brooklyn Bridge—received its premiere in Prospect Park in 2009 by the Kronos Quartet. Once again, Mazzoli taps into literature and poetry for inspiration, here a poem by Hart Crane who describes the bridge as “that harp and altar of the Fury fused.” From there, the piece is chockablock packed with a myriad of haunting, comforting colors and ideas as diverse as Brooklyn itself. This is also a great example of Mazzoli’s predilection for using prerecorded speech as an added layer to live music; in this case, fellow composer and vocalist Gabriel Kahane sings snippets of the same Crane poem.
Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt (2012)
Though this work received its official world premiere last winter, it has been in development and seen in various incarnations for several years and has grown from a monodrama into an ensemble work of disarmingly poetic proportions. Telling the story of 19th-century Swiss explorer Isabelle Eberhardt, it is an apex of Mazzoli’s musical predilections. The piece combines Proustian memory, electronic eclecticism, passionate emotional ambivalence, ethereal textures and unorthodox sonic impulses. And if this is her first venture into the world of opera, we can't wait to see what comes next.

  1. eighth blackbird performs "Still Life with Avalanche" by Missy Mazzoli

    Recorded June 4, 2012 About the piece: "There's a moment in this piece when
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  2. Missy Mazzoli — Overture

    From "Song From the Uproar" © 2012 New Amsterdam. Uploaded for promotion
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  3. Missy Mazzoli - A Door Into The Dark: Like a Miracle

    The video's status can change, if the policies chosen by the content owners
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  4. Composer Portrait: Missy Mazzoli

    Composer Missy Mazzoli talks about her piece "These Worlds In Us", the
  5. Missy Mazzoli - Here Where Footprints Erase the Graves

    Here Where Footprints Erase the Graves is an excerpt from Missy Mazzoli's
  6. Victoire - "Cathedral City" (Popmatters Premiere)

    All-female chamber-rock quintet Victoire will release their debut album Cathedral
  7. YOU ARE THE DUST (Official Music Video)

    You Are the Dust From 'Song From the Uproar' by MIssy Mazzoli, Abigail Fischer
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  8. Orrizonte (Missy Mazzoli)

    Bruce Brubaker, pianist.
  9. Salon Series | An Evening with Missy Mazzoli

    OPERA America presents an evening of Missy Mazzoli's music, including
  10. A Conversation with Missy Mazzoli

    Pittsburgh New Music Net's Patrick Burke interviews Missy Mazzoli her
  11. Face the Music Quartet performs "Death Valley Junction" by Missy MAZZOLI

    Face the Music Quartet performs "Death Valley Junction" by Missy MAZZOLI"
  12. Song From the Uproar (Official Trailer for the Opera)

    Trailer for the 2012 production of Song From the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of
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  13. Missy Mazzoli - These Worlds In Us

    These Worlds in Us, a work for orchestra by Missy Mazzoli, performed live by the
  14. Missy Mazzoli — This World Within Me Is Too Small

    From "Song From the Uproar" © 2012 New Amsterdam. Uploaded for promotion
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  15. Missy Mazzoli — Interlude

    From "Song From the Uproar" © 2012 New Amsterdam. Uploaded for promotion
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  16. Volume (Vibraphone and Steel Drum Duo) by Missy Mazzoli

    IronWorks Percussion perform "Volume" by Missy Mazzoli. This work won third
  17. Victoire: Neighborhood Beat Bed-Stuy

    Formed by Missy Mazzoli, a visionary composer and keyboardist based in Bed-
  18. Missy Mazzoli & Abby Fischer -- Song From the Uproar: This world within me is too small

    Death moves his hands through me again.
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Latest album from violinist Jennifer Koh, featuring the premiere recording of Missy’s Dissolve, O my Heart
latest CD from eighth blackbird, featuring Missy’s work Still Life with Avalanche

second album from NOW Ensemble, featuring Magic with Everyday Objects

Newspeak’s debut CD, featuring In Spite of All This
solo piano works performed by Kathleen Supove, including
Isabelle Eberhardt Dreams of Pianos


