Getting to know yMusic

By Shannon Fox 

This weekend we continue our adventures with film as we move from the airport back to our home screen and welcome filmmaker Sam Green and his work, The Measure of All Things. Through exploration of the legends that have captured our collective imagination, Green weaves together portraits of the people, places, and things featured in The Guinness Book of World Records. He is on hand to narrate the film while groundbreaking ensemble yMusic provides live music score. If you are unfamiliar with yMusic or its virtuosic musicians, fear not! We have combed through their impressive résumés to come up with some key factoids that will get you ready to dive into the world of this  indie-pop-classical chamber sextet.


First off: yMusic as a whole

  • The group was created in 2008 to bring a classical chamber music aesthetic to venues outside the traditional concert hall.

  • Not just a garage band with strings: they were all conservatory trained at the prestigious Juilliard School.

  • Even if you have never heard of yMusic, it is still likely you have heard at least one of its members perform. A shortlist of artists that individual members have worked or recorded with include Paul McCartney, Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Paul Simon, Rufus Wainwright, The National, St. Vincent, Interpol, Björk, Arcade Fire, and Grizzly Bear. This doesn’t even include their works with MASS MoCA favorites Vampire Weekend, the Philip Glass Ensemble, David Byrne, and Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond (who will be returning to MASS MoCA for our Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival).

Next: its illustrious members!

Rob Moose

Rob Moose (violin, guitar, and viola)

  • Co-founder of yMusic

  • FreshGrass fan? Rob has performed with Emmylou Harris (who will be hitting the MASS MoCA stage this September)

  • A familiar Berkshire face:  Rob has graced the Berkshire Hills with his work with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at the Shed at Tanglewood and last summer he performed at MASS MoCA with Gabriel Kahane.

  • Shara Worden changed his life: Rob was studying at Columbia University for his master’s degree in American studies when Shara told him that British singing sensation Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons) was looking for a guitarist. Rob took the gig, went on tour, dropped out of grad school, and began a career in music. “That whole experience,” he said in an interview with Strings Magazine, “changed my life in so many ways, and it’s brought me so many opportunities.”

CJ Camerieri

CJ Camerieri (trumpet, french horn, and keyboard)

  • Co-founder of yMusic

  • The family business: CJ’s father is a middle school band director, but that doesn’t mean dad cut him any slack. He would not give CJ any lessons until he could could read all of the notes on the treble and bass clef staves.

  • The National connection in a national election: In 2008, CJ’s trumpet solo in The National’s song “Fake Empire” was blasted to the universe on election night, as it was a part of Barack Obama’s election campaign.

  • Proudest accomplishment? CJ earned himself two Grammy Awards for his work on Bon Iver’s 2011 album Bon Iver, Bon Iver. He gave one of the awards to his parents.


Clarice Jensen (cello)

  • More than a musician: Clarice has held many jobs, including time spent as production coordinator and assistant to Björk.

  • World premiere woman: Clarice has performed the world premieres of Dimitri Yanov-Yanovsky’s Hearing Solution and Donald Martino’s Rhapsody.

  • TV famous: Clarice has performed on MTV Unplugged, The Oxygen Network, The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and Saturday Night Live.


Alex Sopp (flute)

  • 30 Rock-n-Roller: Alex has worked as a musical coach on the set of NBC’s 30 Rock.

  • Bang on a Can love: Alex has performed as part of the renowned Bang on a Can Marathon (and if you want your own Bang on a Can Marathon, experience swing by MASS MoCA on August 2, for a six-hour boundary-busting festival finale).

  • Fortune’s favorite: Alex’s life was turned upside down when $40,000 worth of her instruments were stolen in New York City. They could have easily disappeared forever into the city of over 8 million people, but New York City Police reunited Alex with her beloved instruments just hours after they were filched. Needless to say: she was ecstatic.


Hideaki Aomori  (saxophone, clarinet, flute)

  • Young success: At the age of 18, Hideaki released his recording debut, Young Man With a Horn. For this album he worked with jazz legend Sir Roland Hanna.

  • Broadway magical: Hideaki has spent time in the orchestra pit for the original New York run of Tony Award-winning Matilda: The Musical.

  • Degree fiend: Hideaki has bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in clarinet performance and his master’s degree in jazz saxophone.


Nadia Sirota (viola)

  • Hey! DJ: Nadia hosts a radio show on WQXR’s New Music radio stream, Q2Music, for which she was awarded the American Society of Composers’ Deems Taylor Award in Radio and Internet Broadcasting in 2010.

  • New York Times certified:  Nadia’s debut album First Things First (2009) was named a record of the year by the newspaper.

