When: Sat., Nov. 19, 9 p.m. 2016
In March of this year, Shara Worden legally changed her name to Shara Nova to mark a new musical and personal direction. Her unique, flexible voice gives her the freedom to do pretty much anything she might want, from opera to indie rock, club beats to intricate contemporary classical music. She’s written an opera, You Us We All, that cross-references baroque allegory with Beyoncé and social media. She’s written character sketches for yMusic and buoyant marching-band music, performed on records by Sufjan Stevens, Colin Stetson, The Decemberists, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and David Lang, and has sung with ensembles of all shapes and sizes. Nova will be a featured performer with the North Carolina Symphony this spring at the Shift Festival in Washington, D.C.
Despite her myriad accomplishments, Nova’s four albums as My Brightest Diamond may well be her most innovative work. Her songwriting is crisp and personal, combining unexpected melodies with constantly shifting arrangements that keep you on your toes. Sometimes she’ll write complex rock, but elsewhere she channels Homogenic-era Björk, minus the dance beats. Her most recent LP, 2014’s This Is My Hand, sneaks in some subtle funkiness and techno beats alongside indie-classical arrangements, orchestral breaks, and confessional lyrics. It’s an arresting combination that works surprisingly well.
Given her extensive résumé, Nova can entertain numerous possibilities for the new direction she will take under her new name. The fellowship she received from the Knight Foundation earlier this year allowed her to focus completely on the next My Brightest Diamond album, but she’s released no new material yet. In interviews, Nova talks about punk and socially conscious rap music and the need for music that expresses both the individuality and diversity of human experience, and she’s also been raving about a new, custom-built electric guitar. We’ll get a tantalizing glimpse at some of this material during her Saturday night concert as My Brightest Diamond, interspersed with material from her extensive catalog.
On Friday night, we’ll get a little more of the “old” Nova when she joins Sō Percussion for a performance of her song cycle, Timeline. Written in early 2015, the work was a collaborative creation between Nova and Sō in which the ensemble functions like a rock band, albeit a rock band that can handle the tightly interlocking rhythmic structures of minimalist music. Sō Percussion will also play music by Steve Reich and Bryce Dessner of The National. —Dan Ruccia