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In Lyra, The Living Earth Show Finds a Way Back to Nature

Excerpted from article by Victoria Looseleaf

San Francisco Classical Voice

The Living Earth Show in a performance of Lyra | Credit: Natalia Perez

There have been numerous retellings of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, but none, perhaps, is as decidedly hip and provocative as Lyra, an hourlong fusion of dance, music, and film from San Francisco experimental duo The Living Earth Show (TLES) and the envelope-pushing Post:ballet. Landing at Stanford Live Jan. 18–20, Lyra, which premiered in 2021, takes a deep dive into questions regarding empathy, technology, and our relationship to the natural world.

A sonic and visual feast, the production features music by Samuel Adams, who was awarded a 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship to create this work and who composed TLES’s first-ever commission in 2010, the year that electric guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist Andy Meyerson formed the duo. In addition, Vanessa Thiessen made the fascinating site-specific choreography, captured by Benjamin Tarquin’s striking cinematography and danced by members of Post:ballet, the company established by Robin Dekkers in 2009.

For the San Francisco-based Meyerson, 37, who grew up in Baltimore and went to Stanford University and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM), the score for Lyra — a cool blend of repetitive phrases, jazz riffs, EDM, and thrash-fueled ambient sounds — feels like the DNA of the work.

Meyerson explained: “Our job as [TLES] is to turn the question of classical music on its head, the way one is taught to approach the field as an interpreter of new music. When you commission [a work], you’re making history. … In the mid-2010s, what felt important to us was to confront and interrogate the classical tradition as best we could.

“[To] engage with [a story as frequently] told as Orpheus felt like an important challenge to us to end that traditional classical framework [and] to see if we could create something in response to the world,” added Meyerson. “What does it mean for Claudio Monteverdi’s [operatic setting of Orpheus] to show up in a manner that’s synthesized in the way that sounds are created and generated [and] how contemporary sonic worlds are built? How can it be useful in the most ambitious and uncompromising musical statement?”

Enter, then, composer Adams, a colleague of Meyerson’s since the two met at Stanford. “We were there together,” said the percussionist, “and [though] I went on to [SFCM] and he went to Yale, we were always good friends. We grew up together, not just personally but artistically. His work is astonishing; it’s brilliant in so many different ways.

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