Composer-performer (and composer) Missy Mazzoli had a few minutes to discuss her wonderful accomplishments as a composer, including the world premiere of her quartet You Know Me From Here that the Kronos Quartetwill feature in their program on FridayMay 3rd at 9 PM at Zankel Hall at CarnegieClick up here or on the link on the bottom for tickets and/or info.
CM: Please talk about the Kronos Quartet piece that’s being world premiered this week.
MissyYou Know Me From Here was commissioned by Carol Cole, for the Kronos Quartet, in honor of her husband Tim’s 75th birthday. Additional support was provided by Duke Performances/Duke University. When Carol asked me to write this piece I immediately imagined a twenty-minute musical journey homeward, a trek through chaos (I. Lift Your Fists) and loneliness (II. Everything That Rises Must Converge) to a place of security and companionship (III. You Know Me From Here).
This is, at its core, music about loss, but in the most positive sense; it speaks of the loss of our old selves, the jumps into the unknown, the leaps of faith we all must make and the beautiful moments when we find solace in a person, in an idea, or in music itself. The music itself shifts constantly from earthy, gritty gestures to soaring, leaping melodies that rarely land where we expect.
CM: You operate both as a composer-performer (along with the band Victoire) and as a composer only. Both of these things exist side-by-side. Would you say one of those things is primary over the other?
VictoirePhoto1[Pictured left: Victoire]
Missy: I don’t see them as one thing from the other, I don’t even see them as separate things, it’s part of my output, and I feel the work that I do as a composer is really fed by the work that I do with Victoire, and they couldn’t really exist without each other–I started out as a performer and I needed that sort of outlet in order to exist with the musicians. Obviously I could only work on one thing at a time, sometimes Victoire is a bigger part of my life and sometimes I’m really focused on writing for other people. Things just come and go, but everything is always in my life at the same time.

CM: Can you talk about Songs From The Uproar–The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt and what inspired you to write it?
Missy: It was really just reading her story, it just suggested “opera” to me right away, and I felt that the thing that attracted me was that we don’t know about every single little thing that happened to her, and it was very attractive in a day and age when we seem to know everything about everybody else, and everything you do is documented, blogged about and reported. Here’s this woman who left behind this very detailed journal, but there’s huge gaps in the narrative, so that allowed me to let my imagination go, and imagine what she felt if she was riding through the desert, and it really set me free artistically.
I also felt that there were a lot of parallels to the sort of things that people think about today, particularly women, there’s the struggle between the need to have a stable home and the need to have adventure, and there’s a conflict with a relationship with this intense commitment to this one man, but I reconciled that with her reckless nature. The quest to become oneself, even though you’re born into a place that doesn’t really want you to do that, as if one were born at the wrong time–These are things that many people wrestle with, and I feel like she articulated it in this very beautifully modern way. I was really struck by that from day one.

CM: Can you talk a bit about the solo violin piece Dissolve O My Heart you wrote for Jennifer Koh? I know that it’s based on Bach’s 2nd Partita…
Missy: Right! Jennifer asked me to contribute a piece to her Bach and Beyond project, and she suggested I base it on the Chaccone from the 2nd Partita, which is one of the most famous pieces of violin literature out there, and this was the first piece I’d written for solo violin–I was like “Are you kidding?”, it was a huge challenge to write a response to this extremely well-known piece. She was so convincing that I trusted her as a performer and as sort of a curator, so I went with it. I embraced the idea that the piece would inevitably fail in a way, so I constructed the whole thing as a “failed chaconne”, a chaconne that tries to take off from the ground, it tries to stick to its chaconneness! [both laugh]
But it comes from it deviating off into different directions, and as an homage to Bach, I used the first chord of the original Chaconne, and it keeps going back to the chord in my piece, but the similarities stop there, and it pans out into different ideas from that famous chord. I wanted something that you would recognize from the Bach, but then I wanted immediately from the second note to go into different directions.
Missy Mazzoli: Dissolve, O My Heart (Jennifer Koh, violin–From Jennifer’s CD Bach and Beyond)

