NPR Interview with Michael Gordon: El Sol Caliente premiere

January 29, 2015

WLRN’s Alicia Zuckerman interviews Michael Gordon and film maker Bill Morrison about their work El Sol Caliente.

Listen to an audio piece about how composer Michael Gordon and filmmaker Bill Morrison work together and what went into their 13th collaboration, inspired by the 100th anniversary of the city of Miami Beach.

The composer Michael Gordon and filmmaker Bill Morrison have been fusing their visions for upwards of 17 years. Some of their work together is included in a Bill Morrison retrospective up now at the MoMA in New York. Their first piece was forBang on a Can, the new-music collective Gordon co-founded. It was called City Walk, and over the years, a lot of their work has been about cities. Though, to say it’s aboutanything isn’t quite accurate.

Their work isn’t narrative. It’s more like it evokes something, often the feeling of a place, like the frenetic-ness of New York in Gotham or the film noir dreaminess of Los Angeles in Dystopia. (They’ve done 13 pieces together so far, and about a year ago, their best-known work, Decasia, was entered into the National Film Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress — alongside Mary Poppins and Pulp Fiction.)

The commission from New World Symphony to create a piece to mark this year’scentennial of Miami Beach has resulted in the third in what’s turned out to be a series about cities. El Sol Caliente (The Hot Sun) has its world premiere Friday, Jan. 30, led by Michael Tilson Thomas with a second performance Saturday. That will also be projected into the park off Washington Avenue via Wallcast.

Here’s a sneak peek of an excerpt from the film:

When they got the commission, they thought, Well, OK, let’s just start looking for Miami Beach, and see what we find, says Morrison.

What he found was rare archival footage of the 1926 hurricane, including a ship that’d washed up into the middle of the city, and World War II troops training on our beaches.

Morrison was here for Art Basel in December, and some of the footage is from that week, too. He made a video of one of the Basel highlights, the artist Theo Jansen’s beach-walking Strandbeests.

Composer Michael Gordon as a student at Miami Beach High School student in 1973 where he wrote he first piece for orchestra


Gordon grew up in Miami Beach. He came here with his parents from Nicaragua when he was eight, so his memories were the impetus for some of the piece.

He and his band used to go poolside to poolside at the hotels, collecting tips in hats. And it was as a student at Miami Beach High that he wrote his very first piece for orchestra.

After Gordon and Morrison got this commission for the Miami Beach centennial, Gordon was rolling  ideas about his old city around in his head and published this letter about the role Miami Beach played in his life in music.

Gordon says the premiere of El Sol Caliente will be bittersweet, because his parents, who so loved New World Symphony, are no longer alive.