Into the Woods, 13: Once Upon a Time, Re-imagining Fairy Tales

Tunes for a Monday Morning

My apologies for being gone for so long. Health issues and exhaustion swallowed me up, but I'm back in the office this morning, attempting to get back on my feet.

Today's music is "Passacaglia: Partita for 8 Voices" by Caroline Shaw -- who, though only 30, won the Pulitzer Prize for music this year. In the video above, Shaw's composition is performed by the vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

"They say that a young artist should master the idioms of the past before discarding them for whatever’s next," says J. Bryan Lowder (in an article about the piece worth reading in full). "Despite the unconventional markings, Shaw has clearly done this. She raids the vocal traditions of different eras and cultures in order to assemble something fresh and yet familiar, but only just.... This is a deceptive sort of music, with an elegant, easy smoothness built from distinct and fascinating bits-and-pieces. Listening to it is a little like examining a great mosaic, both from a distance and occasionally with a magnifying glass, the better to see the grout between the tiles. Perhaps coincidentally, one of Shaw’s idiosyncratic style guidelines is 'silk shoes gliding over marble mosaic.' She’s trying to tell her musicians how to sound, but she might as well have been telling us how to listen—no description could be more apt. "

Below, Shaw herself, as a member of Va Vocals (Martha Cluver, Caroline Shaw and Mellissa Hughes), singing "I Want to Live Where You Live" by David Lang. This simple but haunting performance was recorded in the Rare Book Room in the Strand bookstore, New York City, this past April. The song comes from Shelter, a musical collaboration between Lang, Michael Jordan, and Julia Wolfe.