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Thursday, November 13, 2014

In Context: Black Mountain Songs

Black Mountain Songs runs at BAM from November 20—23. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of articles, interviews, and videos related to the production. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Program Notes


Brooklyn Youth Chorus 
Learn more about Brooklyn's hardest working choir.

Black Mountain College Yearbook (BAM Blog)
Illustrator Nathan Gelgud depicts some of Black Mountain's most famous alums.

Bryce Dessner and Dianne Berkun-Menaker Discuss Black Mountain Songs (BAM Blog)
Dessner and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus director discuss the coming-to-be of the project.

Legendary Influence Of Black Mountain College (The New York Times)
Roberta Smith muses over the storied history of the North Carolina college. 

A History of Black Mountain College (
John Dewey's principles of progressive education were an important inspiration for the BMC project.

On the Serbian-born composer's complex relationship to modernism, nationalism, and more. 

The Black Mountain Songs Composer refers to himself as a "middlebrow brutalist" when it comes to noise. 

Watch & Listen

Meet the Composer: Caroline Shaw (WQXR)
Meet the youngest composer ever to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Bonus Track: Caroline Shaw's "It's Motion Keeps" (WQXR)
An old shape note song from The Southern Harmony was the basis of Shaw's Black Mountain Song contribution.

Their Passing In Time," Richard Reed Parry (YouTube)
The Brooklyn Youth Chorus performs a work by the Arcade Fire alum.

"To the Sea," Bryce Dessner (YouTube)
A 2012 performance by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus at Roulette.

Now your turn...

So how did you enjoy the show? Likes? Dislikes? Surprises? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below.


  1. As a parent of a chorister, it was all that more meaningful and breathtaking! To finally see the fulfilment of so many months and hours of rehearsal, to actually feel as you were a participant in such an elaborate collaboration - it was extraordinary! Thank you Dianne and BYC for extending such a profound, artistic experience to us all!

  2. Bryce Dessner, Richard Reed Parry and their fellow composers and musicians created a wonderful evening of music tonight, and it seems to me that the creativity and playful freedom of Black Mountain College really came through. I am always blown away by the talent of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. They tackle such difficult music and not only do they sing it with beautiful articulation and nuance, but they even memorize it all. They are real pros and a pleasure to hear. I enjoyed their choreographed movements as well. I was impressed by each of the composers' pieces. Caroline Shaw's were my absolute favorite. It was great that Basil King could participate. I could have listened to more of his Black Mountain memories. In fact, I wish I could have studied at Black Mountain College. I am glad that a place like that once existed -- and I am glad that a place like BAM still does exist!

  3. What do I think about iit!? Ask me after I've seen the show and not before. The answer is I don't know yet!!!

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  4. The singing quality was superb. The music itself was very interesting at times and somewhat monotonous at other times. The combination of singing, instrumental and visual was very rich. I don't think the dancing added very much.

  5. It's hard to believe there hasn't been a movie adaptation of Black Mountain College's history. It's now definitely my answer to the "when and where would you want to time travel?" Caroline Shaw's pieces were my favorite, and I can't wait to get to know more of her music. And the Brooklyn Youth Chorus--so talented, so expressive, so moving. This is really a tremendous collaboration that showed a lot of trust on all sides. True to the BMC ethos, I suppose!

  6. I would love to see the choir featured at BAM again. It was great!