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[Canceled] They Will Have Been So Beautiful

Paul Dresher Ensemble

Paul Dresher Ensemble [Canceled] They Will Have Been So Beautiful

They Will Have Been So Beautiful is inspired by photographer Diane Arbus’s quest to discover the epic in what is more often seen as commonplace and mundane. As formulated in her 1963 application to the Guggenheim Foundation, Arbus eloquently and poetically defines her then-revolutionary aesthetic, that the commonplace habits, rituals and social spaces of everyday life hold meaning and importance that will only be understood in the future, because "they will have been so beautiful." This visionary (and then-controversial) proposition provides the inspiration for our commissioning project.

The Dresher Ensemble Electro-Acoustic Band and Amy X Neuburg have invited a diverse group of mostly Bay Area composers—Lisa Bielawa, Jay Cloidt, Conrad Cumming, Fred Frith, Guillermo Galindo, Carla Kihlstedt, Ken Ueno, Pamela Z, Amy x Neuburg, Paul Dresher—to each select a photograph about the lives of everyday people and inspired by that photo, to compose a new song from 4 to 12 minutes in duration. During the performance of each song, the photograph(s) that inspired it will be projected above the stage so that the audience can explore the interrelationships of image, music, and words if used. Each song offers a musical and photographic “snapshot” of our world, be it detached or personal, gritty or sublime, political, humorous, or intriguingly mundane.

The photographs are very diverse. They include photo of a desolate Drive-In Theater in Las Vegas by Bay Area photographer Robert Misrach, photos of prostitutes at work in Mexican bordellos by Mexican photographer Maya Godet—both included in work samples— and an informal snapshot of one composer's own kitchen window by Conrad Cummings.

In addition to the photographs, many of the composers worked with writers. The subject matter of the set ranges from strongly political works like Paul Dresher’s setting of a comparative analysis between a Richard Misrach photo and a Hiroshi Sugimoto photo written by young inmate serving a life sentence—Michael Nelson—in San Quentin Prison or Guillermo Galindo's expose about bordellos on the Mexican American border, text bay area writer Juvenal Acosta) to humorous or intensely personal subjects explored by Amy X Neuburg, Conrad Cummings, Pamela Z, and Ken Ueno to absurd—anglophilic bath fixtures and an infomercial angrily critiquing late-stage Capitalism.

“Wonderful... a dense weave of electric and acoustic sonorities...gritty tenderness and emotional power”. —Joshua Kosman, The San Francisco Chronicle

“Don’t miss the spectacular Amy X Neuburg. She’s the best thing to come out of Oakland since Jack London.”—composer John Adams, in his blog

  • Venue: Z Space
  • Date: Fri April 24, 2020 8:00pm
  • City: San Francisco
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Price Range: $12 - $25
  • Tickets: (415) 626.0453 x 104
Additional Dates:
Sat April 25, 2020 8:00pm
Z Space
Sun April 26, 2020 3:00pm
Z Space

Buy Tickets


Pamela Z

17 Reasons Why

Paul Dresher

A Picture Screen Stands in Solitude

Guillermo Galindo

Blood Bolero

Amy X Neuburg

Is it Conflict-Free and Were Any Animals Harmed in the Making of It

Ken Ueno

Secret Meridian


Paul Dresher

electric guitar and bass

Beth Custer

clarinet/bass clarinet

Joel Davel

Marimba Lumina

Marja Mutru


Karen Bentley Pollick

violin and viola

John Schott

electric guitar