NeON Arts—a bold new initiative of New York City’s Department of Probation (DOP), created in partnership with Carnegie Hall—builds on the DOP’s successful efforts to advance public safety by engaging people on probation as well as community members in the arts. Made possible through a collaboration between private and public sectors, NeON Arts funds local arts education projects in the DOP’s Neighborhood Opportunity Networks (NeONs), community centers that help connect people on probation with opportunities, resources, and services. Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, an ongoing arts partner of the DOP, provides support and facilitation, helping to bring other arts organizations into the program and sharing its experience from previous community work in similar settings.
This spring, NeON Arts will serve seven communities in the five boroughs of New York City that are home to large numbers of people on probation. Artists and program participants collaborate on projects in a variety of disciplines, including dance, music, theater, visual art, poetry, and digital media. In addition to creating meaningful arts projects that will benefit their local community, participants learn important new skills and develop positive peer relationships.
An integral part of the development of NeON Arts has been hands-on participation by local community members. Recently, 11 arts organizations from across New York City were selected by the communities they will serve—including people on probation, DOP staff, and local business and cultural leaders—to create a range of programming this spring.
“I am very excited about NeON Arts because there is no question that the arts can transform lives, particularly the lives of people who have faced life challenges. Through NeON Arts, our clients will be able to find a public voice and develop an important new identity—that of artist and creator.” —Ana Bermudez, commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation
NeON Arts is a program of the NYC Department of Probation in partnership with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.Funding provided by the Open Society Foundations through a grant to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City in support of the NYC Young Men’s Initiative.
Viennese jazz artist Josef Erich “Joe” Zawinul combined traditional jazz with elements of rock and world music. Comprising alums from several of his musical projects, the Zawinul Legacy Band united to honor this pioneering jazz keyboardist and composer, on Saturday March 8, 2014 in Zankel Hall as part of Carnegie Hall's Vienna: City of Dreams festival.
Listen to an excerpt of the unique and vibrant sound in the video below.
Pianist Emanuel Ax sat down with composers Missy Mazzoli and Nico Muhly to discuss Brahms Then and Now and the works they wrote for the project. Here, Missy Mazzoli discusses the title of her piece, Bolts of Loving Thunder that receives its New York Premiere on May 15, 2014.
RELATED: Emanuel Ax, Piano–Thursday, May 15, 2014 | 8 PM
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Musician Joe Fee, who also happens to be one of our outstanding CarnegieCharge representatives, gives us an insider's take on Harry Partch's work The Wayward, which he'll perform as part of the Harry Partch Institute Ensemble on April 22. The concert is the first in David Lang's collected stories series.
Walking into the Harry Partch studio for rehearsal is always a unique experience no matter how many times I’ve been there. The studio is packed on every side with Partch’s beautiful creations. To the right sits the Eucal Blossom hanging from its eucalyptus branch, and in another corner is the Gourd Tree. A set of wood chimes named The Garden of Eden hangs from the ceiling with the words The Dreamer That Came With the Dawn inscribed on them. For the past two weeks, the instruments have been arranged in preparation for our upcoming production of The Wayward, Partch’s setting of hobo scenes from the Great Depression.
I grab a red and black flannel from the costume bag and put on my hobo hat. As I step behind the Diamond Marimba, images created by filmmaker Jon Roy are projected on a screen above us and we find ourselves stranded in Barstow, California, trying to catch rides from passing cars and reading inscriptions left on a highway railing by the hitchhikers that came before us. I join the Chromelodeon (a reed organ adapted to play Partch’s 43-note scale), Bamboo Marimba, Surrogate Kithara (a smaller version of the larger Kithara harp), and the voices.
Partch’s music is intimately tied to the voice. Besides two vocal soloists, each musician is called upon to sing, yell, or speak certain passages as we interact throughout the piece. Hobos struggle to get rides, newspaper boys compete with each other, and we are almost ready for Mac to make his journey from California to Chicago. Charles Corey, musical director and Kitharist, glides atop a platform as he runs his fingers through the towering 72-stringed harp. The Bass Marimba pounds its rhythms. The Cloud Chamber Bowls sound their ethereal scale and I accompany the Bloboy on the Spoils of War artillery shells. The train is off!
