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  • Writer's pictureConny Chavez

Dirty Projectors & LA Phil Perform Together For The US Premiere Of David Longstreth’s ‘Song Of The Earth’

David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors presented Song of the Earth, a suite for orchestra and voices, on Saturday, March 2 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall for its US live debut. Special guest Mount Eerie opened, and Dirty Projectors also performed a set from across their discography for their first show in 4 years!

In their first live appearance in over four years, the Dirty Projectors teamed up with the Los Angeles Philharmonic to debut frontman’s Longstreth’s latest project Song of the Earth. The new composition grew out of an engagement with Gustav Mahler’s 1908 orchestral song cycle, Das Lied Von Der Erde (The Song of the Earth) and Brian Wilson’s pocket symphonies. Where Mahler’s union of symphonic and song forms was a meditation—by turns joyous, angst-ridden, and wistful—on the cyclical character of life and death, nature, and the transience of all things, Longstreth explores these themes through the lens of the Anthropocene. Song of the Earth was originally commissioned for André de Ridder, who first collaborated with Longstreth on the s t a r g a z e ensemble. Longstreth has rewritten the piece since its European premiere and had help from William Brittelle who rearranged it for a full orchestra.

Kicking off the night was Mount Eerie, the project of singer and songwriter Phil Elverum, whose deeply felt, bracingly honest songs have made him a beloved and vital artist in his own right. Elverum performed a special solo set of songs from throughout his career as both Mount Eerie, The Microphones and a few new songs from a forthcoming album. The indie rock artist has been a long-time inspiration for Longstreth who felt honored to have Elverum open the night with a 30-minute set prepping the crowd for the American premiere of Song of the Earth.

Following a quick intermission LA Phil and the Dirty Projectors took the stage lead by conductor Sarah Hicks. Song of the Earth is composed of 24 tracks exploring life, death, nature, climate change, and the brevity of all things. Two-thirds of the performance sounded quite repetitive if not for the harmonies from Felicia Douglass, Maia Friedman and Olga Bell splashed here and there and LA Phil’s powerful drive, the show would’ve been nothing but a spoken poetry performance. Parts of the performance were quite intriguing as the composition did what Longstreth does best, use vocals in interesting ways. A few tracks were driven by Douglass, Friedman and Bell’s vocals being the lead instruments with minimal lyrics. Longstreth was also able to show off his vocal range, particularly during two tracks in which he went note-to-note with Patrick Shiroishi’s saxophone. Special guest Elverum joined the Dirty Projectors on stage for the 15th track of the composition, “Twin Aspens” where he sang a few verses.

Immediately after the orchestral performance, a stage crew rushed to bring out Mike Johnson’s drums and rearrange the microphones as the Dirty Projectors took the stage for an encore. As the crew worked, Longstreth took the time to thank his wife for pushing him and motivating him to finish the composition. The rest of the band returned to the stage to perform a set of songs that ranged from various time periods of their entire discography. The band treated the crowd to a 45-minute set with songs such as “Impregnable Question,” “Rise Above,” “Holy Mackerel,” and “Overlord” which was led by Friedman. Each song was stripped down to a soft acoustic with raw energy, creating an intimate atmosphere. However, the back-to-back sets seemed to be a bit too much for many in the audience as several guests began to nod off mid-performance.

Though the Dirty Projectors have yet to announce any possibilities of new music or tour dates, the band did perform a series of secret shows rehearsal shows in preparation for their grand performance with LA Phil. For those who were not able to attend the show at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, you’ll be glad to hear that a recording of Song of the Earth is underway, with no release date as of yet.

(Originally published on

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