Damjan Rakonjac has been known to us at the List for several years, and several reasons: He’s a talented composer, with works including a charming 2010 chamber opera, The Other Wise Man, based on a story by Henry van Dyke. (It would be perfect as a Christmas special offering for any of the regional and college groups in town — hint hint.) He’s a strong supporter of vocal music in general, an all-around good guy who works hard, lives music and regularly shows up for other people’s performances. (How strange that that quality has become so rare that it’s now notable.)
What you may not know about Damjan is his writing, primarily as the founder of Artificialist, a contemporary music blog reporting on local musical events in witty, sharp and singularly engaging prose. Rakonjac’s descriptions of how modern music sounds and feels will make you reconsider what you’ve heard, and definitely want to hear more. His image-rich, tactile style illustrates fine details in challenging compositions in a way that reveals their mysteries, celebrates the performer, and reads as if it’s all happening right before your very ears. Try this on, for example, from his most recent post:
Ashley Walters murmured and snarled out Nicholas Deyoe’s another anxiety with nonchalance, the angry barks played with cooly efficient moves and the muted murmurs just fizzling up the neck like soda bubbles. Her heavy bowing just about melted the notes right off any recognizable scale degree, as it was meant to. The piece was so Deyoe, crazy shredding and barking in between long stretches of lull. I’ve heard a bunch of Deyoe’s anxieties, but this one still made me jump: works every time.
That’s just one taste, and it’s even more impressive considering that while English is not the Serb’s first language, he’s mastered it far beyond what most of us have achieved.
We’ll likely see quite a bit more of Damjan, as the LA Times tapped him in November (at Mr. Swed’s suggestion, we understand) to cover a concert at REDCAT, with great results.
Add him to your reader feed, bookmark the site, or do whatever you do to keep an eye on that space. It’s already far better than good.