In the last movement of The Wayward, “U.S. Highball” we follow Mac, a hobo who encounters other travelers as he makes his way from California to Chicago. One of the hobos Mac encounters is the poet Gerd Stern who worked with Partch in the 1950s. Mac counts his blessings as he leaves one town for the next, having survived the dangers of the road. He finally reaches Chicago and the rest of us express our joy in song, but where we go from there is anyone’s guess. Such is the power of The Wayward: It’s a piece about being stranded with nowhere to go and constantly moving toward some unknown ideal, about the relentless individuality of those living on the outskirts of society, and, of course, about Harry Partch, who built all of these instruments and composed the music.
We perform The Wayward on April 22, 2014, 70 years to the day that Partch premiered the piece at Carnegie Hall in a concert version. It is very exciting to perform the piece in its dramatic form and it’s a great honor to share the stage with such amazing musicians. I hope everyone enjoys the show.
—Joe Fee, Musician, Harry Partch Institute Ensemble
Recently, a 16-year old named Meshach had an opportunity of which many teens his age would only dream. He performed the world premiere of his song “Living The Life I Love” in Zankel Hall. The concert featured Meshach’s song alongside other original music created by high school students and community members from throughout New York City. The performance was part of Ellington’s Sacred Music, a program of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. This season’s creative learning project put the spotlight on Duke Ellington’s sacred music, some of the most ambitious and heartfelt music of his legendary career.
Meshach wrote his song in the fall of 2014 during an intensive Musical Connections songwriting project at the Harlem NeON, part of the New York City Department of Probation’s Neighborhood Opportunity Network. This project was just one of six projects which took place at a variety of community sites, schools and on Musical Exchange, Carnegie Hall’s online community for young musicians. All together, this project brought together 120 composers and performers to delve deeply and imaginatively into the theme of affirmation, which is central to the sacred works by Duke Ellington.
We sat down with him to hear about his experience as a songwriter and performer.
Tell us what it's been like to participate in the Musical Connections songwriting project?Well, before I had a lot of struggles, so people was helping me out like Orson, Victor, all of them [all Musical Connections roster artists]. So they helped me out and I just started getting better each time they would help me out. Then that’s when I said “Yeah, I can do this” so that’s why I created this song “Living the Life I Love”.
How has the songwriting project helped you as a creative outlet?
At first, I got stuck on certain things. I was told you don’t have to rhyme with every word. You just have to make it right for you. You don’t have to make everything rhyme, you just go with how you feel.
Who are some influential musicians in your life? Why?
Well, my father. He’s a reggae musician. So, I really am like my father. All of these other musicians are negative. I like positive music. So my father, all he does is make positive music. That’s what I want to do.
How does it feel to perform on stage as part of the Duke Ellington Creative Work Concert?
The more the people, the higher my energy builds. Once I see people there, my energy is just 100% positive. I just feel everybody’s energy inside of me. So that’s why I just rap. I just keep on going with their energy.
Do you plan to continue making music afterward?
Yes, I am. It’s different. I like playing instruments too. So it’s not only about rapping. I like making beats and everything. I would like to be in a studio for that. Creating my own beats instead of copying other people’s.
More opportunities for young people to explore their passions and talents in music, dance, theater, visual arts, poetry, and digital media are available through NeON Arts. Learn more about this new city-wide initiative, a program of the New York City Department of Probation in partnership with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.
Photography by Stephanie Berger
David Lang, Carnegie Hall's 2013–2014 Richard and Barbara Debs Composers Chair, looks at the broader musical landscape by curating the collected stories series. These six multi-genre concerts showcase different modes of storytelling in music, from Medieval Beowilf to conceptual Cage to world premieres, pulling together disparate threads from past and present and across many traditions to highlight the ways music and narrative work together.
Before you view the complete calendar of collected stories concerts which run from Aprill 22 to April 29, watch David Lang introduce each concert in the videos below.
