John Zorn, Rites of Passage, & Grisey

Saturday evening, June 8th, kicks off with John Zorn’s Jumalattaret, bringing the gods and ancient heroes of the Finnish epic Kalevala to life through a cycle of songs with Barbara Hannigan and Stephen Gosling. The music uses a variety of techniques and genres and moves from lyrical folk-like simplicity to more complex atonal and textural pyrotechnics.

In Part II of the evening, the folk songs of Rites of Passage will incorporate indigenous and raw folk material reflecting each performer’s cultural and ethnic heritage; with resonances that are both primal and personal. Collectively, the songs chart a cyclical journey through courtship and marriage, the bloom of new love, conflict and dissolution, new beginnings, and love reawakened. A line from the final, jubilant piece, the Cuban folksong Guantanamera, gives voice to the creative impulse that underpins it all: “Before I die, I want to share these poems of my soul.”

We end the evening with Quatre Chants Pour Franchir Le Seuil, Gérard Grisey’s last completed score before his sudden and unexpected death in 1998. Its subject – passing the frontier from this world to the next – may well seem eerily prescient, but its themes of threshold and transition are threaded throughout the composer’s works and lie at the core of his creative being. As a pioneer of spectral music, Grisey explored the subtle gradations that grow out of the microtonal properties of each tone.