- November 2012: Solid gold…flowing from one number to the next, the music tells its own story, building to a series of emotional climaxes with the narrative assurance of a bonafide opera composer.” – Review of the original cast recording of Song from the Uproar, WQXR, Daniel Stephen Johnson, November 2012
- November 2012: Missy Mazzoli’s Violent, Violent Sea “is a beautiful, moving and memorable 10-minute score.” - LA Times, November 2012. READ THE REVIEW HERE
- October 2012:  New York Times review and the New York Post review of SALT, performed on the 2012 BAM Next Wave Festival
- July 2012: The New York Times calls Victoire’s recent show at the River to River Festival “invitingly quirky”, “evocative and alluring”. READ THE REVIEW HERE
- May 2012: Review of Missy Mazzoli’s new orchestral work, Holy Roller: “Missy Mazzoli’s Holy Roller, which received its premiere, was “devotional music for a non-existent religion.” Though her worshipers were imaginary, Mazzoli built them a grand and solid cathedral. The score was a glittering mosaic with arched and winding passageways.” – ArtsTalk Blog, Albany NY
- March 2012: feature article in the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Arts Section:
Missy Mazzoli: From Lansdale to Music’s Cutting Edge
“…what she does is so entrancing, you can’t imagine any alert denizen of the 21st century not being drawn in.
- March 2012: Missy Mazzoli’s Song from the Uproar is “a masterpiece of modern opera” –
- March 2012:  Song from the Uproar is “powerful and new”. – Wall Street Journal (read the full review)
- March 2012: “in the electric surge of Ms. Mazzoli’s score [for Song from the Uproar] you felt the joy, risk and limitless potential of free spirits unbound” – New York Times (read the full review)
- March 2012: “Five stars” – Time Out New York review of Song from the Uproar (read the full review)
- February 2012:  Missy Mazzoli’s opera Song from the Uproar is critic’s pick in New York Magazine.
- January 2012: Missy and Victoire featured on Bed-Stuy Public Access TV!
- June 22, 2011: Missy Mazzoli’s Violent, Violent Sea is “beautifully constructed…alluring” – New York Times  READ THE FULL REVIEW
- May 12, 2011: Feature Article in Washington Post:  ”Missy Mazzoli has a different take on classical music, and people are listening.”
- Missy Mazzoli is “Brooklyn’s post-millennial mozart“  - Time Out New York. Read the full article
- “Missy Mazzoli’s Harp and Altar [for the Kronos Quartet] offers further evidence that she is among the more consistently inventive and surprising composers now working in New York.” – New York Times Read the full review
- New York Times review of Missy’s May 2010 concert at Roulette (NYC)
- “Missy Mazzoli’s ensemble Victoire condenses moments of focused beauty and quiet conviction from the pandemic distractions of modern life. 7.8“ – Pitchfork (READ THE FULL REVIEW)
- Victoire’s Cathedral City named “one of the top 10 classical albums of 2010″ – NPR
- Victoire’s Cathedral City is “one of 2010′s most memorable albums.” -Alex Ross, The New Yorker
- Victoire’s Cathedral City is “one of the top 10 classical albums of 2010″ – Time Out New York
“Every once and awhile an artist/ensemble creates a sound so vast and original that all you can say about it is that it “defies categorization,” that fail-safe phrase that more or less means open you ears, open your heart and let the music in. Victoire’s new album Cathedral City deserves such a phrase.” – New York Examiner
- “Ms. Mazzoli is going places fast.  Bank on it.”- New York Times. Read the full article
- Missy on the NPR Blog, writing about dinner dates with dead composers
-Mazzoli is “one of the most sought-after young composers in the country“  – South Carolina Free Times Read the full article
- “Missy Mazzoli’s “I Am Coming for My Things” and “Like a Miracle,” performed by her ensemble, Victoire [at the 2009 Bang-on-a-Can Music Marathon], danced between modernist pointillism and (in the arching clarinet and violin lines) richhued Romanticism.” – New York Times, June 2, 2009
- “[Song from the Uproar is ] a haunting multi-media concert piece…live performance and video fused with unusual potency.”
- New York Times, June 1, 2009
- Missy Mazzoli’s Magic With Everyday Objects called “one of the great surprises of the 2007 Bang-on-a-Can Marathon”.
- John Schaefer, New Sounds Live, June, 2007
- “NOW Ensemble offered highly attractive, unabashedly rock-influenced works by Mark Dancigers, Missy Mazzoli and Judd Greenstein.”
- Steve Smith, The New York Times
- 11:43 AM – NOW was back with Missy Mazzoli’s Magic with Everyday Objects, a very appealing bit of post-Radiohead post-Romanticism (complete with bursts of guitar fuzz and feedback), spiked judiciously with some seriously ballsy “wrong” notes. It was beautiful. I wish I’d written it.
- Darcy James Argue’s Live Blog from the 2007 Bang-on-a-Can Marathon
- “The interviewer, when asked his preference, singled out Missy Mazzoli’s These Worlds In Us, and conductor Osmo Vanska muttered assent.  The Mazzoli piece also seemed to be a favorite of the audience, to judge from the applause of all 900 listeners who turned out.”
- James R. Oestreich, The New York Times, review of a concert by the Minnesota Orchestra, December 17, 2006
- “Missy Mazzoli, of Brooklyn, introduced her “These Worlds Within Us,” which turned out to be powerful and full of drama.”
- Jim Kershner, Spokane Spokesman, review of a concert by the Spokane Symphony,
October 6, 2007
- “Substantial audio samples are available at The music there shows a free-roving sonic imagination as comfortable with conventional triads as with atmospheric tone clusters. Texture plays a big role in structure; shifts between polyrhythmic stack-ups, in which each line has equal weight, and homophony with more or less traditional melody and accompaniment often define major sections.  Mazzoli has a gift for both nervous, complicated rhythm and yearning, sustained melody, especially for strings. Sonic invention ranges from electronic ringing to piano arpeggios that could have been cadged from Rachmaninoff. In all cases, clear dramatic arcs pulled together wide-ranging sounds and musical elements. Mazzoli builds and releases tension in ways Aristotle would have recognized.
‘I conceive of music in visual and dramatic terms,” she said. “Each instrument is like a human being that affects the others. Themes have experiences – maybe a theme will be playing along and something will attack it, and it comes out pale and thin. My motives and themes refer to the Romantic tradition I grew up loving, but in music that only I could have written.’”
- Tom Strini, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 3, 2007

