Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ecstatic Dances

Here's a post by composer Maria Grenfell. The photo is also hers.
An abundance of exciting contemporary flute music gave eighth blackbird flutist Tim Munro the grand idea of staging a concert at the Music 10 Festival featuring music written for flutes of many sizes and in various combinations.  The opening concert of the Festival on Monday 28 June, Ecstatic Dances, treated the audience to music by composers from Estonia, Australia and the USA.  With contrasting approaches to timbre and musical materials, the performance showcased the superb talents of the musicians at Music 10, whose dedicated approach to learning and performing new music is at the heart of this unique two-week collaboration between composers and performers.

Opening the program was UNCLOSE, by New York composer Hannah Lash, a participant at the Festival.  Written for soprano, two percussionists and piano, the piece featured a range of extended techniques for voice and piano, punctuated by scraping and sighing unpitched percussion sounds, silences, as well as the extraordinary voice of Lindsay Kesselman, who seemed to pluck high notes effortlessly out of nowhere and wove the syllabic text and vocalisations on the composer’s poetry in a performance that held the audience captive.

Helena Tulve is an Estonian composer from whose work “Soaring” for two flutists emerged a range of timbres such as humming while playing, co-ordinated breathing in and out, multi-phonics, harmonics, and changes of instruments.  Performed by Tim Munro and Kelli Kathman, the work seamlessly utilised the bass, alto, C flute and piccolo, making the most of extreme ranges and dynamics.  Ever with a sense of the dramatic, Tim Munro moved to the side of the room and without pause his colleague Pethrus Gärdborn began “Ecstatic Dances” by Australian composer Ross Edwards.  Written in his ‘maninyas’ style, it is a chirpy rhythmical piece which was effective in this spatial performance where the two flutists began on opposite sides of the room and gradually moved to the centre stage while continuing to play.

The final work on the program was “Music in Fifths” by Philip Glass.  Composed in 1969, this performance was an arrangement for three players, and its hypnotic minimalist style almost seemed old-fashioned, yet still keeping the audience enthralled at the stamina and cohesion of both the performance and the music’s subtle harmonic changes.  A flute concert was an out-of-left-field idea with which to begin a Festival.  Given the quality of music and performances, we look forward to the feast of music to come.

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