Carnegie Hall's Rose Museum and Archives Director Gino Francesconi tells the story about finding The Louis Salter Collection—a 54-page autograph book that dates from 1916 to 1937—and its restoration.
At the ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone for Carnegie Hall in 1890, one line from Andrew Carnegie's speech proved wonderfully prophetic: "It is probable that this Hall will intertwine itself with the history of our country." They were bold words for a theater that was built nearly three miles uptown, away from the then heart of the city at 14th Street, yet Carnegie would live to see those words go beyond even his expectations.
One item in our archives that demonstrates this “intertwining” in a remarkable and extraordinary way is a 54-page autograph book that dates from 1916 to 1937. In it are names of some of the most important people of that time—not only in music, but in politics, exploration, journalism, dance, medicine, and literature.
"It is probable that this Hall will intertwine itself with the history of our country." —Andrew Carnegie
"It is probable that this Hall will intertwine itself with the history of our country." —Andrew Carnegie
Among the 266 signatures are Arturo Toscanini, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Kirsten Flagstad, Pablo Casals, Roald Amundsen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ernestine Schumann-Heink, William Jennings Bryan, and Sergei Prokofiev. Many signatures are strong, bold, and clear. Others such—as Howard Carter's, who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun—took a week to decipher. Some were unknown to us at the time, such as Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe, the Canadian doctor who delivered the Dionne quintuplets in 1934. He became quite a celebrity in his day and lectured frequently about the Dionne quintuplets, the first to survive infancy.
The autographs were collected by Louis Salter, who worked at Carnegie Hall for 32 years, first as an assistant electrician and later advancing to superintendent. He then became general representative of the New York Philharmonic in 1925 and assistant manager of the Lewisohn Stadium summer concerts. He died of a heart attack in 1939 at the age of 66.
Finding the book wasn't easy, since most of Carnegie Hall’s documented history had disappeared over the decades. During Andrew Carnegie’s ownership, there were several changes of management; after Robert E. Simon purchased the Hall from Mrs. Carnegie in 1925, a new employee frustratingly remarked in a newspaper article that it only took a few days to throw out years of “old records.” There were no lists of former employees let alone contacts, but the memory of “the book” lived on. I had first heard about it as the backstage artist assistant in the 1970s and '80s, and when we established the Carnegie Hall Archives in 1986, it was one of the top items we were determined to find.
A more than 10-year search led us to family members located all over the country. We purchased it from them in 2001.
Like most autograph books of the time, the paper was highly acidic. The family guardians had kept a careful watch over it through the years, yet the pages had become brittle and many of the edges were chipped. As much as we loved showing it off, it was also very frustrating and frightening. We detached a few of the pages to put on temporary display in our Rose Museum; no matter how careful we were, we felt each time we touched a page could be its last before it crumbled to pieces.
It was among the first obvious choices to send to the Northeast Document Conservation Center to be conserved and digitized as part of our ongoing three-year project. The pages were cleaned, the acidity neutralized, tears mended, pages encapsulated, and it was all rehoused. What a joy to be able to show it off again with pride! And with the confidence that we can do so safely.
The juxtaposition of autographs on some pages is truly breathtaking: On one page, conductor Artur Bodanzky, violinist Jacques Thibaud, writer Maurice Maeterlinck (who won the 1911 Nobel Prize in Literature), and physicist Sir Oliver Lodge appear along with President Herbert Hoover and former New York Governor and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes. On another page, pianist-composer Sergei Rachmaninoff and baritone Lawrence Tibbett with the Marmein Dancers (Phyllis, Irene, and Miriam), with composer-conductor John Philip Sousa, and jack-of-all-trades reporter-actor-photographer Burr McIntosh.
There were also 44 portrait photographs of musicians that were part of the acquisition. Each was inscribed to Louis Salter. He displayed them in his Carnegie Hall office. Years of radiator heat, cigar and cigarette smoke, sunlight, and bad matting caused these wonderful souvenirs to be in various states of disintegration. Most had been taped to highly acidic matting; the photos were discolored, torn, and brittle. At the Northeast Document Conservation Center, the photos were separated from the matting, surface soil was removed, and Japanese paper was used to mend tears before they were carefully flattened and given new sleeves for storage.