Victoire, Cathedral City (2010)


Victoire - Cathedral City (Official Video)

VICTOIRE is a family of musical misfits living in New York City, helmed by composer/keyboardist Missy Mazzoli.  This “all-star, all-female band” (Time Out New York) of strings, keyboards, clarinets and electronics performs Mazzoli’s hypnotic blend of dreamy chamber pop, minimalism and rich romanticism.  Their debut album Cathedral City, released in 2010 on New Amsterdam Records, envelopes the listener in a tapestry of classical influences, distorted guitars, multi-layered vocals, vintage keyboard sounds and stuttering samples.  Cathedral City was named one of 2010′s best classical albums by the New York Times, Time Out New York, the New Yorker and NPR, and Pitchfork praised the group for “condensing moments of focused beauty and quiet conviction from the pandemic distractions of modern life.“ In the past two years Victoire has performed all over the US at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Chicago’s Millennium Park, Le Poisson Rouge, Joe’s Pub, Roulette, the Whitney Museum, and the Bang on a Can Marathon.  In 2011 they embarked on their first European tour with The National, Efterklang and Owen Pallett, and returned to Europe last Fall  for a tour of Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands with My Brightest Diamond.  They also recently performed in Sweden as part of the 2012 M.A.D.E. Festival and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) as part of the Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Festival, curated by Bryce and Aaron Dessner.  Victoire is Missy Mazzoli (compositions, keyboards), Mellissa Hughes and Caroline Shaw (voice), Olivia De Prato (violin), Eileen Mack (clarinet), Lorna Krier (keyboards),  and Eleonore Oppenheim (double bass). For more information, visit or


