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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

In Context: The Ambassador

Gabriel Kahane's The Ambassador runs at BAM from December 10—13. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of articles, interviews, and videos related to the production. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Program Notes


"Gabriel Kahane on The Ambassador" (BAM Blog)
Kahane recounts his first experiences with that "mysterious three-letter acronym" BAM and the coming-to-be of The Ambassador. 

"Learning to Look at L.A." (The New Yorker)
New York's starving-artist mythos learns a lesson from Rudolph Schindler houses, Venice Beach eccentrics, and properly presented hamburgers.

"Gabriel Kahane Is A One-Man Cultural Cuisinart" (The New York Times)
Zachary Wolfe muses over Kahane's Craigslistlieder, his Carnegie Hall wardrobe choices, and adventures in genre-busting. 

Take an interactive tour of The Ambassador's L.A. Red pins yield audio descriptions from Kahane himself. 

BAM Illustrated: Freak Architects of Los Angeles (BAM Blog)
On the falling-out of Rudolph Schnidler and Richard Neutra—both referenced in The Ambassador.

Village Voice Q&A: Gabriel Kahane (Village Voice)
Kahane gives a nod to "Since You've Been Gone," puts Twitter endorphins in their place, and more in this 2011 interview.  

Watch & Listen

Gabriel Kahane on The Ambassador (Yahoo)
Research for the project involved binge watching on Die Hard and Blade Runner. 

Gabriel Kahane Performs "Ambassador Hotel (3400 Wilshire Blvd)" (Yahoo)
"Wilshire was a wilderness when they thought to build this place..."

A Gabriel Kahane-Curated Playlist (WQXR)
Andrew Norman, John Adams, Chris Thile, GyörgyLigeti, and Duke Ellington made the cut.

Kahane discusses The Ambassador with John Schaefer. 

Where Are The Arms (Bandcamp)
Listen to tracks from Kahane's rich 2011 release. 

Worthwhile Words

Kahane on creating his variegated Los Angeles:
Something that I've found as I've entered my early 30s is that I'm increasingly bored with myself as a subject. The way that I experience [Los Angeles] as one person is not very interesting, but the way that 10 people experience it begins to approach some kind of fraction of the city that might stand in for the whole. (More)
Kahane on the East Coast starving artist mythos:
I spent six years writing music (which, for most people, requires silence) in a small [New York] apartment one floor above a middle-aged couple whose domestic disputes frequently reached decibel levels that would not have been out of place on a tarmac at J.F.K. And there was the time when, working as a bartender, I watched my boss at a dingy midtown bar douse his genitals in vodka in order to “sterilize” himself after a basement assignation with a female patron, only to turn around and fire me an hour later for “overpouring” and thus wasting his liquor. I told myself that these were the wages of true artistry. So I understand the impulse [to romantically justify suffering in the name of creating great things]. But the record shows that there is a vast and impressive catalogue of great work that’s been created in Southern California, sunshine and all. (More)

Now your turn...

So how did you enjoy the show? Likes? Dislikes? Surprises? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below.


  1. Gabriel Kahane's talent is second to none and shines through once again with The Ambassador. But why ruin a great performance with over-amplification. We want to hear his voice coming from him, not a speaker monitor.

  2. Sensational! Gabriel Kahane is a totally original talent who finds ways to take us to new levels of beauty, feeling and understanding. I was already familiar with The Ambassador from the recording but Kahane and his team made totally new and exciting with their visualization and committed performances. This is precisely the kind of work that BAM should showcase.

  3. Tonight was my first visit to BAM, and WOW, what a thrill! A beautiful space and a mesmerizing production of Gabriel Kahane's THE AMBASSADOR. What a stunning production on all levels. I found myself lost in the storytelling and visuals and lighting and mood. I didn't know the music going in, but I'll be downloading it, shortly. I hope this isn't the last we see of it. It deserves an extended run. AMAZING. Thank you!

  4. It was a great show! Completely engrossing. Unfortunately for me and the people around me, the sound guy kept running down the aisle every song, to fiddle with the levels on his iPad. Was that really necessary? I have been to countless events at the Harvey and have never experienced that. His presence and his bright screen were very distracting.

  5. Loved, loved, loved this show. The music was incredible and the lighting of the books at the end stunning. Touching, heart-breaking and inspiring all at the same time. Gabriel Kahane is an artist of the first order. Will definitely look for more work by him. Thank you BAM for bringing his profound work to your stage. Wonderful experience.

  6. the music was Cats meets the Beatles in some hipster heaven. Unoriginal, cacophonous and extremely annoying...both songs and performance. It was so commercial and predictable and bell curve that it was painful to endure. Zero authenticity, zero purpose completely unmemorable and unremarkable.

  7. Possibly the worst thing I've ever seen at BAM. Very disappointed to finish a great season of performances at BAM with The Ambassador.

  8. Having listened to the album for months before attending the show, I was surprised to discover how much the performance enhanced the contents of the album. For brevity, the most exciting revelation was the concept album's similarity to the incidentally referenced film "Pulp Fiction." The album weaves short stories together to paint a portrait of L.A. in the most traditional cubist sense, multifaceted and varied, yet complexly cohesive in its comprehensiveness. It wasn't until I saw the performance that I realized the depth of Gabriel's intention in creating the album. With the reveal of his inspirations throughout the deliberately crafted set and stage show, the true personality of his subject is exposed. L.A. is given a soul like few other works could impart, distilling the grand emotions that surround the gravity of a historic American city through the pipette of residential experiences, both real and imagined. And in the sense that architecture speaks to a fuller understanding of the lives of those who create and inhabit the spaces, so too does Gabriel's wholly realized love letter to the city of L.A.


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