“Book of Travelers” featuring Gabriel Kahane with FingerNoise strings
August 1 @ 7:30 pm
“A stunning portrait of a singular moment in America.” — Rolling Stone 20 Best Albums of 2018 (Slate)
20 Best Albums of 2018 (Slate)
A singer-songwriter, pianist, and composer, Kahane has over the last decade established himself as a distinct and penetrating voice in an array of cultural spaces. Often compared with Sufjan Stevens and Rufus Wainwright, he has collaborated with both of these artists.
Premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, 8980: Book of Travelers is an attempt to rediscover and celebrate our collective humanity in the face of deep political and cultural divisions. The day after the 2016 presidential election, Gabriel Kahane set out on an 8,980 mile train trip around the continental U.S. with no phone or internet connection. The song cycle/monodrama that resulted etches not just a series of intimate character studies, but also tells the story of a poignant encounter with a group of young men whom Kahane almost certainly would not have met within the confines of our siloed digital culture. In a chilling coda, Gabriel draws from his grandmother’s diary— written during her own cross-country train trip after fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939— asking the audience to contemplate the varied scars of our collective past, while at the same time offering a seed of hope in the notion that when we step outside of our digital lives, we may have more in common with our fellow Americans than we’re often led to believe.
Book of Travelers was inspired by Kahane’s 9000 mile train journey across 13 days, which gave Kahane a front-row view of the mood of the country. Intentionally or not, what Book of Travelers articulates best is that there are no easy answers, no surefire predictions regarding national doom or deliverance. Kahane expresses the confusion of looking for the best in your fellow citizens but often reckoning with their worst—pervasive racism and uncaring capitalism, our failure to learn from history and our obsession with gratification in the moment. You keep looking anyway. Like the United States itself, Book of Travelers seems stuck in limbo about what it values most, about what it should accept or abhor. Both album and country teeter on a precipice above that inhospitable canyon, even as they keep chugging like trains along its edge.