It’s not every day you can hear the world premiere of a piece composed by a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer for free. You can hear David Lang’s latest work, composition as explanation, at the Arts Club of Chicago, during its open house celebrating its 100th anniversary this Saturday, October 22, 2016, from 12-5 pm.
“One of the Arts Club’s greatest contributions in its early history is that it was a place where ‘unknown’ artists could come and talk about their work,” Lang said. “The Arts Club helped introduce America and Chicago to young artists and their work.”
During its first three decades, the club presented composers Igor Stravinsky, Ottorino Respighi, Darius Milhaud, Aaron Copland, Serge Prokofiev, Arnold Schönberg, Paul Hindemith, and Nadia Boulanger to American audiences. In later years, Leonard Bernstein, John Cage, Philip Glass, and Esa-Pekka Salonen would made visits to the club.
Lang’s composition as explanation is inspired by one artist whom the club presented in its early history, though curiously, she was a writer: Gertrude Stein. Many composers have set Stein’s words to music in the past, most famously, perhaps, Virgil Thomson, whose operas Four Saints in Three Acts and The Mother of Us All feature librettos by Stein.
“Stein gave a talk before she was a hugely important modernist figure titled Composition as Explanation” at the Cambridge Literary Club and at Oxford University in 1925.
“One of the beautiful things is that she gives a justification for her way of writing. Her speech reads the way she writes. It’s confusing, and circular, and abstract, and yet at the core she is explaining what it’s like to be a contemporary artist.”
As part of the Arts Club of Chicago’s open house on Saturday, the four-time Grammy winning ensemble eighth blackbird will perform Lang’s piece throughout the afternoon.
“You’ll be able to hear two, twenty-five minute chunks performed twice during the day. But throughout the afternoon, there will also be musicians scattered through the building playing parts of it. You might encounter a guerilla performance in the stairwell or at the bar.”
Eighth blackbird performed in our studios this week as part of a segment for Chicago Tonight:
Collaborative arts programming is made possible by the Richard and Mary L. Gray Artistic Collaboration Fund.