  • Master’s master: In 2007, Nadia became a member of the faculty at the Manhattan School of Music for its Masters Program in Contemporary Music Performance.


The more you know! We’ll see you outside under the stars on Saturday, July 12, at 8:30pm, for a screening of The Measure of All Things, with live narration by Sam Green and live music provided by the talented and illustrious indie-classical ensemble yMusic. Tickets can be found here.

Posted July 9, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Film+Live Music, Music
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15th Year Party: What We’re Wearing

By Julia Melnick
Photos by Olympia Shannon

Sometimes the hardest part about going to a party is figuring out what to wear. Is it casual, business- casual, or semi-formal? Who knows what that means anyway? Lucky for you, MASS MoCA staff members have got you covered with some tips about what they’ll be wearing for the celebration of our 15th anniversary. Our party happens on Saturday, May 24, right here in North Adams because that’s MASS MoCA’s home. We want you to come out in whatever makes you feel the best. One thing’s for certain, though–whatever you wear, make sure you bring your dancing shoes.

Laura Thompson, Director of Education and Kidspace, has been working at MASS MoCA for 12 years. She’s wearing a bright, colorful Lilly Pulitzer dress and her winter boots because you never know if it’s going to be wintery or summery in the Berkshires. A favorite MASS MoCA memory is mowing the lawn around the sculptures in one of the first exhibitions she curated in 2004. Laura is looking forward to the party because it’s fun to go down memory lane with old friends.

Kathryn Tufano can’t wait for the party, in large part because of this awesome pantsuit she found in a second-hand shop on a trip to Phoenix last month. It’s Oscar de la Renta and you will most likely find her showing it off on the dance floor. Kathryn has been at MASS MoCA for over two years as the Manager of Foundation and Corporate Giving. One of her favorite memories in that time has been dancing to Lake Street Dive at FreshGrass last September, and working with the lovely volunteers who helped make the festival possible. As far as the 15th year celebration is concerned, Kathryn can’t wait to see Teresita Fernández’s exhibition, As Above So Below. “I’ve made a conscious decision to to wait until it’s up to go into the gallery. I want to see it revealed at the opening in its entirety.”

Thomas Huston is a Visual Arts Intern who has just reached his one year mark here at the museum. A favorite memory is singing and dancing at Karaoke at the Mohawk Bar last summer. It was accompanied by live music courtesy of Bang On A Can faculty and fellows, at least one of whom will be joining us at the end of May. The multi-talented Mark Stewart will be performing a pop-up show somewhere around campus and you can be sure you’ll find Thomas front and center. He’ll be wearing a black silk sweater, a white button-down shirt, cream linen pants, and his favorite beat-up Converses; however, after learning one of the food trucks is bringing chicken tandoori, he’s rethinking the linen pants.

Matt Guyton is the Master Electrician at the museum and he’s responsible for the mood lighting up in Club B-10 and the awesome light shows at our Hunter Center concerts. Currently in his fourth year at MASS MoCA, Matt had a favorite night with the internationally-acclaimed contemporary dance company Chunky Move. “It was the coolest show and they were really nice and interesting people to work with.” Matt is going to be working hard at our 15th celebration, but hopefully he can catch some of Red Baarat’s set because they were “freaking amazing” when they were here a few years ago. His go-to outfit is black pants with a black shirt, but if we’re lucky he might change it up and surprise us. 

You may recognize Jane Burns from any one of our music, theater, or dance events from the last year and a half. As MASS MoCA’s videographer, Jane is always at the show with her camera snapping footage. She’s looking forward to the 15th year party because she can’t wait to see all the outfits. She will be wearing her Jeffrey Campbell shoes with bright socks, a funky jean jacket, and a sassy new pocketbook. Jane describes her outfit as “muted with pop accessories.” She remembers Dan Deacon’s live 4/20 show in 2013 as one of the craziest events held at the museum in recent years. We can only hope that Jane will bring some of that wild and frenetic energy to the dance floor for sets by DJ Rekha and Red Baraat

Art McConnell has been working on the MASS MoCA campus before the museum itself even existed. He was here in North Adams when Sprague closed in 1986, and he’s still here today as Operations Manager of the museum. His favorite exhibition to date was Xu Bing’s Phoenix. “It was interesting to recognize all the tools in the Phoenixes and to see how it was all pieced together. Xu Bing was an interesting guy and he was here a lot, so I enjoyed watching him work.” Art is looking forward to mingling in the lobby at the 15th year party while wearing his signature polo shirt,  and spending time with people he has known for 20 years, who helped make MASS MoCA what it is today.

