When the saxophonist and composer Steve Lehman realized he wouldn’t be able to travel from Los Angeles to Brooklyn for his mother’s 80th birthday this month, he decided to send her a sonic greeting instead. Recording in his car during breaks from home schooling his children, Lehman produced an EP of solos, “Xenakis and the Valedictorian.”
Appropriately, when Lehman was a child, his mother, Sheila, introduced him to experimental composers like Iannis Xenakis. (She played the composer’s “Bohor” at an early haunted-house party.) Now, her son has repaid her aesthetic modernism in turn.
Lehman’s regular label, Pi Recordings, is releasing his short but stirring EP on Friday as part of a campaign to raise money for musicians who have lost income because of the pandemic. The post-bop tradition is in evidence most prominently on the track “2 Gears/13 Satellites.”
Equally tantalizing are the soundscape miniatures, full of breathy, all-acoustic extended techniques. The “I can’t believe it’s not electronically manipulated” timbres of a track like “Ecstatics” reveal how much the saxophonist has to offer the world of contemporary classical composition. (I was entranced by one of Lehman’s orchestral works during a concert by the American Composers Orchestra at Zankel Hall in 2018.)
When placed next to a Lehman chamber composition like “La Vida es Sueño,” which the Grossman Ensemble premiered in June, this new EP makes me eager to find out how Lehman’s solo-performance practice will next make its influence heard in classical recital halls.
SETH COLTER WALLS
Over the past several weeks, musicians across genres have had to adapt from the stage to the screen, modifying their acts to comply with the limitations of their webcams. Though some artists have managed the transition with greater success (and audio quality) than others, few are better prepared than 100 gecs — a duo who made their “live” debut in 2018 at Coalchella, an entirely virtual music festival.
The masterminds behind 100 gecs, Dylan Brady and Laura Les, have gone on to perform their brand of spastic noise pop at real-life events, including notable shows at N.Y.U.’s Kimmel Center and at Elsewhere, in Brooklyn, last year. But on Friday, they’ll return to their digital roots for Square Garden, a festival they have organized to support hunger relief efforts. where Like Coalchella, the event will be staged in Minecraft, a Lego-style, multiplayer video game in which worlds are constructed from virtual block-shaped materials.
Square Garden’s lineup features a number of Brady and Les’s previous collaborators, including the avant-pop star Charli XCX and the twee indie band Kero Kero Bonito, both of whom contributed to a recent remix of the 100 gecs song “ringtone.” Cashmere Cat will also appear for a collaborative set with the pop producer Benny Blanco.
The free festival begins on Friday at 6 p.m. (donations will be accepted for Feeding America). Instructions on how to join through the Java version of Minecraft are available at 100 gecs’s website; those who don’t have the video game can watch the event’s live stream on YouTube or Twitch.
Clementine, the resourceful heroine of a new puppet show, escapes from her cramped city apartment to a fun-filled Rockefeller Center just by wishing. Right now, many young New Yorkers would probably like to join her. Teleporting isn’t likely, but they can enjoy the next-best thing: a virtual Rockefeller Center festival with Clementine and lots of company.
At 11 a.m. on Sunday, the series will post its final videos. Artists from the Art Production Fund are leading two projects: Angelica Hicks will teach how to sculpt papier-mâché “helping hands,” and LaKela Brown will show how to fashion whimsical creatures from flour-based clay. Paper Source has planned a printmaking workshop using stamps cut from recycled cardboard, and the Shop at NBC Studios will help little painters recreate the network’s peacock symbol.
And don’t miss Clementine. She stars in “Rockefeller Center, Heart of New York,” the latest production from the Brooklyn-based troupe Puppetsburg. It will immerse her — and young audiences — in the site’s history and design through encounters with the Greek goddess Athena and John D. Rockefeller Jr. Now that’s an adventure.
By now, Minhaj should be midway through the sixth “volume” of “Patriot Act” episodes and ready to make his second headlining appearance at the correspondents’ dinner this weekend. Of course, all of that is on hold because of the pandemic.
Instead, he’s sheltering in place with his wife, Beena Patel; their 2-year-old daughter and their infant son; and his mother-in-law. Like many talk-show comedians, Minhaj has taken his show home with weekly episodes of “Hasan … From a Distance,” which are available on the YouTube channel for “Patriot Act.” As his wife holds the camera, Minhaj shows off the work spaces he has set up in their utility room and their walk-in closet and tries exercise routines using household items and his daughter.
On what would have been their 773rd consecutive performance (including the show’s predecessor), the Neos found themselves quarantined at home, with nothing but the resources they had on hand to create their art.
They used their limitless imaginations to concoct “Hit Play,” a theatrical podcast comprising “audio experiments,” presented in two weekly episodes (released each weekend to stave off severe “Wrench” withdrawal). They are available free on iTunes; a subscription to the group’s Patreon channel provides access to bonus goodies like video plays.
“We are who we are, we are doing what we are doing, we are where we are, and the time is now,” they say at the top of each episode. It’s their motto, but it also serves as an appropriate mantra for a time when we all wish we could be elsewhere, doing something different.
The podcast is a treasure chest that includes guided walks through New York neighborhoods accompanied by an Alabama Shakes album, a swoon-worthy rap in which the endearing Shelton Lindsay pays tribute to polyamory, a crime drama featuring Cecil Baldwin, and a prayer-like essay in which we’re instructed to “Think about your biggest fear and shout it out right now.”
Don’t be surprised if you follow the strangely cathartic command. But notice you’re also most likely grinning and applauding.