Live Music

The Primal Sound of Winter at National Sawdust

Björk protege Tanya Tagaq and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler celebrate the season of melancholy.

national sawdust

Though we might not greet the onset of winter with open arms, we can all acknowledge the majesty and peace of a snow-covered city. There’s a kind of magic and mystery that comes with a vast, white landscape. That sense of wonder and melancholy will be celebrated in National Sawdust’s Winterreise Nights Festival.

Cutting-edge musical artists Tanya Tagaq and Jeffrey Zeigler curated the series, which is based on Schubert’s famous Winterreise song cycle about a lover’s journey through a barren winter landscape.

Both Tagaq and Zeigler know a thing or two about building soundscapes from the ground up. The latter, a cellist of Kronos Quartet fame, has worked with the likes of Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson. And Tagaq, an Inuk throat singer from the Arctic known for her Björk-like, avant-garde style, brings a punk-rock edge to the indigenous, guttural style of singing. Her concerts live more in performance art territory as she layers wails and grunts and whispers to other-worldly, climactic effect.

national sawdust
Tanya Tagaq growls gloriously.

Tagaq is also an avid First Nations Advocate and has brought this passion to the festival’s first night, a live score to the film We Breathe Again that explores the lives of four native Alaska families. Composed by National Sawdust artistic director Paola Prestini, the score will be performed by Tagaq and Zeigler along with other new artists whose talents give due justice to the beauty of the vast Alaskan landscape.

The First Nations thread continues with White Mountain Apache, Brooklyn-based composer, and multi-instrumentalist Laura Ortman performing on night two. With exquisite looping and pedal techniques, Ortman designs an entire sonic universe before your eyes in a rare solo appearance. Night three brings her and Tagaq together in what is bound to be an explosively imaginative concert.

The festival ends with Dear Edvard, a new operatic work based on the life of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, best known for his masterpiece, The Scream. Written by Richard Michelson and Steven Schoenberg and directed by Kevin Newbury, the piece is set in the psychiatric hospital center where Munch enrolled himself in 1908 and is narrated by Munch’s nurse, who takes the audience through a journey of his life.

Why You Should Go: Winter is coming. Let Tagaq and Zeigler remind you of the majesty of this season.

Winterreise Nights Festival
National Sawdust
80 North 6th Street, Williamsburg
Wednesday, December 6–Sunday, December 10
Festival pass $95; single show tickets vary

Have a dreamy night around Williamsburg.