We hope you will celebrate your museum with us on Saturday, May 24. It all starts with an opening reception for  Teresita Fernández: As Above So Below from 4pm to 6pm. DJ Rekha plays at 7pmRed Baraat takes the stage at 8:30pm, and then DJ Rekha is back for another set at 10:30pm to help us close out the evening. Top that off with food trucks and cheap beer galore and this is bound to be an unforgettable night.  Can’t wait to see you in the galleries and on the dance floor!

Posted May 14, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Dance Parties, Music, Parties, Red Baraat, Staff, Uncategorized
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Lifting Off with Superhuman Happiness

(This post crowd-sourced!)

Superhuman Happiness "up in the club" at MASS MoCA.Photo courtesy Laki Vazakas

Superhuman Happiness “up in the club” at MASS MoCA.
Photo courtesy Laki Vazakas

Most guitarists plug into amplifiers. But after settling down at our table in the soft luminescence of Club B10 at MASS MoCA, I slowly awakened to the reality that this electric guitar was plugged directly into the space-time continuum. Had the concert begun already? Were the gently swelling chords part of the show, or had they always been there from the beginning of time?

Whatever their origin, these notes were not played; they were invoked. The soloist didn’t take the stage; he merely existed alongside the audience. He was a musician without ego, a sonic force without presence, a true rarity in the universe.

I was experiencing the first stage of Superhuman Happiness; serenity.

And then the band arrived, quietly in sneakers, surrounding a single microphone and seamlessly blending in, like a barbershop sextet waking us with a morning raga. Begin stage two: Annunciation. For a few moments, I had both harmony and chaos, form without shape, sound without rhythm, but, oh, did those sneakers need to move…

And move they did! Layers of drums and percussion laid down a solid foundation, reminding us that the revolving Earth was still beneath our feet. The saxophone limned Féla’s peaks, while the rhythm guitar – clear and precise – made it completely obvious that it was time to dance.  A mélange of sonic textures, from spiraling synthesizer to vocals laden with chorus, brought back the 1980s, but then I realized that the ’80s weren’t this compelling.

By the middle of the show, I hit stage four: Liftoff!!  With an expert mix of avant-garde riffs and escalating beats, the performance broke through the lofty factory roof and soared directly into orbit. Never before had I been part of an audience that successfully clapped together in a syncopated rhythm. Never before had I seen a group where five of the members had a lead singing role. Never before had I found myself actually thinking, I need more cowbell!  (The cowbell solo rocked!). These firsts alone were worth the price of admission.

In the final songs of the set, the band expertly navigated our way back down to Earth. The final stage was now complete. More than anything else, this ensemble has a deep understanding of the emotional experience that they want to share with you. Far more than a collection of songs on an album, Superhuman Happiness offers a chance to soar with intentionality and compassion.

Written and submitted by MASS MoCA patrons and music enthusiasts, Christopher B. and Laki V., who travel frequently from New Haven, CT to see shows at MASS MoCA.

Posted February 20, 2013 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Music
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Jeff Mangum Plays Intimate Show, Tells Audience They’ll Never Hear His New Songs

Mangum Crowd

Jeff Mangum delights the crowd in MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center.
Photo / Jane Burns / MASS MoCA

It seems like everyone has the same question for Jeff Mangum, the elusive artist behind the legendary late-’90s band Neutral Milk Hotel: Has he written any songs in the past 15 years? Last night, at Mangum’s sold-out concert at MASS MoCA — an art museum in North Adams, Mass. — an audience member yelled for a “new one.” And Mangum replied:  ”You’ll never hear those.”

Fans also ask, Why play little towns like Poughkeepsie and North Adams? What’s Ruston, La. like? (We’ve always wondered about Mangum’s hometown.) And, most of all: Why, after all these years hiding out, is Mangum touring again?

MASS MoCA, located in rural western Massachusetts, is currently hosting a show on contemporary Canadian art. We could go on about the parallels between the super-self-conscious rustic art on display and the manic imagery and identity crises found in Mangum’s music, but we’ll save the dissertation.

The Music Tapes, featuring onetime Neutral Milk Hotel member Julian Koster, played a delightful opening show. They messed around with a seven-foot metronome and a singing TV, creating a huge sound out of horns, organ and banjo. Koster, sporting a dopey winter hat and scarf, strummed a banjo and sang “Pointing hands, pointing hands, somehow we all played in musical bands that toured through the lands” punctuated by booms of baritone horn, crashing cymbals and bonging bells.

