German-Argentine composer Mauricio Kagel is arguably one of the most radical 20th century avant-garde composers, often incorporating bizarre, hysterical theatrics into his compositions. Kagel Nacht on May 1st - ROULETTE’S LAST CONCERT IN MANHATTAN – gathers a stacked deck of musicians from Brooklyn’s artistic multiverse, performers deeply situated in theater, performance art, classical, and experimental music worlds for an evening exploring Kagel’s diverse oeuvre, including “classical” works, electro-acoustic compositions, multi-media pieces, radio plays, and some of his most daring and hilarious works of “instrumental theater”. With interpretations ranging from strict to fully recontextualized, Kagel Nacht breathes new life into these important and underperformed works by joining them into one, multi-stage, panoramic event.
ROULETTE: Tell us as about the work you’ll be doing at Roulette.
SAM SOWYRDA: Stephe first introduced me to Mauricio Kagel’s work sometime in late 2007, around the time we started working together in both musical and performance art groups. After that we both researched his pieces, and performed our own, Kagel-influenced, theatrical improvised music under the name Living Things. Sadly though, it wasn’t until Kagel passed away in 2008 that it occurred to both of us to put on a night dedicated to Kagel’s great body of work. It was pretty easy to find performers in New York who wanted to contribute; Kagel’s music is so unique and vastly underperformed that people jumped at the opportunity to perform it, including the amazing soprano Beth Griffith who had worked closely with Kagel in Cologne for years.
We put together a full length (almost 4 hours!) show of everything from strict readings to complete reinterpretations (such as Kagel’s epic open-form electro-acoustic composition Acustica performed as a giant audience-directed jukebox). We wanted to not only present Kagel’s rarely performed works, but also to allow young artists to choose how to present the works in the most creative, and Kagel-inspired way. We didn’t think Kagel’s music necessarily fit the classical performance conventions, and if left to the music-devouring canon-monster many of his greatest, and difficult-to-program pieces, might well be forgotten. We got such great feedback from so many different people that we decided it had to be done again, ideally as a tour. We started organizing again in late 2009 and here we are, about to take Kagel Nacht on its first tour.
R: What is music?
SS / STEPHE COOPER: That to which I listen.
R: Do you do other things aside from music?
SS: Yes, I do a lot of other things. Professionally I have been doing timber-frame carpentry for the past few years, mostly rebuilding historic barns in Connecticut. I also built a diesel engine from scrap parts for an old Jetta I got a few years ago, then converted if to run on vegetable oil; that’s somewhat more than a hobby for the past few years.
SC: I mostly write and play music and work as a sound engineer in an experimental music venue, but I also like to play chess, ride my bicycle, cook vegetarian food, and fantasize about living in a society without oppressive hierarchal structures.