Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Concert Review: Seattle Composers Salon, 3/3/2017

"The Seattle Composers’ Salon fosters the development, performance and appreciation of new music by regional composers and performers. At bi-monthly, informal presentations, the Salon features finished works, previews, and works in progress. Composers, performers, and audience members gather in a casual setting that allows for experimentation and discussion. Everyone is welcome!" from the Seattle Composers Salon website

Sheila Bristow: Two Songs
Mystical lyrics, translated from Medieval texts by Sheila herself – she commented that it was good to be able to take the same meanings but tweak the rhymes to work in a song setting. The music was beautiful, deliberately simplified (melodies over ostinati, though both were often elaborated upon to flow with the text), modal (I recognized one of the modes from Hildegard’s chants – H. was the author of the first text) and very classical (in a Hovhaness mood) with soprano, ‘cello, and piano. A contemplative introduction to the evening’s concert.

S. Eric Scribner: Tree and Stone, performed with The Sherványa Nocturnal Music
Carol Levin, Keith and Karen Eisenbreys, and I performed two of my aleatory pieces at the same time. Or rather, we played one while the audience played the other. “Tree and Stone” (the audience piece) was the “artificial remix” of the piece that we played last summer at Volunteer Park; shaking pieces of partially shredded paper substituted for shaking tree branches, and knocking on the chairs substituted for hitting stones together. The result “sounded more treelike than the original” according to one participant. The other piece goes with my novel “Tond”, and is a form of indigenous classical music of the (imaginary) Sherványa civilization. Bug guitar (“baby kora”) and detuned ukulele formed a microtonal background for quiet modal shifting of melodic fragments. There will be a much longer version of this piece played (at the same venue) next September, hopefully corresponding to the release of Book Three of Tond (in which a performance of this music is part of the plot).

Ivan Arteaga’s band ComManD: Thaumaturgy
Interactive digital music at its finest. Sax, percussion, and a dancer mixed with the electronics in a collaborative way – the dancer, for example, had sensors on her wrists and ankles that transformed the sounds as she moved, so the music was composed by the dance as much as for it. There were two sections; the first omitted the sax and the second (mostly) omitted the percussion, but they worked together to form a twelve-minute whole. Ivan seemed to be the spokesperson, and commented at length about the use of electronics and how the software was written by the performers. ( “At length”, is not a negative comment here; it was fascinating, if arcane, and the audience members kept asking more questions.) I didn’t get the names of the other performers, but would like to hear (and see) all of them again.

Blake Degraw: Electronic Quartet for Humans
Extreme saxophony often abruptly cut short. A quartet of saxes, arrayed around the room, wailed and screamed in perfect synchrony, starting and stopping instantaneously or in layers. The “electronic” part was actually audio cues in headphones that the performers wore; but the effect of the music was that of a highly amplified electronic quartet: one sound, for example, would begin at point A and then travel around the room, processed into other sounds. “Interactive” in the way that Ivan’s piece was, and an interesting reversal – in the past, electronic sounds have been used to imitate (imperfectly) acoustic instruments. Here is the reverse, and it’s fascinating.

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