Meanwhile, Mangum’s set could have been pulled from a concert in 1998, the year Neutral Milk Hotel released ‘In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,’ their last album. He sang his joyous songs like they were fresh, with a truly impressive amount of energy behind his vocals. He filled the entire room with his voice during “King of Carrot Flowers.” It was a wonder there was any space left for air to circulate.

He performed “Oh, Comely” with the vocal fury and staggering changes in volume and pace that you’ll find on bootlegs of Mangum’s solo shows from the ’90s. “Your father made fetuses with flesh-licking ladies, while you and your mother were asleep in the trailer park,” he sang with every tooth in his mouth bared against the backdrop of his beard.

“Play a new one!” someone in the audience yelled. “You’ll never hear those songs,” Mangum replied. The room went silent. “What?” he smiled. “It’s not that they don’t exist …” He then continued with the concert, leaving everyone yearning for something new.

Throughout the show, Mangum asked the audience to sing along. But because it was a small room, and Mangum accompanied himself with only a guitar, the audience often drowned out the singer, especially on songs like “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” and “Two Headed Boy, Pt. 2? – the ones everyone knows. As misanthropic as Mangum sometimes seems (no cameras were allowed at the show, and no interviews were granted during the entire tour), he sounded truly ecstatic last night.

Mangum told the crowd that he “didn’t know what to expect” on his first tour in 15 years. “But I’m very touched by everyone who has come to hear me play.” As the college kids in the audience sang along with him, he smiled like he was grateful for the attention.

And maybe that’s the answer to one of the questions. Maybe Mangum is touring because he misses hearing his words sung back to him. It must be awesome to see how much people become absorbed in his dream-flow storytelling. Not to mention that he’s become an underground legend in the 15 years since his masterpiece was released. But one last question: Why won’t he sing us those new ones?

Review by Chris Kissell originally posted at on February 18, 2013.

Posted February 19, 2013 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Music, Uncategorized
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My Favorite MASS MoCA Moments

Katherine Myers reflects on her 14-year relationship with MASS MoCA as the Director of Marketing and Public Relations.

Besides my 16-year marriage, 14 years is the longest I’ve stayed anywhere. These have been particularly milestone-filled years:  I’ve lost two parents and a lot of eyesight, gained a daughter and a legion of remarkable friends and colleagues, and witnessed more great art than anyone living in a town of less than 15K could possibly dream of.

Given that long history, it’s a challenge to provide a “Top 10” List, but a recent plane trip offered me time for contemplation. Here’s what I came up with, presented in no particular order.

1. Michael Oatman has popped up regularly over the last decade and a half.  I first met him when he was in Unnatural Science (2000) where his incredibly detailed installation schooled me in Vermont’s scandalous history of eugenics. When I was introduced to his collages in Becoming Animal (2005), I was even more taken with him. His suspended Airstream trailer is an absolute marvel and he is a delightful person. Every institution should be so lucky to have an artist like Michael in their “stable.”

2.  I love that MASS MoCA does some events that are pure camp, simultaneously high quality and totally over the top.  On this list: Tragedy (2011), our heavy metal BeeGees cover band who repeatedly told us “We love you North Adams City!” and Corn Mo and the Wau Wau Sisters (2005) which involved a trapeze, a sparkly jumpsuit, Meatloaf covers and Catholic school uniforms.  What a night.

3. Hotel Pool (2005) was produced by MASS MoCA but took place in the pool at the Williams Inn. It was a play and a water ballet with some shocking moments. Incredibly well-crafted and enjoyable.

4. It’s probably no surprise that the shows I like best are the ones with the coolest stuff to see. Crowd pleasers are easiest to sell and, when attendance rises, everyone is happier. On my favorite shows list: Oh, Canada (2012), Unnatural Science (2000), Huang Yong Ping’s retrospective (2006), Uncommon Denominator (2002), Becoming Animal (2005), and Cai Guo Qiang’s exploding cars in Inopportune (2004).

5. Dean & Britta’s 13 Most Beautiful… Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screentests (2009): The films are completely mesmerizing on their own and Dean & Britta’s score and live performance only served to enhance them.

6. Ann Hamilton’s corpus (2003) taught me the magical power of an art installation.  My father-in-law passed away while Ann’s falling paper was on view.  His death was not unexpected and he had lived a good, long life. When my husband called me that morning with the news, there was no reason to head home but a pause for reflection did seem appropriate. It was before the museum opened; I just started to wander in the galleries and, without thinking, found myself in corpus which was truly the ideal place to reflect on a loss and a life well-lived.

