Attending a night of New Music at the Conservatory usually involves some change of role-play for the audience. Thursday night's composers recital began with "Word Disassociation" by Toshio Mana, where the audience was asked to recite a seven line poem in any way they wished with the house lights up. This idea proved unsuccessful, but only in the sense that none of the written text was used and audience members generally took to yelling, singing, screaming and discussing other unrelated topics.
Four works involving electronic music were spread intermediately, adding to the sonic diversity of the evening. Of these, Katherine Miller's piece, "Unidentified" was, according to the program, a "soundscape where gestures of communication and meaning pass through without letting the listener understand their actual intention or content."
Miller's choices of sound textures were extremely evocative-including fragments of smacking saliva-and seemingly tactile for the listener.
The computer was pulled to center stage, projecting a green blinking dot and the equation "^2y=0" for Joshua McFadden's "Dream for Six Hands and a Peon." A cleverly constructed study of decreasing entropy, "Dream..." was engaging to listen to even without the heady program notes, and-for a sine wave function-had an enormous groove on.
"Glasperlenspiel" by Patrick Aichroth grooved to a more insistent beat, threatening, initially, to slip into territory not unlike Enya. The piece quickly, yet artfully moved out of this zone and into many other wonderful places, rhythmically and sonically. Sections transitioned with ease and in a comfortable pace for this romantic computer rhapsody.
"Blue Waltz," written for trio and computer by Evan Gardner, was a stage-show highlight of the evening. Ruo Huang conducted the small ensemble with fluidity and self-suredness, adding hand motions that flapped faster than the tongue of the clarinetist.
Of the entirely human-performed works, Margot Bevington's "Let's Get Normal" charmed the audience with its witty text and beautiful accompaniment.
Micheal Kish's "Wave Form Layers" gave stage to one of the most awkward ensembles to watch; an electric guitar quartet and electric bass. The ensemble is not, however, an ear-sore, and Kish's rhythmic distribution to each instrument made a nice textural weave.
A refreshing aspect of a composers recital is the subservient attitude of the performers involved. The focus is material being presented, not the presenter's capabilities. It is common for the performer to jump up after a piece, give a slight bow and immediately recognize the composer. Such was the case in Natasha Ullman's performance of "Piano Piece for Beamer," a pretty minimalist work by Vincent Calianno.
"Nocturne," by David Reminick was performed by a very thoughtful, perceptive pianist, Letitia Stancu. Reminick's lyricism and lush chords were all carefully placed in Stancu's large color spectrum. Still as modest as the others, Stancu's attention to detail marked the evening.
Ending the show with loud, brassed jazz, "The Cleveland Orchestra" crashed the stage. In contrast to the rest of the night, these players came on hungry for the spotlight. Wound like a gyroscope, the group let loose on "Tea Shells," a simple tune with a snappy lilt.
As is the case with any large ensemble, balance can make or break the production, and the acoustics of Warner Concert Hall disregarded the Orchestra's intentions. Quiet sections featuring the rhythm section alone were the most successful, and the brass-however entertaining to watch-stole too much airspace, in general.
Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 127, Number 8, November 6, 1998
Contact us with your comments and suggestions.