A Wagner Matinee

I recently received a video of a collaborative dance-theatre piece by choreographer Laura Diffenderfer that I wrote the music and did sound design for. It is an abstract retelling of Willa Cather’s short story “A Wagner Matinee” and was premiered at the Red Cloud Opera House in Red Cloud, Nebraska (population 1020), Cather’s hometown. The performance in the video is from the New York premiere at the Merce Cunningham Studio in 2010. This excerpt comes from the extended middle section of the work in which Wagner’s Prelude to Tristan und Isolde stirs up memories in the aunt of the story’s narrator. Musically, I juxtaposed a processed recording of the Prelude with wind recordings evoking the harshness of the Nebraskan landscape. From this emerges a solo piano piece that is essentially a long minimalist deconstruction of the iconic chords of the Prelude. The piano solo starts sparsely at 2:34 and builds up eventually from there.

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