I am working on a new monodrama opera, called ‘The Collector’ for the upcoming Experiments in Opera ‘New Shorts’ event on February 9, 2013 at Issue Project Room. I am also slogging through a much larger piece, Brother Brother, so with ‘The Collector’ I have been enjoying the opportunity to create a complete world on a small scale without all of the incredible challenges of producing a huge piece.

‘The Collector’ is a modestly straightforward story about a man who rekindles his interest in collecting stamps and becomes obsessed with the relationships he builds through his stamp collection. For this piece, I wanted to write music that followed the natural phrasings of spoken speech, but also ask the musicians to match exactly the rhythms of the performer. As you see above, I have taken the full libretto and assigned rhythmic values to each phrase. Without proper bar lines or meters, these free rhythms should be able to capture the loose precision of my ideal spoken delivery.

With this kind of flexibility, I hope I can create a simulated tension that embodies the ‘collector’s’ mounting anxiety and isolation. Stay tuned for more details….

Sometimes, in order to get to nothing, you have to trick yourself into thinking you are doing something. Happy Summer!

The Experiments in Opera Spring Series will be presented at Roulette in Brooklyn on May 10-11, 2012. The two-day event will pick up where the January 2012 inaugural concert left off, with full versions of Jason Cady’s Happiness is the Problem and Matt Welch’s Borges and the Other.

In addition, two of the choral excerpts from my own Brother Brother will be featured on Thursday May 10.  I am excited to be working with singers Amanda Sidebottom, Patrick Fennig, Jonathon Hampton and Thomas McCargar.

Visit experimentsinopera.com for more information.

Visit roulette.org to buy tickets.

One of the pleasures of parenthood is the opportunity to play with toys again.  And when the toys themselves are filled with memories of ones own childhood, the experience is both generative and reflective.  This past holiday season, we got my son Leo a set of tinker toys, and though they are a little different from the set my brother and I had as kids, they are pretty much the same toys. Leo is a builder (blocks, legos, pillows, you name it) and we have already made a couple of significant tinker toy structures together.  Its hard not to let my own enjoyment eclipse his, but hopefully my excitement at getting a chance to tinker is received with more than a sense of competition.

Not coincidentally, I have also recently itched a long-standing urge to learn how to play GO, something I have always thought of as a very adult kind of game (doesn’t everyone picture old, wizened people playing GO?).  I picked up the rules of the game fairly easily, but am really struggling with my inability to think strategically.  I have lost so many times to the computer that is my iPhone that I am just about to give up.  I am frustrated that I can’t seem to find the pleasure in thinking through the strategy of the game.

I also downloaded an app that is a generation removed from the old tile puzzles that I am sure litter coffee tables at grandma’s house across the world.  Where I have been frustrated with GO, I am completely engrossed in the never-ending puzzle combinations and more rewarding (and quicker to come by) victories.

I just assume everyone’s mind works a little differently and has settled into solving problems or answering questions through a series of calculated steps that are just right for that person.  I know that I am more creative and productive when I have all the pieces of a puzzle laid out before me, when I can move them around, trying different combinations at will and quickly (and with little strategic organization) so that eventually, I will find the solution.  But I can’t just imagine how things will look when I make a move,  I have to try it.  I have to see what it looks like and only then will I be able to process the information necessary to find the creative solution.

I am a tinkerer.  Always was, always will be.

The Experiments in Opera collaborative has its inaugural festival at Le Poisson Rouge on January 16, 2012. My chamber opera-in-progress, Brother Brother, will be one of the featured works on this festival along with other excerpts from new works by Matthew Welch, Jason Cady and George Aperghis.

When Matt, Jason and I first got together to plan this project, we talked about how hard it was to work on large-scale operatic pieces knowing that the opportunities for full productions don’t come around often and that when they do they are really expensive. Despite these odds, our mutual interest in experimenting with the form of opera–of telling stories, molding music, shaping movement and images–outweighed our hesitancy and we decided that we couldn’t afford not to write the music that we wanted to! Instead of going at it alone, though, we theorized that it would benefit all of our works individually (and the community at large) if we could figure out how to share resources, ideas and stages.

The Inaugural Experiments In Opera Festival on January 16, 2012 is just the beginning of this process, but already it has proven revelatory. Instead of wondering when we will be asked to share our work, we know that we will be able to make the opportunities for ourselves to continue developing our experiments. And, since we have made the development of other operatic works a priority in our programming, our efforts will help support a larger community of artists working in the world of music, words and story.

This is by far the most exciting thing I have going on right now and I sense that it will have a great impact for years to come. Please join us on January 16, 2012 as we shape a dedicated community of artists and our experiments.

Visit experimentsinopera.com to learn more about the festival program and artists.

Support the Experiments in Opera Kickstarter Campaign






By way of a lucky encounter with my friend and fellow raconteur, Dave Ruder, I got invited to participate in an upcoming performance of Robert Ashley’s early opera “That Morning Thing,” which will play at The Kitchen from November 19-21 as part of Performa 2011.

