It’s the end of 2012. It was a great year. Here are some things that made an impact on me. Not all necessarily of them are necessarily from this year, but this was the year that they entered my sphere.
Einstein on the Beach
I’ve had a subscription to BAM’s Next Wave Festival for ten years. Einstein on the Beach, Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s 1976 opera, was the opener to this year’s festival, and it was by far the best thing I’ve ever seen at BAM and among the best experiences of music and performance that I’ve ever had.
Before I went, I was intimidated. It’s four-and-a-half hours long with no intermission. I like Philip Glass, but I imagined it was going to be a pretty cerebral experience. Instead it was visceral and mesmerizing. I could’ve easily sat in the theater for another five hours after it finished.
This was largely due to a small detail: the audience was allowed to move freely around the auditorium and to come and go as they pleased. The pomp and circumstance of the theater was removed. There was no being banished to a waiting room for being a couple minutes late, no expectations to remain in your seat through hours of indecipherable arias. Just being allowed to get up and move when I pleased made me more comfortable, and because I was comfortable, I was able to lose myself in the performance.
Einstein itself also has a built-in casualness. If you want to go drink some water in the middle of an act, you’re not going to miss out on something essential to the plot line, because there is no plot line. It’s one big meditation, so you could fall asleep for thirty minutes, wake up and jump right back in. (In fact, in classical Indian concerts, which were very influential to Glass and which sometimes last for twenty-four hours, it’s expected that you’ll fall asleep during the performance. Part of the beauty is dozing to the music and waking up to it.)
These devices to create comfort and ease, though, serve a higher purpose. Einstein was not a trip to the spa. Philip Glass, Robert Wilson and Lucinda Childs are masters of their crafts. Glass’s compositions loop for minutes at a time, slightly and slowly changing in time signature or melody. They are fascinating and entrancing. Wilson’s set designs blur the line between what is real and what is not. Performers appear in 2-D structures and somehow seem two-dimensional themselves. Childs’ choreography has a similar effect. Movements that seem robotic (and that often grate on my nerves in other modern dance performances) were incorporated with graceful humanity that simultaneously highlighted the beauty and awkwardness of everyday physical routines like reading, sleeping or walking.
Seeing Einstein was like returning to infancy, where the universe is just about patterns, where things may seem familiar and relatable but not defined. Living, as we are, in a world obsessed with facts and figures, to be able to go to a place where they were unhinged without seeming chaotic was incredible.
My Brightest Diamond
This year I fell fully head over heels for My Brightest Diamond. Shara Worden’s talent as a vocalist, composer and pop songwriter is astounding.
Starting the Mister Saturday Night Record Label
It was not without its hassles, but starting our record label this year has been truly rewarding. We were looking for a way to extend the Mister Saturday Night family and to embody the sound of the party on wax, and even with only two releases under our belts, we were able to do those things. We’ve already got six releases in the works for next year, so we’ll be expanding things, but I couldn’t be happier with our modest beginning.
Everyone generally accepts that Berlin is one of the world’s capitals for going out. But sometimes it can seem like the legend overshadows the actual experience, and people’s expectations of what a night out in Berlin should be end up clouding the water. At Loftus Hall, the water is fine. I played there three times this year, once on my own, and twice with Eamon, when we did full Mister Saturday Night parties. Every time was boatloads of fun. The guys that run the place are into it for all the right reasons, and their regulars have no airs; they just want to dance and have a good time.
The space is conducive to doing just that. Plenty of dancefloor space, with a DJ booth set just high enough to see from the front of the room to the back while you’re DJing and low enough that you’re still in the thick of it. There’s a little area with banquettes and tables separate from the main room for shooting the breeze, and there’s a nice outdoor area for catching a breath of fresh air.
Bobby McFerrin’s Circlesongs
If you think Bobby McFerrin is all “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” think again. This album, Circlesongs, is serious. I bought it a couple years ago, but it makes the top ten list for me this year, because I had it on repeat. I think it had something to do with my revived interest in minimalist composition. I’d slot this in on par with Steve Reich’s “Electric Counterpoint.”
Eamon and I had never celebrated anything like an anniversary before this summer. But we looked through all the flyers for all the parties we’d thrown, and we realized as we made our way through the summer that we were about to reach a milestone worth marking – 100 parties. Given that the vast majority of those parties have seen us fully setting up and breaking down sound and lighting systems, renting out loft spaces or back yards and enlisting a full staff to work, it felt like an occasion worth celebrating.
We brought in a sky puppet, free ice cream, even a marching band, and Eamon and I got to do what like to do most – DJ for six hours. It was magical.
This album came out in July 2011, but I only found out about it this year. I probably played every single track off of it at some point or another, but I wore the grooves out on “Patina.”
Devin Dare’s “Policy”
Duane Harriott, a longtime friend and a great DJ, hands me edits from time to time. They’re always good. When he put “Policy,” an edit he made with Sean Marquand from Phenomenal Handclap Band, into my hands, I was excited, but when I listened I couldn’t believe how good it was. It was one of those tracks that you only have to listen to once to know it’s going to make people go insane on the dancefloor.
Leonel Castillo’s “1974”
I don’t even remember how I found this record, but I am very happy that I did. Stripped down Basic Channel techno that turns into triumphant, swinging electronic music in the vein of Oni Ayhun. It was so good I bought it twice.
Francis Englehardt and Paul Nickerson are some of the best DJs out there, and they regularly convert their store into the best little club in New York. I only got to go to one of the parties for a substantial amount of time this year, but it was inspiring, the best party I went to all year. To boot, every time I go into the store, I walk out with a handful of excellent records. We’re lucky to have these guys doing what they do in this city.