The "piano trio," which usually consists of cello, violin, and piano, has been a staple of chamber music for hundreds of years. The clarinet-violin-piano trio is relatively rare and modern by comparison, probably because of its potential to sound unbalanced without the low-end anchor of the cello. Bartók, Stravinsky, and Ives all tried their hands at it, and it's really picked up steam over the last few decades, during which the Verdehr Trio has commissioned hundreds of new works for it. Victoire, a quintet from Brooklyn, puts a progressive spin on the clarinet-violin-piano trio by adding keyboards, double bass, light IDM-inspired electronics, and the striking compositional voice of pianist Missy Mazzoli. In one fell swoop, the ensemble bypasses the low-end dilemma and breaks with the existing repertoire, in search of music that gives voice to a thoroughly post-classical age.
This isn't to say that Victoire jettison tradition entirely. Their debut LP, Cathedral City (which expands upon material from their 2009 eMusic "Selects" series EP), compares favorably to a number of eminent touchstones. Philip Glass looms large over its balance of lean, taut pulses and pensive, circling melodies, which conjure feelings of hesitancy and doubt. More contemporaneously, you might hear traces of Julianna Barwick in the digitally ruffled choral vocals that crop up, though Victoire's are much crisper and drier, of a piece with their music's almost fussy personality. There's also an affinity with Nico Muhly's Mothertongue: Low, burly keyboards slide tectonically under nimble yet austere tunes, and quotidian vocal elements (especially the spoken numbers on "India Whiskey") sift around like interference. Like Muhly, Victoire evoke a vast interiority-- the composer's multi-tasked mind, rustling and preoccupied. But Mothertongue felt like a mind brashly spilling out, while Cathedral City is more introverted and intimate: an album of private fixations.
Victoire worry at their motifs like difficult knots but ground them in relentless cadences. Within these strict parameters, they pack in an admirable variety of technique and emotional shading, from dawning unease to distressed inspiration. "A Song for Mick Kelly" feels at once fretful and poised, with a violin sawing desperately against immovable electric guitar chords courtesy of the National's Bryce Dessner. "A Door Into the Dark" is furtive but forceful, its layered motifs pausing, lunging boldly forward, scattering. On "I Am Coming for My Things", violin tremolos dart around deep, even figures in the clarinet and crackling radio transmissions. The music settles down when the voices subside, implying a direct link between freedom from encroaching signals and serenity of mind. That's a timely preoccupation if ever one was-- privacy, after all, is also a relatively modern invention; one that is currently under duress. Decisively erratic and turbulently lyrical, Victoire condense moments of focused beauty and quiet conviction from the pandemic distractions of modern life. - Brian Howe

In this day and age, immediacy is vital. Our lives are busy and prone to easy distraction, thus our diversions should be quick, momentary, and easy to absorb so we can move on to the next thing. As our access to both the superfluous and the essential speeds up, it is becoming more and more difficult with each passing moment to lose one’s self in a challenging novel or album.

Oftentimes, if a new offering so much as appears difficult, it risks being wrongly overlooked. Victoire’s debut album, Cathedral City runs the incorrect risk of falling prey to this mindset. Led by composer Missy Mazzoli, the quintet is comprised of a violinist, a double bass player, a clarinetist, and two electronic keyboardists. Vocals happen in the form of operatic plaints and the occasional found recording. This is a band with the air of the classical or chamber-rock, but it is also one not far removed from a similarly complex indie band as Sigur Ros.

