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VIDEO: Works & Process Premieres LET ME FREEZE AGAIN TO DEATH by Missy Mazzoli

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This weekend, Works & Process, the performing arts series at the Guggenheim, presented the premieres of new commissions from Missy Mazzoli and Nico Muhly. Both WPA Virtual Commissions were co-presented by The Metropolitan Opera.


Insights discussion moderated by Paul Cremo with Missy Mazzoli and Adam Larsen; and Nico Muhly.

Artist Statement by Missy Mazzoli

In these strange and isolating times I am immersed in electronic music, by necessity imagining works that I can create by myself on a laptop in almost any environment.

Let Me Freeze Again to Death began as a purely synthesized piece, but I soon found myself craving something more, something vocal. I needed a beautiful wail that would not only hint at the drama of the present moment but would offset the boxy math of the electronics with some heart-crushing operatic romance. Enter countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo (Ahknaten, Glass Handel), who recorded, in his apartment, an a cappella version Henry Purcell's aria "What Power Art Thou" (commonly known as "The Cold Song") from the 1691 opera King Arthur. I dismembered, re-assembled, twisted and tweaked this vocal file (with Anthony's generous blessing), using Purcell's aria as a kind of sketch from which to create a completely new electronic work.

Throughout this process the thought of pandemics past and present was never far away. In 1695 Purcell, then at the height of his career, succumbed to tuberculosis at age 36. In 1983 German countertenor and performance artist Klaus Nomi, whose version of The Cold Song is one of the most haunting and memorable out there, died of complications of AIDS at age 39, also at the height of his career. Isolated in my home during the Covid-19 pandemic, I found this aria, it's history, and in particular this excerpt of the text, all the more powerful:

I can scarcely move

Or draw my breath

I can scarcely move

Or draw my breath

Let me, let me,

Let me freeze again

Let me, let me

Freeze again to death

Let me, let me, let me

Freeze again to death...

Let Me Freeze Again to Death was written before the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd, but the lines "I can scarcely move or draw my breath" take on new resonance amidst the daily chants of "I can't breathe". This piece has become a sonic portrait of the summer of 2020, a time of both extreme isolation and fast connection, of upheaval and reflection, a time that I hope will lead to positive change in the music industry and beyond.

Artist Statement by Adam Larsen

I knew I was going fast but didn't register I was 100 miles over the speed limit until everything stopped. The time off has made me realize I don't want to live at that pace. I don't want to be great at multitasking, "sorry for the delay" emails, or constantly at odds with the life part of the art/life balance. I want to be fully present for all that I love and if that starts by closing my eyes to appreciate my good friend's new music, then it's a start.


Move to a dark place

Brighten and louden your device

Lean into your screen

(the closer the better)

Press play and close your eyes

Let Me Freeze Again to Death by Missy Mazzoli, Vocals: Anthony Roth Costanzo, Video: Adam Larsen, Mixing: Daniel Neumann, With samples from Henry Purcell's "What Power Art Thou (The Cold Song)" from "King Arthur." Missy Mazzoli, Composer / Pianist

"Off the Grid" by Nico Muhly

with Adam Tendler

Commissioned by Works & Process at the Guggenheim

Co-presented by The Metropolitan Opera

Artist Statement by Nico Muhly

I've known Adam Tendler forever, but have never had the chance to write for him, and this wretched quarantine allowed me to write not only for him but for both of us at once. Off the Grid is a duet for the two of us, and has a simple structure: a cycle of 40 chords, with the last chord being a kind of "resolution" of the first chord. The piano plays almost constant sixteenth notes, with agitated little patterns or sometimes little proto-melodies, whereas the keyboard provides clear articulations of the chord cycle. Each chord is meant to be both a resolution of the previous bar and a strange kind of upbeat to the following.

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