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David Lang’s ‘love fail,’ with Anonymous 4

A universal love story retold, tapping into ancient and modern texts to distill the myth of Tristan and Isolde.

The Latest Update

new video from the 2014 Bang on a Can Marathon!

Posted on August 14, 2014 by Cantaloupe Music

It took us a little extra time to get this one together, but we think it’s well worth the wait: a live clip of Anonymous 4 performing “Head, Heart” at the Bang on a Can Marathon this past June. Take a look and please leave your comments — we want to hear from you!

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The New York Times gushes…

Posted on June 26, 2014 by Cantaloupe Music

“Earlier on Sunday, Mr. Lang had been represented by sections of his medievally inflected ‘love fail,’ its radiant harmonies captured by the vocal quartet Anonymous 4…”

Read the full NYT account  of this past weekend’s Bang on a Can Marathon here: http://nyti.ms/1lrCjg4

We hope to post a video clip of Anonymous 4’s performance very soon — stay tuned!

iTunes preorder now live!

Posted on May 13, 2014 by Cantaloupe Music

As Anonymous 4 announce their last season, the iTunes preorder for love fail goes live (we swear, we didn’t time it this way — it just happened!):


David Lang weighs in: “With the medieval supergroup calling it quits, I am so honored that I was able to sneak in there towards the end and get the chance to work with these amazing musicians — to write my piece love fail for them, to tour it with them, and to record it with them. Ruth, Marsha, Susan, and Jacqui — on behalf of music lovers around the world, we miss you already!”

Stream “I live in pain” from love fail, coming May 27!

Posted on May 8, 2014 by Cantaloupe Music

Here’s an advance taste of one of the more poignant pieces from love fail, set for release on Cantaloupe Music on May 27. We’ll have more news very soon about an NYC release event with Anonymous 4, as well as their forthcoming appearance at the Bang on a Can Marathon on June 22. As always, stay tuned!

Master delivered!

Posted on April 1, 2014 by Cantaloupe Music

The estimable Jody Elff, who has worked with everyone from Laurie Anderson to the Hothouse Flowers to the Bang on a Can All-Stars, has just finished mixing and mastering love fail, and we’re rushing to hold to an official release date in late May.

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peak at the cover art from our graphic designer Denise Burt. We’ll be posting an advance listen to one of the pieces on our Soundcloud page soon, with more news about a release event with Anonymous 4 — stay tuned!


Composed by David Lang — Carnegie Hall’s 2013–2014 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair — love fail is a meditation on the timelessness of love that weaves together details from medieval retellings of the story of Tristan and Isolde with stories from more modern sources, and honors renowned vocal quartet Anonymous 4‘s longstanding commitment to medieval music with the direct, contemporary approach for which Lang is admired. The all-female quartet is acclaimed worldwide for combining historical scholarship with their singular and magical sound.

The music and libretto pull together narratives of love from such sources as Lydia Davis, Marie de France, Gottfried von Strassburg, Béroul, Thomas of Britain and Richard Wagner. love fail was commissioned by The Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 2012 Next Wave Festival, The International Festival of Arts & Ideas, The John F. Kennedy Center Abe Fortas Memorial Fund, The Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, The Wake Forest University/Secrest Artists Series, and Hancher Performances at the University of Iowa.

Since 2012, the piece has been presented at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas (Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven, CT), UCLA’s Royce Hall, and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 2012 Next Wave Festival. Reviewing the BAM performance for the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini wrote: “It was Mr. Lang’s music, and the ethereal, pure-toned singing of Anonymous 4, that claimed me in the first section of the piece, which begins with the line ‘he was a blessed man.'”

David Lang reflects further on the story behind love fail:

“Why is it that people still like the story of Tristan and Isolde? It has been told repeatedly for almost 1000 years, in many different versions, with all manner of strange details added or changed. “The greatest love story ever!” But why? Of course, there is excitement, drama, love, lust, shame, death, dragons. I think the real reason why is because the love of Tristan and Isolde begins by accident— they drink a love potion. They didn’t mean to drink it, and they didn’t mean to fall in love. They drink and—BAM!—it starts. It is almost a laboratory experiment into what love might be like without any of the complications of how real love begins or works—without the excitement, embarrassment, frustration, guilt or competition present in the courtships of ordinary people.

I thought I might learn something about love if I could explore this in a piece, putting details abstracted from many different retellings of Tristan and Isolde next to texts that are more modern, more recognizable to us, more real.”

Project Media

love fail (interview clip)
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David Lang and Anonymous 4’s Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek discuss the inspiration behind love fail and the final preparations for the 2012 premiere at the Yale Repertory Theatre.

head, heart
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Features: David Lang

Pre-mix from the forthcoming studio recording of David Lang’s love fail, featuring Anonymous 4. Slated for release in 2014 on Cantaloupe Music.

the wood and the vine
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Features: David Lang

Pre-mix from the forthcoming studio recording of David Lang’s love fail, featuring Anonymous 4. Slated for release in 2014 on Cantaloupe Music.

Start and End Dates



New York, New York

5 updates
Last update on August 14, 2014

Project Created By

Brooklyn, New York
CANTALOUPE MUSIC is the record label created and launched in March 2001 by the three founders of New York’s legendary Bang on a Can organization — composers Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe — with Bang on a Can’s managing director Kenny Savelson. The label has exerted a profound impact on the new music community,…

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Composer & producer
New York, New York


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