This collection is available for research at the Carnegie Hall Archives and in the near future will be a wonderful part of our digital archives.
Avant-garde virtuoso guitarist Kaki King performs the world premiere of her piece Other Education on (post)folk, the fifth concert in David Lang's collected stories series. Explore the rest of David Lang's collected stories series here.
I first heard Kaki King when she played solo guitar
on the Late Show with David Letterman. Kaki is a
guitarist steeped in the traditions of folk and jazz
guitar playing, but she plays her instrument in a
manner unlike any other guitarist I know: plucking
the guitar with both hands, tapping it and slapping
it, taking advantage of amplification to explore the
sound-making possibilities along the entire
instrument, from top to bottom.
Her style of guitar playing is a hyper-modern
version of something we instinctively recognize.
Guitar is the workhorse of popular music and it
stretches across almost all aspects of American
musical life. The familiarity of the musical
worlds she emerges from is a big part of her
strength—because she is innovating in a tradition
that is so familiar to us we can instantly notice
her innovations and be amazed. Her piece tonight,
Other Education, marks the first time that Kaki
has written music for so many musicians and
the first time she has played in front of a
The Années de pèlerinage is a massive undertaking for any pianist, clocking in at more than 180 minutes and requiring extreme ranges of virtuosic fireworks and emotional commitment. Read composer David Lang's program note for collected stories: travel, which features dynamic pianist Louis Lortie performing Liszt's enthralling musical travelogue.
Explore the rest of David Lang's collected stories series here.
I am always interested in how the things we take
for granted in our world got started. For example,
we take it for granted that a musician’s life is
international, that a violinist might play a concert
this week in New York, then play next week in
London, and then go on to Hong Kong. We think
not only that this is possible, but that it’s the
normal way to design a life in music.
Where did we get this idea?
The modern life of a touring, international
musician was basically invented by violinist
Niccolò Paganini in the 1820s and perfected by
pianist Franz Liszt in the 1830s. Together, they
created the life of a musician on the road, the life
most musicians recognize today.
They came of age in a time when the system that
required musicians to attach themselves to various
courts or nobles or churches had broken down, and
in a time when a rising middle class created a new
category of listener that was educated, urban, and
sophisticated. You know—the Zankel Hall
audience. The musician’s life and the musician’s
audience developed together, hand in hand. The
new urban audience required a new kind of music
and a new kind of musician. Liszt, one of the
greatest virtuosos of the 19th century, wrote music
of previously unimagined difficulty and
flamboyance, then toured Europe showing off his
unique pianistic skills.
Années de pèlerinage is a collection of virtuosic solo
piano pieces Liszt composed across a span of nearly
50 years. He published them in three books, which
he called “years.” Some of these pieces had been
published in an earlier collection called Album d’un
voyageur, which he later folded into the Années de
pèlerinage. The emphasis changes with the title, as
“A Traveler’s Album” becomes “Years of
Pilgrimage.” The first explores the places he visited, the second explores the time that passed
while visiting them.
It’s not the miles, but the years.
Tonight’s concert is a marathon, and like all
marathons the goal is getting to the end. Années de
pèlerinage is almost never played complete, or in its
published order, so you should know how rare an
event this is. It is rare partly because of the titanic
stamina and skill required to play it all, and partly
because the most famous showpieces—like “Vallée
d’Obermann,” “Après une lecture du Dante,” and
the three pieces inspired by Petrarch sonnets—are
all over by the end of the second book. But it also
must be noted that the music gets strange in the
third book. The later pieces are less interested in
being overtly virtuosic, so pianists play them less
frequently. You feel in the last book that Liszt’s
attention has wandered from pieces calculated to
electrify a crowd to pieces that are introspective,
more interior, more self-questioning. You hear the
The third book contains some of the strangest,
most experimental music Liszt ever wrote. From
the radical harmonies of the “Villa d’Este” pieces,
to the proto-minimalist “Marche funèbre,” to the
heartbreaking directness of “Sunt lacrymae
rerum,” this book shows a very different
compositional focus than the first two.