7. Anouk Van Dijk’s Stau (2006) started with dancers emerging from underneath your seat. Then, somehow in the middle, you were standing and all the seats were gone and you were milling about in a pitch black theater when suddenly spots came up illuminating dancers, sometimes right in front of your nose.  The piece ended with dancers and audience writhing against the wall to a deafening percussive soundtrack. Sound crazy? It was, but it was also probably the most viscerally affecting performance I’ve ever experienced.

8. Of All the People in All the World (2007), which involved millions of grains of rice representing various population statistics arrayed in the Hunter Center, brought a 100% lovely group of British actors from Stan’s Café to North Adams for a couple of weeks.  We get to know many wonderful artists but these Brits count among the most delightful. Coupled with the beautiful, clever, moving installation, it was an exceptional experience.

9. Material World (2011) made great use of MASS MoCA’s strengths; the exhibit utilized our remarkable space to great effect from the Wade Kavanaugh and Steven Nguyen’s paper forest to Tobias Putrih’s illuminated fishing line, inspired by our local Hoosac Tunnel.  It was accessible, jaw-dropping, fun, and interesting for all ages.

10. Canadian singer Patrick Watson’s performance this past summer (2012) was nothing short of magical.  At first, we were disappointed that the show was inside on a beautiful summer night. Yet, when we saw what he did with the lights, we were so glad that he had insisted on the darkness that only Club B-10 could provide at 8 PM on an evening in late June.

And one more for good measure…

11. Solid Sound Festival is really non-stop work for our staff. At the first Solid Sound (2010), the only music I actually listened to was the first three songs of the Mavis Staples set which included “The Weight.” Bone-tired late in the day on Saturday, I enjoyed Mavis’s performance from a special rooftop vantage point and received a much-needed spiritual boost (and sitting down for 15 minutes didn’t hurt either).

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What did you like the best over the past 14 years?

Posted December 7, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Dance, Exhibitions, Film+Live Music, Material World, Music, Oh Canada, Staff, Theater, Tragedy: The All Metal Tribute to the Bee Gees, Wilco Solid Sound Festival
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Meet All-Star Tribute Band The Loser’s Lounge

Ever wanted to hear a cover of one of your favorite songs by another artist just as famous? The Loser’s Lounge is a New York nightlife institution that pays homage to great pop music. Since their debut in 1993 (a tribute to Burt Bacharach), the tribute band has covered over 50 beloved bands and artists. ABBA. Carole King. Dolly Parton. The Bee Gees. George Harrison. Michael Jackson. Rod Stewart. The Smiths. Prince. The Mamas and Papas. David Bowie. Neil Diamond. The list goes on and on.

The group visited MASS MoCA in 2003 with the original Off-Broadway rock opera People Are Wrong! and again in 2004 with a sold-out concert with music from Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s masterpiece Jesus Christ Superstar.

The Loser’s Lounge returns Saturday, October 20 at 3 PM with a family-friendly tribute to the Muppets musical oeuvre. What inspired a tribute to the Muppets? As founder Joe McGinty told The Brooklyn Paper, “I think if you’re in a certain age group, you definitely grew up loving them. I consider myself a fan, the original movie is still a classic.”

A talented, star-studded cast has made The Loser’s Lounge a tribute band that is famous in its own right. The show is like karaoke night…but the singers are actually good. Let’s meet a few of the members.


Instrument: Keyboard.

Performed with: The Psychedelic Furs, Ryan Adams, The Ramones, Nada Surf, Martha Wainwright, Die Monster Die, Devendra Banhart, Ronnie Spector.

Other projects: Musical director for a variety of New York theaters, including the Vineyard Theatre and the New York Theatre Workshop.

Fun fact: Founded The Loser’s Lounge in 1993 and currently serves as Musical Director.


Instrument: Vocals, ukulele, cello, drums.

Performed with: They Might Be Giants, Mono Puff, The Last Car.

Other projects: Co-wrote rock musical People Are Wrong!.

Fun fact: Robin is a talented knitter and crafter and is the founder of the Deeply Felt Puppet Theatre.


Instrument: Vocals.

Performed with: David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Perry Farrell, Moby, Joan Jett, Ian Hunter, Ronnie Spector, Sarah Brightman.

Other projects: Lead singer for her own band The Tall Pines (NPR’s Top Ten Best CDs of 2007).

Fun fact: Her voice has been featured on many TV shows including “The Daily Show,” “No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain,” and “Bored To Death.”

The Loser’s Lounge will perform a Muppet Music Extravaganza in the Hunter Center on Saturday, October 20 at 3 PM. Buy tickets online here.

Posted October 15, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Artist Spotlight, BLOG, Music

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