To perhaps make this argument a bit more convincing, the National’s Bryce Dessner lends some guitar work to “A Song For Mick Kelly”. Then again, this song appears six tracks in, is the only song on Cathedral City to feature a guitar, and is possibly named for a character from Carson McCullers’ The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter; this connection, however, is one up for a bit of analysis. Yet, with this song’s deft meshing of classical and rock elements with discordance presents the clearest example of the paradox that is Cathedral City: headphones are a must to capture the complexity of each track, yet the album as a whole is surprisingly accessible.
For those looking for instant gratification out of their music, Cathedral City proves unexpected enough to keep most attention deficient listeners pacified. The way the instruments work together to effortlessly form the whole, even as the listener can hear each instrument make its significant contribution is a lure in itself; the way the instruments fade out and surge back into the mix is another.  “A Door in the Dark”, Cathedral City‘s opener, announces itself sorrowfully, with strings that build and build before giving way to keyboards, only then to needle their way back in toward the end. The song transitions smoothly into “I Am Coming for My Things”, the title of which derives itself from an answering machine message sampled in the song. The message—a woman’s voice repeating “I am coming for my things, I deserve a chance in life,” before being interrupted by an automated denial—and its musical accompaniment are equally unsettling, despairing, and strangely steadfast.
Elsewhere, Cathedral City is filled with curious stutters and clicks, sometimes enhancing a slightly danceable backbeat (as displayed on the title track), while at other times forming a suitable tribute to avant-garde hero Arthur Russell, as on “A Song For Arthur Russell”. Vocals, stumbled upon or otherwise, imbue songs with more grace at the best of times (see the title track again), though they run the risk of being unoriginal at worst (closing track “India Whiskey” features a been-there-heard-that sample of a countdown).
For the most part, Cathedral City is a sturdily crafted work. While it is easy to meet an album full of dense instrumentation with indifference, Cathedral City is just as much an exhilarating excursion as it is a welcome release from the speed of life.Maria Schurr

“Invitingly quirky…evocative and alluring.” – The New York Times, a review of Victoire’s show at the River to River Festival, July 2012

“A dream world with a touch of blackness…The audience is cradled into an enchanting dream world in which they would have loved to linger much longer than the hour long concert allowed.” - Vasterbottens Kuriren, Umea, Sweden (Review of the M.A.D.E. Festival, May 2012)
“It was refreshing to hear Mazzoli’s accomplished work and the fevered, excellent playing of her ensemble.” - Feast of Music, review of Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Festival at BAM, May 2012
Victoire condense moments of focused beauty and quiet conviction from the pandemic distractions of modern life. 7.8“ – Pitchfork (READ THE FULL REVIEW)
One of the top 10 classical albums of 2010 – NPR
Cathedral City is “one of 2010′s most memorable albums.” -Alex Ross, The New Yorker

