Keys of Change: Gene Pritsker

Activist music from iconoclast composer Gene Pritsker, featuring an interview at his studio in New York City.


My guest tonight on episode 115 of American highways is composer and polymath Gene Pritsker, who will be remembered as the greatest kabuki opera composer of our time. Or not. Actually Gene is a radically experimental composer living in New York. I visited him at his chaotic studio, and we talked and laughed for two hours about music. Also we drank Maxwell House™ instant coffee and his dog Rosa sang for me. Yes, you’ll hear her on this show, at the very end.

Political lives, musical lives

A series on ten American musicians whose work was/is profoundly influenced by the forces of politics. This series grew out of a conversation I had a few years ago with composer and improviser Donal Fox. We began arguing about the relevance of race in music, and realized that our conflicting ideas made for a wonderful dialogue. Hence the inspiration for “Keys of Change.”

Ten Musicians

Some, like Paul Robeson and Marc Blitzstein, were communists; others, like Charles Ives, were more conservative. Some, like Lotte Lenya, were unwillingly dragged into politics, and kept their distance even while their music encouraged others. Alternatively, Gene Pritsker has thrown himself into political activism, using his music to project an intensely personal message.



Gene Pritsker and Sebastian Pritsker, composers
‘Berlin Suite’
Absolute Ensemble, Kristjan Jarvi – conducting; with: Michiyo Suzuki, Daniel Schnyder, Charlie Porter, Christophe Schweizer, Vesselin Gellev, Mat Fieldes, Damien Bassman
From the Netflix TV series Babylon Berlin

Gene Pritsker
‘Money & Politics’
Sound Liberation Ensemble; David Taylor – narrator; With Franz Hackl, John Clark, David Gotay, Greg Baker, Mat Fieldes, David Rozenblatt
Live performance

Gene Pritsker
Migration Song
Bel – beat boxer, Clair Obscur Sax Quartet, and the EMX Ensemble: Kai Schumacher – piano, Niko Scharnofske – bass, Philipp Bernhardt – drums, Gene Pritsker – conductor. with Christoph Enzel, Jan Schulte-Bunert
Composers Concordance comcon0047

Gene Pritsker
Songs So Wild And Wayward
Lara St. John – violin with the Composers Concordance Chamber Orchestra ;Thomas Carlo Bo – conductor
Live performance

Gene Pritsker, composer; haiku texts by Issa
‘Shout Song Cycle’ – Issa’s Cries, Piss & Shit
EMX Ensemble: Thomas Fischer – shout voice Kai Schumacher – piano Philipp Bernhardt – drums
Composers Concordance comcon0047

Gene Pritsker
‘Tweets’ from ‘Trump A Di.J. Concerto’
Gene Pritsker – Di.J. with the MDR Symphony, Ulrich Kern – conductor.
Recorded live at the 2017 Impuls Festival in Halle, Germany at Steintor-Varieté Hall

Gene Pritsker
‘Wall’ From TRUMP – A Theatrical Concerto
Philippe Quint – violin, Charles Coleman – baritone; Absolute Ensemble, Kristjan Jarvi – conducting; With Hayley Jarvi, Kathy Halvorson, Michiyo Suzuki, Mark Timmerman, Charlie Porter, Mike Seltzer, Derin Oge, David Rozenblatt, Philip Payton, Denise Stillwell, Edmundo Ramirez, Jennifer DeVore, Mat Fieldes
live at Le Poisson Rouge, New York, NY.

Gene Pritsker
Capitalism Running Wild
Performed by: Sound Liberation & B3+
Feat. David ‘Criminal Cello’ Gotay & Gene ‘Noizepunk’ Pritsker – raps.
Composers Concordance COMCON0013

Gene Pritsker
Flammenschrift: A Fanfare for the Natives of this Earth
Staatskapelle Halle, Josep Caballe – conducting
Live at the opening concert of the 2015 Impuls Festival in Halle, Germany.

closing tune:

Gene Pritsker
i’m afraid you might ask for a fragment of my soul
Guy Livingston, pianist
WERGO 6649-2

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