Behind Bars, in Boats or Under a Bridge

By James R. Oestreich

The New York Times features Music of the Americas and Make Music New York June 21 commemoration of Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer at Central Park Lake.


Central Park Lake

Make Music New York and R. Murray Schafer, the dean of Canadian composers, would seem to be made for each other. Mr. Schafer, a polymath and environmentalist who turns 80 next month, has developed a specialty in outsize music-theater works intended to be performed outdoors, where the festival performers mostly ply their trade.

With “Lake Music,” presented in collaboration with the Americas Society at the Central Park Lake on Friday, the festival made a day of Mr. Schafer. The 12 trombones of TILT Brass opened and closed it with Mr. Schafer’s two-part “Music for Wilderness Lake” (1979): “Dawn” at 7:30 a.m. (happily not at actual sunrise, 5:25-ish), when Central Park could still plausibly impersonate a wilderness, and “Dusk” at 8:15 p.m., when the players had to compete with hugely amplified music nearby. At 5 p.m. George Steel, the general manager and artistic director of the New York City Opera, conducted a large choir in “Credo,” from Mr. Schafer’s musical/theatrical work “Apocalypsis” (1977).

The trombone pieces, each about 10 minutes, were performed by three groups of four players, distantly stationed around the southern end of the lake, with coordination left partly to the clock, partly to someone wielding bright flags at the northernmost post. The music consisted mainly of bursts of melody or of burbles, buzzes and whoops exchanged among the groups, although “Dawn” rose to an especially nice moment of massed sonority.

Tilt Brass performs Dawn from Schafer's Music from Wilderness Lake

“Credo,” for 12 choirs of 12 singers each, surrounding the audience, six double basses and recorded church bells, was intended not for the outdoors but for a cathedral or a similarly reverberant space. Mr. Steel led the 144 singers....

Read the full review here.