About Van Gogh

I started writing Van Gogh because of my obsession with the letters Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo. I assembled the texts myself, drawing from these letters, in many cases combining lines from different letters or from different places within the same letter. What attracted me so much to Van Gogh’s writing was the pain, rawness and brutal honesty. I found it hard to believe that anyone could tell another person, even his brother, the raw emotions that Van Gogh experienced — so painful, lonely and humiliating.

I began working on these songs in the late 1980s, making trips to Holland and Southern France to get the vibe of the areas that Van Gogh wrote about. I wrote “Borinage” first and originally sang that piece myself.

Early presentations of the piece were called Van Gogh Video Opera. These included video by Elliot Caplan and were performed in Vienna and in New York City in the early 1990s. In the fall of 2003, the Crash Ensemble performed it in Dublin and for that occasion I re-orchestrated the piece, adding three instruments (cello, bass, piano).

The piece is divided into six parts and it follows the arch of Van Gogh’s life chronologically.

                                         –Michael Gordon

About Michael Gordon

Michael GordonMichael Gordon’s music merges subtle rhythmic invention with incredible power embodying, in the words of  The New Yorker‘s Alex Ross, “the fury of punk rock, the nervous brilliance of free jazz and the intransigence of classical modernism.”

Over the past 25 years, Gordon has produced a strikingly diverse body of work, ranging from large-scale pieces for high-energy ensembles to major orchestral commissions to works conceived specifically for the recording studio. Transcending categorization, this music represents the collision of mysterious introspection and brutal directness.

Gordon has been commissioned by The New World Symphony, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Stuttgart Ballet, the New World Symphony, the National Centre for the Performing Arts Beijing, the BBC Proms, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Settembre Musica, the Holland Music Festival, the Dresden Festival and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival, among others. His music has been performed at the Kennedy Center, Theatre De La Ville, Barbican Centre, Oper Bonn, Kölner Philharmonie and the Southbank Centre. The recipient of multiple awards and grants, Gordon has been honored by the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His recordings include Rushes (Cantaloupe), Timber (Cantaloupe), Weather (Nonesuch), Light is Calling (Nonesuch), Decasia (Cantaloupe), (purgatorio) POPOPERA (Cantaloupe), Van Gogh (Cantaloupe), Trance (Argo/Cantaloupe), and Big Noise from Nicaragua (CRI). Formed in 1983 as The Michael Gordon Philharmonic and renamed The Michael Gordon Band in 2000, Gordon’s own ensemble performed across Europe and the United States at venues as diverse as Alice Tully Hall and the punk mecca CBGB, on the Contemporary Music Network Tour and at the Almeida Festival in London.

Born in Miami Beach in 1956, Gordon holds a Bachelor of Arts from New York University and a Masters of Music from the Yale School of Music. He is co-founder and co-artistic director of New York’s legendary music collective Bang on a Can.