Washington Post Review from Atlas Theater Show in DC with Newspeak


It’s been a really fun two weeks playing with Newspeak, one of my favorite bands, first at the Invisible Dog, and Friday at the Atlas Theater in DC, the latter was made even more awesome due to its proximity to Dangerously Delicious Pies.   We were rewarded with a fantastic review in the Washington Post! You can check out the full review here, but a few choice quotes:

In the tiny but essential niche of punk-classical music, Newspeak pretty much rules. Driving rhythms, sophisticated compositions by cutting-edge composers, virtuosic playing on electrified instruments — there’s little not to like about the New York-based ensemble

And about yours truly

Newspeak’s gutsy soprano Mellissa Hughes, leading the ensemble with fire and purpose, ratcheted the work to a wild, intoxicating pitch

Newspeak @ LPR

There’s some great video below of our joint performance with The Fiery Furnaces captured by vlogger Ephman. I can’t say much for the sound quality, but what you do get is a pretty good picture of what rocking out with your friends looks like! Hit US is part of three pieces performed by the one man band that is Massey….. I didn’t realize until my first rehearsal with Newspeak that Massey, aka Andrea Mazzariello was a man, so, I sang the first two in the soprano octave until David graciously stopped me, and told me I should be singing in the tenor clef. My Bad! So, yeah, it lies REALLY low in my register, or not quite my “fac” as I like to say..

What I like most about this video is my little foot dance halfway through. God, if my voice teacher from grad school could see this. It may not be Handel, but I am selling the shit out of it!


You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting lately. This is for two reasons:
1. I’ve been insanely busy with shows.
2. I’ve been insanely neurotic about my writing…

Fuck that. From a review of my 8/18 – 8/23 run of the Newspeak Non Sequitur show at the Flea:

It should come as no surprise the most transportive piece was that of composer David First’s adaptation of Ansel Berrigan’s dark and lyrical ” Let Us Sample Protection Together.” David First, one of Philadelphia’s founding father’s of experimental ambient sound, elevates Mellissa Hughes’ vocal to hallucinogenic heights. “…Protection Together” felt like the longest single performance of the evening, but may have been surpassed in length by the cheerfully disjointed closing piece, “What Remains”. If there can be any complaint, it is that Hughes’ Sarah Brightman-esque vocals favored operatic stylings in favor of elocution; we could not always understand Berrigan’s words, which is a shame since they convey perfectly the ambivalence of the outsider artist struggling to survive:
I won’t belong to this scripted conversation/Though I might play along.

I HATE Sarah Brightman….tremendously. This is HILARIOUS. I think by operatic stylings they mean I used a little bit of vib above the staff, like once or twice to get through a phrase. I don’t vib if a composer specifally says not to, because the human voice is actually capable of doing both… however, la voce was really really really tired, and it’s just easier up there to let her rip when I start feeling tight. But interesting because so many people commented on how they could understand every word, even when the range was extended…hmmm.

My theory: my purple dress and sparkle leggings and Aqua-Net sprayed CURE hairstyle brought this to mind?

Rzewski and Newspeak at the Lyceum

Please go over to the WNYC site and read/listen to the interview with David T. Little and Rzewski…. it was quite possibly the most awkward 15 minutes of my musical life, but hey, my new motto is, if you don’t leave an audience uncomfortable after viewing concert, you’re not doing your job…..

In the post are video footage of the interview, as well as two audio clips of Newspeak performing Coming Together ( and rocking the fuck out, I might add- listen with good speakers/headphones) and the Price of Oil, which I’m beginning to love more and more…..

I think we performed very well, but the awkwardness of the interview to come, and performing post- interview and not letting the no-one-knows-why-birds-sing bullshit influence our playing was a bit too intense after a long week of late night rehearsals. Bottom line: we knew it would be tough to get Rzewski to talk, but we had no idea that when he did, he would talk ad nauseum, ad infinitum et ad insanitum…..that part was real fun.

Mad props to David for organizing this concert, and giving me a shout out on his blog

MATA Festival Review

Newspeak rounded out the 10th (!!!) MATA Festival on Friday night. Kudos to Missy Mazzoli and Chris McIntyre, new directors, in what seemed like a flawlessly executed festival. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they have in store for the future. I’ve performed at the Brooklyn Lyceum before. As a performance space, it just made sense with this repertoire, and it was packed, and I have to say as a Brooklynite, it was sweet going three stops home!!

I had a total blast performing David T. Little’s “Sweet Light Crude” a song “about loving something you know is really bad for you”…. we can all relate to that, can’t we??? I think out of all the vocal Newspeak music I’ve done, this may be the best text setting I’ve come across. Composers take note!!! When the text setting is well thought out, it just feels good in the mouth, the singer will want to linger on the consonants. That’s the key to lieder, you just want to taste the words… it’s also why hearing Winterreise in English is just tragic.

I digress, There’s a great festival review on Feast of Music. and there’s a pic of me rocking out towards the bottom!! Here’s some Newspeak highlights:

It’s not every day that you see a composer leading his work from the drumkit, but that’s exactly what Little did for his sweet light crude (2007). Set to his own gothic poem relating a lover’s desperate pleas, Little built a soundscape of searing intensity, mixing techniques familiar from both rock ballads and new music. Vocalist Melissa Hughes delivered an intense performance, ripping through the poem with a voice that was both haunting and beautiful. Unlike so many of today’s academic composers, Little writes from the gut. He is someone to watch.
Newspeak ended their set with Oscar Bettison’s Breaking and Entering (with aggravated assault). Holy crazy ass shit: talk about loud and aggressive. It was balls out, the kind of thing I’d expect to hear at some of the better experimental rock venues in town. I don’t know if people were screaming for the exits or not: I was too busy rocking out in my chair to care.

I’ll take haunting and beautiful…..and hell-total-ass-shit-crazy-yeah! Every time I hear the Bettison I just want to bang on something!!! Which is kind of embarrassing seeing as there’s no vocal part in it…….

MATA Festival begins Today!!

All week long at everyone’s favorite industrial performing space Brooklyn Lyceum, treat yourself to a plethora of sound installations, and evening concerts featuring HOT young composers presented by the MATA Festival.

NEWSPEAK (with yours truly) will share the bill with Either/Or on Friday night to close it all down. The program will feature works of Sean Griffin (a MATA Festival commission), David T. Little, Missy Mazzoli, Richard Carrick, Andrew Byrne and Oscar Bettison. I’ve heard the Griffin is VERY theatrical…my friend Caleb warned me that he’s playing the role of John Cage. Trust me, it’ll be a great show, any night you chose to come out.

Tix are $15 for adults, and $10 for students and seniors for the concerts, the installations are free and are presented in collaboration between MATA and Diapason Gallery.

And stay tuned for more info on NEWSPEAK’s “Music By, For and Against Frederic Rzewski at age 70” May2nd, also at the Brooklyn Lyceum.