On Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at 1.45pm, at the Grand Central Oyster Bar, Nonesuch President Robert Hurwitz told me he had a swell idea for a new album by The Magnetic Fields: an album marking my 50th birthday with 50 autobiographical songs. I had just completed a rigorously factbased minimusical for the radio show This American Life, and it seemed like an idea I could take further, with myself as the subject. So I started recording at my 50th birthday party— which I forgot to put on the album—and meant to finish in a year; I was seven months late. Most of the recording I did at home, as usual, with the plan to use 50 instruments, but I ended up playing twice that, and involving 13 other performers (who played 40 other instruments). The record also expanded into the past as I incorporated recordings from 30 years ago, and fragments of songs I wrote as a teenager. For the concert version I am working with some musicians I have known for decades (I met Shirley Simms when she was nine and I was 12) and some not (Quince Marcum I met a month ago; I don’t even know where he lives). But I expect us all to reunite for 100 Song Memoir, half a century from tonight. Possibly on Mars.
— Stephin Merritt, Composer, 50 Song Memoir
50 Song Memoir originally premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on December 2 & 3, 2016.
Produced with commissioning support from:
Barbican Theatre, UK.
Center for the Art of Performance, UCLA
Edinburgh International Festival