Thursday, October 20, 2005

CULTURE: Strunk and White: The Opera: "It’s not so much that people actually read William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White’s The Elements of Style because if we did, we would all write perfectly formed sentences. Instead, we worship the idea that all grammar and style can be contained in one small book. And so, like the A Brief History of Time before it, Strunk and White’s classic will be illustrated.

And the worship doesn’t stop there.

[Illustrator Maira Kalman] explained that while she was painting her illustrations, she found herself singing the words and dreaming of a Strunk and White opera, or even a ballet. She turned to Mr. Muhly, whom she had known for more than a decade as a family friend and co-conspirator in various neo-Dadaist adventures. (Ms. Kalman once ran a Rubber Band Society - for people who love rubber bands, naturally - and invited Mr. Muhly to compose a work scored for rubber bands, which he did.) 'I knew that Nico and I would have an immediate conversation in shorthand about humor and imagination, and that he'd completely get it,' Ms. Kalman said.

Mr. Muhly, 24, is a talented and audacious graduate of the Juilliard School who has worked with Philip Glass and Bjork. His Strunk and White songs are eloquently scored for soprano, tenor, viola, banjo and percussion. They also include parts for Ms. Kalman's friends and family, who will make 'little gentle noises' through amplified kitchen utensils (vintage eggbeaters and meat grinders) and a set of dice shaken in a bowl.

But even with this lineup, the humor of the piece lies more in its straight-faced seriousness. The vocal writing is cast in a distinctly early-music style, the textures as pure and pared down as Strunk and White liked their sentences. There are frequent moments of disarming beauty, as if Mr. Muhly were tempting the listener to forget the jokes and simply listen.

I look forward to the upcoming Tony Awards where The Elements of Style will compete head to head with a revival of the Roger and Hammerstein’s classic Fowler’s Modern English Usage.

(Written by: Christopher)


(Via SuicideGirls: News Wire.)

1 comment:

Mandy said...