Cathedral City is “one of the top 10 classical albums of 2010″ - Time Out New York
Cathedral City included in 2010 New York Times Holiday Gift Guide!
“Every once and awhile an artist/ensemble creates a sound so vast and original that all you can say about it is that it “defies categorization,” that fail-safe phrase that more or less means open you ears, open your heart and let the music in. Victoire’s new album Cathedral City deserves such a phrase.” - New York Examiner
“Is Victoire’s music post-rock, post-mimimalist or pseudo-post-pre-modernist indie-chamber-electronica? It doesn’t particularly matter. It’s just good music.” - NPR’s First Listen
Both familiar and entirely foreign, the music of the Brooklyn-based band could easily be the soundtrack to your dreams-assuming you are a fever-stricken genius.“ – Paste Magazine
an all-star, all-female quintet“ – Time Out New York
consuming and arresting” - WNYC
Perhaps the ocean is the most apropos metaphor for Cathedral City, as each song is rich with depth and mystery, and there’s just enough chaos to keep a fine storm brewing.” - Venus Zine
“Cathedral City is just as much an exhilarating excursion as it is a welcome release from the speed of life. 8 stars.” –
“This cross-genre album brings each separate influence a bit closer to the mainstream, without an ounce of homogenization.  Brooklyn’s best-kept secret is about to become public knowledge.” – The Silent Ballet (Band of the Week)
[Missy Mazzoli's] distinctive sound reveals a nod to what might called traditional minimalism and another nod to rock. There’s energy and occasional grit, but, more than anything else, a beguiling subtlety and beauty.” - Baltimore Sun
“It can’t be easy creating music that’s eminently accessible and at the same time sophisticated and complex, but that’s exactly what the band’s founder and composer Missy Mazzoli has accomplished so convincingly on the forty-five-minute follow-up to the group’s earlier EP A Door into the Dark. [Victoire] integrates classical minimalism and electronic music into a seamless hybrid.” –
“With Victoire, her electro-acoustic quintet, Ms. Mazzoli played successful club dates, made a splash at the Bang on a Can Marathon in June and released “A Door Into the Dark,” a digital EP of four elegant, moody pieces, via the Web site” - New York Times
“Despite smooth surfaces, you couldn’t miss incongruous details, like the lascivious droop of Ms. Mack’s clarinet in the prim “A Door Into the Dark,” and the grate of disembodied, recorded voices in “I Am Coming for My Things.” Ms. Oppenheim’s warm, round notes bounced against a glitch pattern in “Cathedral City,” and her plaintive, flutelike bowing gave “India Whiskey” a vulnerable edge.” - New York Times
“It is rare that an artist ticks all my boxes—glitchy lo-fi electronics, rhythmic instability, microtones, meandering melodies, ostinato, and sampled vocals to name a few—and even rarer to hear them woven together seamlessly. And yet, with Cathedral City, Victoire have done just that.” - Indie Handbook
Cathedral City is an album you’ll throw on and marvel at the small nuances present throughout this gorgeous chamber rock release.” - Innocent Words Magazine
“Whip smart… [Victoire's] inventive forthcoming debut album, Cathedral City, is a cool, creepy amalgamation of main songsmith Mazzoli’s classical influences and the indie bands she adores.” - Time Out Chicago
“When music is as subtle and as deep as the music on this album, that is where artistic mastery shines. Mazzoli blends these two approaches seamlessly creating a work that is as hard hitting as the best indie release and as nuanced and intelligent as any art music.” - Ryan Manchester
It was so cool to see five fashionable dressed young women (a mostly “Mad Men” look) playing violin, bass, clarinet and keyboards WITHOUT singing or dancing! That’s progress, in my opinion.  As is the music. It is really a tasty concoction of post-minimalist harmony with pop structure and pacing.” -Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
fascinating“ – South Carolina Arts Times
kind of ravishing” - Danny Johnson
minimalist post-rock bliss“ –