What changed for Liszt to make this music so
introspective and so bizarre? Part of it may have
been that later in life, when he gave up touring as a
virtuoso, he gave up needing to write the kind of
music a touring virtuoso needs to play—music that
impresses and shocks and wows a crowd with
fireworks and acrobatics.
It may also have been that what happened to Liszt
was Wagner, to whom Liszt was deeply connected.
By the time Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde
pulled the rug out from under the traditional
harmonic landscape of Western classical music,
Wagner was already having an affair with Liszt’s daughter Cosima, whom he eventually
married. Liszt became heavily involved in the
promotion of Tristan, making a piano transcription
of the “Liebestod” that helped spread its fame
throughout Europe. Could Wagner’s radical
approach to harmony and form have convinced
Liszt that he was now old and out of fashion?
I keep thinking about how, in the years of
serialism’s zenith, older composers as diverse as
Stravinsky, Copland, and Shostakovich felt
compelled to try their hands at it, since the young
composers of the world were so convinced. An old
composer might look for signs that he or she
belongs to another era, and then feel compelled to
change. Perhaps it is significant that all the music
in the last book of Années was written after the
premiere of Tristan und Isolde.
Or maybe he was just slowing down. I can’t help but
be moved when I hear the tremolo in the left hand
of “Sursum corda,” the last movement of the last
book. When Liszt was a young virtuoso, he had no
trouble generating energy with his left hand—
“Orage,” from the first book, has one of the most
fiery and intricately virtuosic left hand parts in all
the repertoire of the 19th century, and the younger
Liszt traveled the world playing it. By the end of the third book, all he needs, or maybe all has the energy for, both as a composer and as a pianist, is a simple tremolo.
Carnegie Hall's Rose Museum and Archives Director Gino Francesconi recently attended the 100th birthday celebrations for an influential figure from the Hall's past. Here, Gino shares that experience.
Today marks the 100th birthday of Robert E. Simon Jr., the owner of Carnegie Hall from 1935 until he sold the building to the City of New York in June 1960. His father, Robert Simon Sr., purchased Carnegie Hall from Mrs. Andrew Carnegie in February 1925. Combined, father and son owned the Hall longer than Andrew Carnegie. The Simons made many improvements to the building, including the addition of air conditioning, income-generating storefronts, and the first-ever restrooms on the Dress Circle and Balcony levels!
Bob cut $250,000 from the sale price of the Hall to New York City as his own personal contribution to its continuation. With the $5 million paid to him, he purchased nearly 7,000 acres 28 miles from Washington, DC, and began to build what became one of the most successful planned communities ever created: Reston, Virginia. You might notice that he incorporated his initials into the town name—RESton.
Much like some people thought Andrew Carnegie was crazy for building such an elaborate structure nearly three miles north of (then) Midtown, Robert Simon Jr. received his share of criticism for building a community so far outside of Washington, DC. He wanted affordable housing at all economic levels and racial equality at a time when segregation was still legal in Virginia. Nearly all of the residences were built around lakes, streams, or woodlands, and the development included 55 miles of forest trails. The original center of the city, Lake Anne Plaza, was designed after the piazzas of small hill towns in Italy. To Bob, "a center piazza filled with people is the glue of a community."
Today, 65,000 people live and work in Reston. The Metro arrives in a few years, and in the spirit of Bob's original concept, the station will contain a large plaza with shops, offices, and residences. He then wants to break ground for a complex that will include a space for the performing arts. This past Saturday included celebrations of Reston's 50th anniversary and Bob's 100th with events that lasted well into the night, including declarations from local officials, the governor, and President Obama. And Bob enjoyed every minute of it!
From all of us at Carnegie Hall, we wish Bob a very happy birthday!
Bob Simon Jr.'s 100th Birthday Celebration | Gino Francesconi and Bob Simon Jr.
President Obama's letter to Bob Simon Jr.
"I am very happy with the ease and versatility with which I can share my content with my audience, clients and business partners alike."