It is a long-standing tradition to pay homage to music you love, and to make variations on it–Mozart, Brahms, Schoenberg, Rzewski, all took meaningful pieces of work and turned them, in their own specific way, into other meaningful pieces of work. I chose the opposite idea, trying to make a piece of meaningful work from a piece of music I completely and utterly loathed.
While I was searching for this contemptible song, I was also reading deep into my friend Jonathan Lethem’s books, and at a certain point a character of his utters–creating a delicious, pan-genre Eliotic moment of Objective Correlative–the words ‘lay down and boogie and play that funky music ’till you die.” There, I had my song, “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry.
In process of writing I got to know it alarmingly well, and felt not the slightest bit of reverence to my source material. The title of the piece is drawn from another of Lethem’s stories. Written for Andy Russo, it is dedicated to the author.
Composer Daniel Felsenfeld has been commissioned and performed by Simone Dinnerstein, Opera On Tap, The Chorus of Trinity Wall Street, UrbanArias, Metropolis Ensemble, Transient Canvas, The Crossing/ICE, Meerenai Shim, the New York Philharmonic New Music Biennial, NANOWorks Opera, Kathleen Supovè, Two Sense (Lisa Moore and Ashley Bathgate), ASCAP, San Jose Opera, ETHEL, Great Noise Ensemble, American Opera Projects, The Secret Opera, the Da Capo Chamber Players, Cadillac Moon Ensemble, Transit, Redshift, Nadia Sirota, Jennifer Choi, Lara Downes, Blair McMillen, Metropolis Ensemble, Two Sides Sounding, Kristin Elgersma, Eleanor Taylor and Jen Devore, Alcyone Ensemble, Parhelion Trio, Bryan Haslettm Xanthos Ensemble, Friction Quartet, Momenta Quartet, Nouvelle Ensemble Moderne, Cornelius Duffallo, Emily Manzo, Stephianie Mortimore, Mellissa Hughes, Corey Dargel, Jenny Lin, New York City Opera (VOX), ACME, New Gallery Concert Series, Gabriella Diaz, Jody Redhage, Caroline Worra, Kristin Chambers, Marcy Richardson, Kamala Sankaram, The Jessold Consort, New England Conservatory Philharmonic in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Galapagos Art Space, The Kimmell Center, Jordan Hall, the Kitchen, Miller Theatre, Merkin Hall, Wigmore Hall, Stanford University, Harvard University, National Sawdust, The Stone, Brown University, Le Poisson Rouge, City Winery, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C, and as part of the BEAT Festival, MATA Festival, Make Music New York, 21c Liederabend, Ecstatic Music Festival, Opera Grows in Brooklyn, New Brew, Serial Underground, and John Wesley Harding’s Cabinet of Wonders. When rapper Jay-Z performed in Carnegie Hall, along with Alicia Keys and Nas, backed by a full orchestra, Felsenfeld was asked to do all of the orchestrations and arrangements. He also collaborated with The Roots (offering music on their Grammy-nominated record Undun, appearing with them and the Metropolis Ensemble on the Jimmy Fallon Show) and ?uestlove with Keren Ann and David Murray. He also wrote arrangements for noth ShuffleCulture and Electronium, shows at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with ?uestlove, Sasha Grey, Deerhoof, Reggie Watts, and How to Dress Well and the Metropolis Ensemble. He is also the Court Composer for John Wesley Harding’s Cabinet of Wonders, for which he wrote the theme—and which can be heard as an NPR Podcast. Residencies include Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, The Hermitage, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts.
Felsenfeld is also an accomplished essayist, annotator, and author, with eight books to his name as well as articles for the New York Times, Listen, Playbill, Time Out New York, Symphony Magazine, Strings Magazine, New Music Box, and Early Music Magazine; program notes for the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Philadelphia Orchestra, Miller Theatre, Wigmore Hall, and Carnegie Hall; liner notes for Naxos, Bridge, Koch, EMI, Sony, and Adjustable Music. He served as curator for The Score in the Opinionator Section of the New York Times, he co-founded the New Music Gathering (an annual conference-concert series hybrid) which took place in San Francisco in 2015, as well as for Music After, a marathon concert on 9.11.11 he co-produced with Eleonor Sandresky. He is a teaching artist at the New York Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers program, and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.