Friday, July 2, 2010

Music10 Composers 2

This post was written by composer Ted Goldman:

There are many places to play music over the summer, but not quite so many where one can take a trip to Mont Blanc with new found friends after the festival ends. That trip at the end of Music09 was just one of the (extra) musical experiences that led me to return this year. Spending two weeks and three meals a day with musical colleagues in little Blonay is like listening to a piece composed with a limited amount of material: it creates a highly focused and memorable impression and allows for rapid development in a short span of time. The materials of my last two summers

(photo by Lisa Moore)

at MusicX consisted of day hikes with my performers, conversational ping pong, and of course intense music making.

The latter activity was well represented in Wednesday night's Music10 composers' concert. Douglas Pew's En Los Muros De Arl├ęs contained a beautiful variety of marimba timbres: quiet tremolos created by rubbing the mallets between two keys, and unfocused woody sounds made from bamboo-sheave mallets, among others. These colors were arrived at in cooperation with percussionist Yu-Chun Kuo - one of the many sorts of collaborative experiences that make the MusicX environment rewarding.

I happily disagreed with the title of Maria Grenfell's piece These Dark Notes Drifting for two flutes, vibraphone, and piano. To the contrary, I found the piece very immediate, and the harmonic washes created by the piano and vibes made the dual flute lines glow.

Carrie Magin and Jordan Kuspa's pieces proved to be interesting, if unplanned, counterparts to one another. In Carrie's Shear Meridian, there was a constant implied pulse that was rarely articulated explicitly, yet jazzy syncopations against the pulse were quite audible and effective. In Jordan's Metronome, the pulse was an explicit agent, fighting against gestures that on their own would exist outside clear metric boundaries.

Much less pulsed was Michael Ippolito's Nocturne, which seemed to exist in a pre-dream state where quiet sounds and faint images were magnified into vividness. This dichotomy was made explicit at the climax of the piece, where vague, squiggly lines from the opening were combined with a big tune that had long been waiting to burst out.

Another piece combining disparate materials was Jennifer Jolley's Flight 710 to Cabo San Lucas, which presented dissociated funk motives alongside repeating cluster chords. The expectation that the two domains would coalesce created a tension that was never resolved, as the grooves and clusters cohabited without obvious interaction - perhaps like the passengers on a plane.

Jesse Jones' Four Bagatelles were like glimpses into the mind of a composer deciding which piece to write next. Each contained vivid ideas that dissolved just before the point at which they would need to evolve. I would love to hear more of the pointillistic quasi-ragtime of the first piece.

In a concert of strong pieces, the highlight for me was Paul Kerekes' Hail, which existed within a restricted palette of harmonic materials, textures, and gestures. Though the shortest piece on the program, it nevertheless presented and developed its ideas clearly and fully. In that regard, the music was like the festival itself: brief in duration, but long in memory.

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