Interview with Missy Mazzoli

Seventh round with the project Listen to America. We interviewed Missy Mazzoli at a fortunate time: recently the Carnegie Hall commissioned her to write a new work for the band Victoire. This new work, based on poems by Matthew Zapruder, will premiere at Carnegie Hall on February 22, 2014, as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival. 
1. In your artistic career seems to have had a certain importance the Victoire project. Can you tell me how was born this ensemble and what projects are you currently working on?
photo © Stephen S. Taylor
Victoire is a band I started in 2008 to perform and tour my music.  It’s comprised of my closest friends and collaborators in the Brooklyn music community.  There is a core group of five women in the band, including myself, that play violin, clarinet, keyboards and double bass, and we also work with a  rotating cast of amazing singers.  I started this band with the idea that I could take the best parts of the indie rock world and the best parts of the new classical music scene and combine them.  I wanted to tour, I wanted to perform, I wanted to work with my friends, but I also wanted to have at my disposal the full range of colors, textures and complexity of contemporary classical music.  I wanted to present my work in a format that was not mysterious or intimidating for the audience.  If you tell people you’re a composer it’s hard for them to imagine what you actually do every day, but if you tell them you’re in a band they approach the music in a much more open and relaxed way.  The music is really just as complex and strange and colorful as my concert work, but through Victoire I’m able to present it in a way that reaches thousands more people.
We played our first gigs at John Zorn‘s venue The Stone here in New York, a tiny and wonderful space on the Lower East Side, and we have gone on to play all over the world, in Sweden, Berlin, Canada, Los Angeles, and all over Europe.  Our next big New York concert will be at Carnegie Hall this February; I’ve been commissioned to create a new work for us to perform with percussionist Glenn Kotche, from the band Wilco.  We’re also working on our second album, the follow up to our debut album Cathedral City, which we released on New Amsterdam Records.  (I should mention that Victoire includes Olivia De Prato-violin, Eileen Mack-clarinet, Lorna Krier and Missy Mazzoli-keyboards and electronics, Eleonore Oppeheim-double bass, and Mellissa Hughes-voice.)
2. I started to listen to your music from orchestral compositions as Violent Sea (2011) or These Worlds In Us (2006). Listening is natural to ask what you willing to recognize stylistic influences, in Europe and America. The interesting thing, I think, is that I do not perceive recent influences but, rather, by composers such as Debussy…
Debussy and Ravel have certainly had an influence on the way that I write for orchestra, though I don’t count them as major influences on the rest of my work.  When I write for orchestra I think the early twentieth-century influences feel more prominent, since the orchestra itself does not have a distinctly modern sound.  To be honest this is something that I’m (happily) struggling with right now – how can I make the orchestra sound modern, sound like ME, when the audience inevitably associates it with romantic and impressionistic music?  How can I create a work that sounds like it was written in the 21st century, while using forces that were codified in the 19th century?  This challenge is very attractive to me, and I feel that with my most recent orchestral work, River Rouge Transfiguration, I’ve come a little closer to figuring it out. My influences are constantly changing and evolving;  right now I’m listening to a lot of John Luther Adams, as well as Congolese sacred music recorded by missionaries in the 1960s.
3. The catalog of your works is rich compositions chamber, orchestral, solo, etc. I want you to dwell on some chamber pieces that considers important for you. I seem to sense a great versatility in terms of instrumental selections: Volume (2006), for example, is a piece for two percussionists. Elsewhere we find work closer to the post-tonal music (You Know Me From Here). This is only different occasions or attracts you also work on the sound?
At this point in my career I often write music on commission, and, unless I’m writing for my band,  am not often able to choose the instrumentation.  That said, I do try to adapt every instrumentation into my sound world, which usually means that I introduce some strange, otherworldly element.  Volume, a percussion duo from 2006, includes a set of wine bottles, filled to various depths, that the players have to bang on.  You Know Me From Here, a recent piece  for the Kronos String Quartet, includes a lot of distortion, octave pedal, and various techniques that add another color palette to the ensemble.
4. In the interview that you released to the magazine “The Rumpus” you said: “I don’t think anyone listening to my music needs any special knowledge. They don’t need to have a background in contemporary music. They don’t need to go to new-music concerts all the time in order to be able to understand it”. For several decades, however, contemporary music is considered as an art difficult to understand, as if it was not possible to access to appreciation without a certain cultural background. In recent years the debate has gone so far to include classical music. What do you think about this cultural conditioning?

I didn’t grow up in a musical household, and I didn’t grow up with easy access to  a cultural center.  Growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, anytime I encountered a piece of classical music, whether I stumbled through it at the piano or heard it on the radio, I felt like it had been created for me alone.  Listening to Beethoven and Schubert and Philip Glass I felt like I was hearing the world explained to me at last, that I had finally found a language that made sense.  Granted, I was a strange and isolated little kid, but my point is that this music resonated with me before I even really knew what a composer was, before I had even taken a piano lesson.  You’re right to call it cultural conditioning; this resistance to classical music and contemporary music is something that is learned, and something that composers themselves often reinforce out of fear.  It’s easier to decide that someone just doesn’t understand your music rather than learn that they just don’t like it.  I’m not suggesting composers pander to the listener in order to feel good about themselves – quite the opposite.  I think the important task at hand is to create work that challenges people, that makes them confront things they’d rather ignore, but to do it in a way that draws them in and makes them feel connected to the composer and to other listeners.  Composers across genres and decades have managed to do this;  I think that Luciano Berio, Louis Andriessen, John Luther Adams and Nina Simone do this, to name just a few.  I don’t feel that the current marginalization of classical and contemporary music is the listener’s fault.  I think we’re living in an era that is saturated with commercial and pop culture, to an almost unbearable degree.  As an artist it’s very hard to figure out how to make one’s work jump out of the morass of entertainment and stimulation.  But as a composer I prefer to engage with this new world as best I can, to jump into the fray  instead of withdrawing further into myself. -

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