I have long been an admirer of Ashley’s work and, being in the midst of work on my own opera, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn more about how Ashley works. His operas have the special feeling of arriving fully formed from a distant planet, where everyone speaks with a mellifluous tone and has detailed stories and observations about things you think you know about or at least have some memory of (even if this is completely fabricated).

As it happened, our rehearsals for the piece coincided with my purchase of a new camera (which I am enjoying immensely). I have been documenting the rehearsals ever so slightly for the production blog, but thought I would share this above photo as a reflection of my excitement for the production. The photo is a response to some of the directions for the male performers in Act 3 who are asked to sit in the ways that “men do when they are thinking.” Having rehearsed this 5 minute section several times, it was hard not to see more clearly that, while men may have their own way of looking while they are thinking, women also have some close-looking variations of their own. I don’t know whether this observation is due to an actual relationship between physical gesture, or perhaps a reflection of the ways that “sexed” behavior (and here I am using ‘sex’ in place of ‘gender‘ per Bob’s preference) has changed in the forty years since the piece’s premiere.

To find out more, you will need to come out to the performance at the Kitchen….

Last Spring I participated in the FlashLight event associated with the Festival of Ideas for a New City and got to know the great people working on NuitBlanche NY. They have an annual festival called Bring to Light that features many, many video artists, musicians and performers all contributing to a huge happening event in the evening of a single night. This year’s festival will take place on Saturday October 1, 2012 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and I am working oan a new video/performance work called “Put Your Hands Together” to share at the event. The 2-channel video installation will be projected on opposing walls and will invite onlookers to clap along to some visual cues in the video.

This is where you come in!!

I am looking for 12 people to help me by coming to lead some of the clapping on the night of the festival. There won’t be any rehearsals, just come and clap! I will sign you up for a time slot in the evening (8-10, 10-Midnight, Midnight-2AM) and then you come and enjoy yourself. Email me at [email protected] if you are interested and I will sign you up!

Put Your Hands Together at
Bring to Light NYC Festival
October 1, 2011
8:00 pm (or so) – 2:00 am
Greenpoint Brooklyn

An enthusiastic review from Frank Oteri on NewMusicBox about the new CD release of Science is Only a Sometimes Friend.

NewMusicBox – Sounds Heard: Aaron Siegel

NPR and Q2 recently released a list of 100 composers under 40 who are “shaping our contemporary musical scene and defining what it means to be a composer in the 21st century.” I am excited to have been included among this list of my peers and friends. Even more than being on this list though, there is now a great stream of music being shared at NPR featuring one track from each of the composers on the list. This is a gold mine of music being made today and I hope you will check it out.

The Mix: 100 Composers Under 40

Also, in the news, River to River Festival just announced their full summer line-up and my collaboration with Larry Legend, a public sound art piece called GROUP, is the first event on their amazing (as usual) list of free events. Check out the full program here:

River to River 2011 Program

I was walking around downtown New York last week with some friends when we stopped in front of the New York Stock Exchange to see if it would be a good site for an upcoming ‘staging’ of GROUP, the collective Sound Piece I am developing with Larry Legend. We discussed for a moment the ‘monumental’ nature of the NYSE building and how it would make for a great backdrop for the performance of GROUP. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but then I decided I didn’t really know what we meant by “monumental.” Here are just a couple of references to monumental I culled from a quick google search:

“Steel yourself: Richard Serra’s monumental sculptures” – The Independent

“Valedictory Beethoven : Sanderling Conducts A Monumental Ninth” – Los Angeles Times

“Monumental Mounting of Merce Cunningham’s Landmark Work Ocean in Minnesota’s Rainbow Granite Quarry” – Walker Arts Center

And here is the proper definition from our good friends at Merriam-Webster:

MONUMENTAL 1: of or relating to a monument; 2: serving as or resembling a monument: massive: highly significant: outstanding; 3: very great.

Okay, I get it. Big. Bigger. But there also seems to be something intriguing about the way we talk about things that are intangible being monumental. For, instance, I would consider one of my favorite sound installations, “Times Square” by Max Neuhaus to be monumental. But besides the grate in times square, beneath which is a speaker, there is not much to show for this piece, and certainly nothing physically large. Now “Times Square” has been installed in the same space for over 30 years, which is grounds for it to be a permanent ‘monument.’ This would mean that monumental has something to do with existence over a long period of time. Certainly most of the monuments we usually think of, from the Washington Monument to the Vietnam Memorial, have all been constructed with longevity in mind, not to mention size.

Having settled roughly what Monumental means, I thought about whether there were any connections between what the monuments stand for. The NYSE, for instance, stands for the solidness and security of modern capitalist society, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and especially the “Ode to Joy” is a monument to national spirit and strength. Richard Serra’s ‘steel wall’ sculptures might not stand for any one thing, but they often evoke deep feelings of public and private spaces, while Max Neuhaus’ “Times Square” creates a zone of contemplation amidst the hecticness of Times Square.

It is really only when we dig beneath the physical characteristics of monumental-ness that all things monumental start to differ from one another. The political and aesthetic implications that make one monument seem worthy, while another seems arrogant are only available as we think about the forces that create a monumental feeling.