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Gabriel Kahane with Rob Moose (of Bon Iver) + Elizabeth Ziman (Elizabeth & The Catapult)
December 03, 2012
a bit of a musical enigma, Kahane writes string quartets and musicals and pop songs; anthemic pop choruses are followed by intricate brass cadenzas in odd time signatures, and folky refrains are interlaced with tightly wound flute filigrees
Monday, December 3
Gabriel Kahane is not part of a scene. He writes string quartets and musicals and pop songs, and his heart is fully in all of those endeavors. But what unites all of his musical efforts is the desire to communicate honestly and without pretense. On his rich and focused sophomore LP, Where are the Arms, Gabriel has brought together an all-star band including Rob Moose (Bon Iver, Antony and the Johnsons, The National), Casey Foubert (Sufjan Stevens, Richard Swift, Pedro The Lion), and Matt Johnson (Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright), in support of eleven intricate and literate, yet clear and accessible songs. This is a record to play on repeat, soaking up the details.
Born in Venice Beach, California in 1981 and raised on both coasts in a slo-mo game of residential ping-pong, Gabriel’s relationship to geography is never far from the surface in his songwriting. He writes about place with a passion often reserved for a lover, the resulting songs offering a unique path toward emotional catharsis. And at a time when irony dominates our cultural terrain, Gabriel is unafraid to be emotionally direct. On Where are the Arms, anthemic pop choruses are followed by intricate brass cadenzas in odd time signatures, and folky refrains are interlaced with tightly wound flute filigrees— yet it’s always in the service of the song.
Launched by his 2006 song cycle Craigslistlieder, Kahane’s rapid ascent as a composer of concert works continues to bloom in the 2011-2012 season, with the premiere of an orchestral song cycle slated for performance in March with Kahane as soloist alongside the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall. Additional performances of the work will be heard with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, as well as at the Savannah Music Festival. Little Sleep’s Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight, a cello sonata-cum-song cycle written for Alisa Weilerstein, will be heard in a concert for Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society with the composer as pianist and singer. A string quartet, The Red Book, written for the Kronos Quartet, will premiere in the fall.
The coming season also brings to life a full-length musical, February House, for which Kahane wrote music and lyrics, and which is to be seen in back-to-back productions at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven and New York’s Public Theater, which commissioned the work. Gabriel has also been commissioned by the Signature Theater in Arlington, VA, as well as by the Williamstown Theater Festival, which produced Caravan Man, his alt-country (yet totally reverent) musical about the Prophet Muhammad, in 2007.
Equally at home as a performer as in the composing studio, Gabriel was hailed by the Los Angeles Times earlier this year for “an all around dazzling performance” in his debut at Walt Disney Concert Hall with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (in the premiere of his song cycle Orinoco Sketches, conducted by John Adams). Performance highlights of last season included concerts with Chris Thile, Brad Mehldau, Alisa Weilerstein, and appearances at the Vail, Caramoor, and Aspen summer festivals. This fall, Kahane and his band will head out on tour in support of Where are the Arms, covering as much of North America as they can without overdosing on Waffle House hash browns and Dutch Brothers sickly sweet iced coffee.
A two-time MacDowell Colony fellow, Kahane makes his home in the historic Ditmas Park district of Brooklyn, New York, where he can often be found braising unctuous cuts of meat or stumbling through transcriptions of Mahler Symphonies on his century-old piano.