Music: Truth to PowerThis season at New England Conservatory, 30+ concerts demonstrate just how vital music is to human struggle, and what revolution in artistic expression sounds like. Programs range from roots music to Beethoven, fight songs to anti-war anthems. Join our year-long exploration of how music speaks truth to power!

Upcoming performances


Past performances

2013-09-10 Shona Mbira
Music and culture of Zimbabwe.

2013-09-11 Music in a Period of World Conflict
Discussion of Mbira music and its role in a period of conflict in its place of origin.

2013-09-25 Marco Polo in the Forbidden City
Hugh Wolff conducts NEC Philharmonia in North American premiere of Tan Dun's look at the geographical, musical, and spiritual journeys that made Marco Polo's Silk Road odyssey more than just a road trip.

2013-10-02 Mozart: La Clemenza di Tito
Writing on commission for a coronation, Mozart made benevolence, mercy, and wise governance his subject.

2013-10-10 Colgrass: Winds of Nagual
With movement titles like "Carlos Stares at the River and Becomes a Bubble," Michael Colgrass took programmatic music in a radical new direction in this 1985 work for wind ensemble based on the writings of Carlos Castaneda.

2013-10-16 To the Victims of Fascism and War
Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 10, dedicated "to the victims of fascism and war," has taken on a second life in its adaptation as Chamber Symphony, Op. 118a.

2013-10-24 Annelies: Anne Frank's Diary
Erica Washburn conducts choral works based on Anne Frank's diary, and music written during her lifetime.

2013-11-05 Preminger: Laura
The NEC Storyboarding/Noir Ensemble and guests accompany two classics of film noir by one of Hollywood's most notorious rebels, Otto Preminger.

2013-11-06 Adams: Harmonielehre
With his title, John Adams announces that he is literally schooling the orchestra audience on harmony. Adams starts with Schoenberg's radical reinvention of where harmony can go, then asks, "did we leave something important behind?"

2013-11-06 Wadada Leo Smith on Ten Freedom Summers
2013-11-07 Smith: Ten Freedom Summers
Music from Ghanaian composer Ephraim Amu leads into an excerpt from Wadada Leo Smith's civil rights epic. Smith begins his residency at NEC with a talk on his work, before launching into rehearsals with the NEC performers.

2013-11-07 Laura Mullen Poetry Reading
Award winning American poet discusses her most recent book, Eduring Freedom

2013-11-23 Caged Birds: Opera from Terezin
2013-11-24 Caged Birds: Opera from Terezin
Despite its fairytale title, composer Viktor Ullmann and librettist Peter Kien wrote The Emperor of Atlantis as a thinly veiled tale of tyranny, while imprisoned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

2014-01-16 Triangle
Using puppeteers from the original New York cast alongside NEC singers and improvisers, NEC liberal arts chair Patrick Keppel and Brad Kemp '02 present their 2011 play about the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, in which 146 women died.

2014-01-16 Piano Revolution
Stephen Drury, who specializes in challenging new music of all eras, performs works by Chopin, Czernowin, Hyla, Rzewski, and Zorn.

2014-01-28 Harbison: Abu Ghraib
Contemporary composers including John Harbison and Luciano Berio have responded with music to events of their times.

2014-02-03 Pianists: Start the Revolution with Me
From the French Revolution to U.S. labor struggles, composers have challenged pianists to tell truth to power.

2014-02-08 L'Incoronazione di Poppea
Opening night of four-performance run of Monteverdi's opera that brings politics, power, and sex to a Baroque boil that leaves no one unscathed.

2014-02-11 Napoleon to Dr. King: Where Are the Heroes?
David Loebel conducts NEC Symphony in Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony, dedicated to the myth making of Napoleon's "heroism," and Schwantner's New Morning of the World, which uses texts by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that will be read by Governor Deval Patrick in this performance.

2014-02-12 Big Dreams
Shostakovich's Symphony No. 2 is a brief spurt celebrating the conflagration of Russia's October Revolution of 1917; Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 is a vast and joyful ode to the aspirations of the revolutions of his lifetime.

2014-02-18 A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall
Contemporary Improvisation students, alumni, and faculty present a kaleidoscopic perspective on protest music and social change throughout history.

