Bowerbird, in association with Pig Iron, presents Samuel Beckett, Words and Music - a concert at Fleisher Art Memorial

02 Jun 2016

Pig Iron has embarked on a new chapter of work focusing on collaborations with composers and musicians.  We’ve just wrapped up a week of performance research with choristers from The Crossing, musicians from the new Arcana ensemble, and Sweden’s Teater Slava.  We’re digging into a new collaboration with composer Troy Herion and designer Mimi Lien entitled A Period of Animate Existence.  This work of symphonic theater, a meditation on life cycles and planetary cycles, brings Herion’s unique compositional strategies for music and film into live performance.

Our friends at Bowerbird invited Pig Iron to participate in a concert of Words and Music, with text by Samuel Beckett and music by Morton Feldman.  Arcana New Music Ensemble will play Feldman’s score alongside actors Jaime Maseda and Michael T. Williams in the magnificent sanctuary of the Fleisher Art Memorial.

Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 8pm
The Fleisher Art Memorial
719 Catherine Street, Philadelphia
Tickets $10 – click here to purchase.


Morton Feldman's 1987 composition Samuel Beckett, Words and Music sets the text of a radio play written by Samuel Beckett in 1961. The text presents a cryptic trialogue between the ailing master Croak and his two servants, Joe (Words) and Bob (Music). Music has no lines in Beckett's script, but only cues describing certain moods and textures. 20 years after he withdrew the work, Beckett asked Feldman to give Music a voice, interpreting the written indications with a score for a seven-instrument chamber ensemble. What results is an agonized discourse between the two main characters, punctuated by the guttural interjections of Croak and long, cavernous silences. 


Morton Feldman (1926-1987) was one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century. An early member of the "New York School" of musicians and artists grouped around John Cage in the 1950s, Feldman developed a unique and unmistakable compositional voice: quiet, slow, and gentle, but roiled with sharp dissonances and unnerving repetitions. Music critic Kyle Gann remarks that in the current Babel of musical styles, Feldman is that rare composer whose music appeals across stylistic boundaries, among minimalists, post-serialists, 12-tone holdouts, electronic composers, academics, Downtowners, MAX programmers, DJ artists, and other miscellaneous wastrels. Abstract yet deeply personal, Feldman’s music leaves an indelible impression.


Founded in 2016, the Arcana New Music Ensemble is a group of Philadelphia-based musicians dedicated to presenting interesting, beautiful, and unconventional music in interesting, beautiful, and unconventional places. Built on a flexible roster of 25 musicians, Arcana is able to perform a broad range of repertoire in numerous configurations. Arcana is a project of Bowerbird administered by Elizabeth Huston, Thomas Patteson, and Dustin Hurt.


Pig Iron Theatre Company is still kicking after 20 years of making original work. This restless group of artists alternates between clown plays, hybrid cabarets, and formal experiments.  Right now the company is chewing on the blurry frontier between music and theater; last year a collaboration with indie rock outfit Dr. Dog became Swamp is On, a rock-concert-installation that sold out Union Transfer.  Currently the company is deep in development with composer Troy Herion on A Period of Animate Existence, a new work for physical actors, chamber orchestra, and two generations of choirs. 


Pig Iron Theatre Company
Jaime Maseda as Words
Michael T. Williams as Croak
Dan Rothenberg, director

Arcana New Music Ensemble
Katie Ambacher, flute
Emma Resmini, flute
Andy Thierauf, percussion
David Hughes, piano
June Bender, violin
Veronica Jurkiewicz, viola
Tom Kraines, cello
Jay Krush, conductor

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