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Corey Dargel (b. 1977) is a Texas-born, Brooklyn-based composer, writer, and singer whose gentle assault on pop and classical idioms creates a tension that pervades his music. Deadpan and detached vocals reveal heartbreaking intimacies, awkward and obtrusive drum patterns struggle against fragile harmonies, vocals and music uneasily opposing each other as songs stumble to their ends. The New Yorker magazine calls him “a baroquely unclassifiable” composer of “ingenious nouveau art songs.” Salon praises his songs’ “rococo ingenuity” and “sustained bursts of lyrical brilliance,” and according to Gramophone magazine, he has “a compositional sense guaranteed to keep close listeners on their toes. Words and music are truly equal partners….”
Dargel studied composition at Oberlin Conservatory with John Luther Adams, Pauline Oliveros, Brenda Hutchinson, and Lewis Neilson. His music has been profiled by Kurt Andersen (Studio 360), Alison Stewart (Weekend Edition), and David Garland (Spinning On Air). He even earned a tweet from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow for his art-song settings of the remarks of Condoleezza Rice.
Dargel has released two solo albums, Less Famous Than You (2006, Use Your Teeth) and Other People’s Love Songs (2008, New Amsterdam Records). The New York Times calls Other People’s Love Songs “at once wistful and wry, tender and irreverent…. [G]iving voice to the lives and relationships of his subjects, [Dargel] invests melodies with playful melismatic turns, evoking Kurt Weill cabaret….” His third album, Someone Will Take Care of Me (May 25, 2010, New Amsterdam Records & Naxos of America) is a double-CD album, featuring performances by the classical chamber group International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), David T. Little (drums), and Kathleen Supové (piano), comprised of song cycles adapted from Dargel’s critically acclaimed music-theater pieces, Thirteen Near-Death Experiences and Removable Parts.
Removable Parts, Dargel’s music-theater piece about love and voluntary amputation, won the 2007 New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Performance-Art Production and was hailed by the New York Times as “almost perversely pleasurable… with an intelligent grace that is as moving as it is impressive.” Removable Parts was remounted in 2009 as part of HERE Arts Center’s Culturemart festival and the Public Theater’s “Under the Radar” festival.
Thirteen Near-Death Experiences was commissioned by the International Contemporary Ensemble and premiered at Performance Space 122 in New York, NY, in May of 2009. That performance was hailed by Time Out New York as “brilliant” and “quite possibly a life-changing event.” Of a Chicago performance in March 2010, the Chicago Classical Review wrote:
Hypochondria is the leitmotif for Dargel’s Thirteen Near-Death Experiences… Yet rather than a morbidly clinical self-absorption, Dargel’s songs are wryly witty and often hilarious, crafted with a charming, angular lyricism, the deft lyrics recalling the best work of Warren Zevon and Randy Newman… What lifts these songs from merely comic throwaways is their graceful charm, mixing a lyric delicacy with an unsettled rhythmic line that reflects the hypochondriac’s nervous tension. The musical style is a hybrid, closer to pop than classical, but Dargel’s scoring for sextet shows great skill and ingenuity.
Both Removable Parts and Thirteen Near-Death Experiences feature stage direction by Emma Griffin and choreography by Yvan Greenberg, two of Dargel’s regular artistic collaborators.
Dargel has received awards and residencies from the MAP Fund, Meet The Composer’s Commissioning Music/USA program, the American Composers Forum, the Jerome Foundation, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the MacDowell Colony, New Dramatists, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts.
Although he is best known as a composer and singer, Dargel also performs as an actor/dancer and founding member of the Brooklyn-based experimental theater company, Laboratory Theater. Laboratory Theater’s work has been described as “ironic, weird, experimental, anti-dramatic, and compelling” (Village Voice) and “[i]nane, insane, mundane… esthetic purity under the guise of the absurd” (New York Press).
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