2014-02-19 The Unconservatory
Students imagine a world without borders, including musical ones.

2014-02-20 The Piano, Before and After Beethoven
The modern piano—which obliterated its instrumental precursors—is synonymous with Beethoven. So what preceded and followed this revolution in 88 keys?

2014-02-21 African Music Festival at Museum of African American History
2014-02-21 African Music Festival symposium at NEC
2014-02-21 African Music Festival concert at NEC
Ghanaian composer Ephraim Amu's music is said to have triggered a "quiet revolution" that contributed to his country's march to independence. Events at Boston's African Meeting House on February 20, at NEC on February 21, and at Tufts University on February 22 set the stage for other events going into March and April with local venues and organizations including Boston's Trinity Church, Boston University, and Africans Universe.

2014-02-27 Jazz and the Struggle for Freedom and Equality
Ken Schaphorst leads NEC Jazz Orchestra in landmark works associated with the battle against racism and bigotry.

2014-03-05 Satires & Nightmares
Songs by Weill, Shostakovich, and Poulenc set the tone for tonight's orchestral concert.

2014-03-05 While the Third Reich Was Rising
German composers including Hindemith and Weill ran out the back door to the U.S. while the Nazis broke through the front.

2014-03-06 Crossing Over
Premiere concert performances of two works from musicians at the "headwaters" of the Third Stream. From Here to There was commissioned by NEC from past president Gunther Schuller. With his declaration of the Third Stream in 1957, Schuller made all musical borderlines null and void. Here's a first look at where he draws the line in 2014. Charles Mingus's orchestral work Half-Mast Inhibition, recorded by Schuller in 1960, was never heard in concert in its original orchestration until now, in a performance that will include cello soloist Yeesun Kim.

2014-03-12 Written for a Survivor
Maurice Ravel was one of many composers who wrote new repertoire for a great concert pianist determined to continue his career after his right arm was amputated during World War I. In this concert, David Horton will perform Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand.

2014-03-13 Martin Luther
William Weinert conducts NEC Chamber Singers in music based on chorales written by the leader of the German Reformation.

2014-03-27 Turkish Songs of Protest
Robert Labaree and Dünya Ensemble perform music based on Ottoman poetry from the 16th century to the present.

2014-03-28 The Place of Race
Steven Swayne leads piano seminar on "The Place of Race: playing music in today's multicultural, multiethnic world.”

2014-03-31 The General Slocum and Other Unanswered Questions
A century after he wrote it, Charles Ives's music still provokes questions about what kind of stories a composer can tell, and how.

2014-04-15 Songs of Revolution
NEC's American Roots Ensemble performs politically significant source songs that were used by William Schuman in his New England Triptych. The Triptych itself is performed by NEC wind ensembles under the direction of Charles Peltz and William Drury.

2014-04-17 Sun Ra Centennial at NEC's Jordan Hall
2014-05-11 Sun Ra Centennial at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Ken Schaphorst leads NEC Jazz Orchestra in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Sun Ra's arrival day on this planet. The performance at the Museum of Fine Arts will include stories and projected imagery depicting his fascination with space and ancient civilizations, led by Egyptologist Lawrence Berman.

2014-04-23 The Revolution Begins
Presented in association with Celebrity Series of Boston, Hugh Wolff conducts NEC Philharmonia in Symphony Hall, with a program that includes Shostakovich's Symphony No. 11, "The Year 1905"—representing a decisive moment in the road to the Russian Revolution—plus Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1, with soloist Xiang Yu.

2014-05-05 Liberal Arts Student Presentations
Reflecting on the ways race, class, gender, and sexuality shape personal, cultural, political, and ecological lives, students will discuss the importance of literature, music, and visual culture (including comics!) to social and environmental justice.

2014-05-10 Piano Revolution: Undone by Sound
NEC Distinguished Artist-in-Residence Russell Sherman performs piano miniatures by Chopin, Debussy, Schoenberg, and Scriabin that demonstrate the revolutionary possibilities of undoing the restraints of convention.


2014-05-14 Complete Bartók String Quartets
In a single evening, NEC's quartet-in-residence, the Borromeo String Quartet, performs all six of Béla Bartók's string quartets. Written between 1909 and 1939, these works are like snapshots of the radical series of moves that we now call Modernism.