Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jeff Kowalkowski Review of May 3 2009

"One Listener's Interpretation of May 03, 2009 at the Green Mill" by Jeff Kowalkowski

Arriving after the start of Timothy Edwards "Triptych" I was relieved to have escaped the noise of Uptown, bustling on a beautiful blue-sky day. Tim's piece (already 11 years old) reminded me of Jon Hassell, except with saxophone. The eloquent reverb was mesmerizing. I was mildly disappointed by the fade-out ending, which always seems to be the easiest way out of such beautiful textures, but the sound of the piece was other-wordly. I was immediately convinced that I was in the right place to hear music.

John Timothy Saunders "Akashira" --Imagine Poulenc or Milhaud with more cellular repetitions, and references to Japanese folk tableaux. I heard this piece about a month ago at the Chicago Flute Club concert, and I was very happy to hear it again at the Green Mill. The sound of the piece in different spaces has a huge impact on the end effect. The form is very strong and recognizeable. I enjoyed the soloist vs. trio that seemed to dominate the first and second movements. The third movement is a crowd pleaser, with textures of Mendelssohn. The performance by the Great Lakes Quartet was very inspiring, they are excellent floutists. I hope this piece will be recorded soon.

Noe Cuellar's "To Obverse" is among my favorite pieces from the program. The pacing fit my mood. It reminded me (vaguely) of Estonian organ pieces, slow and low, fundamental frequencies, difference tones. At moments it was John Bull, two part counterpoint, but played at a tempo very very slow, beneath any pulse or dance rhythm. There were also some Messiaen chords of "god" in there, is that accidental? The cue-card size score probably contained the harmonic changes to the tune. The harmonium seems to be a perfect instrument for the size/shape of the Green Mill, in terms of "listening room." And, Noe's performance was engaging and singular. Again, I refer to difference tones! The use of multifareous keyboard instruments is an identified course of action for the Green Mill series! We should do a keyboardist festival.

"Bone Metal Meditation" was my favorite piece of the afternoon. I find Charles Lipp's music to be compelling and full force. His knowledge of the woodwinds is unmatched. Combine that power-punch with smart percussion continuo: Steve Butters produced the unison four mallet ostinato between double bongo, cow bell, and wood block, with all attacks simultaneous, while Jeremy Ruthrauff (the best saxophonist in town) activates two distinct registers, sometimes colliding with the thin percussion, sometimes just slightly eliding attacks. This piece uses the absolute (maybe) full range of the Baritone Sax, with amazing timbral control. The piece seemed to be one single gesture, and as listeners we are moved through it, as if in slow motion. This piece definetly put me off-kilter more than any other today.

Julia Miller's "Princes" reminded me of street theater in Avignon. Everything the flute is not supposed to be able to do is done in this piece. There are excellent grooves, and modulation of the speaker's voice that only acoustic situations can produce, for example multiphonics and speaking through the tube. I am curious to hear how this piece is mastered after Trevor Wilcock records it. His performance abilities are extraordinary, the combination of his flute virtuosity and the immediacy of his narrative presentation are stunning. Julia, Trevor, will you add effects in post production or just do the straight-up?

"for many notes and many players" was also a highlight of the afternoon. Such a beautfiul sound, to have all the musicians (we the audience :) playing single tones. It made me think of opportunities for spatial configurations, for example using the organ behind the bar, and also placing musicians in every knook-and-krany of the Green Mill, playing some unified texture. The sound reminded me of some realizations of "December 1952" by Earl Brown that I have taken part in. I also must note that Rita Flynn played a mean ding-a-ling bell, and George Flynn rocked the nipple gong! Wow!

Placing musicians around the space seems to me a new (revived) field of inquiry for the Green Mill new music series. Or, we can just perform on boats out on the lake, like R. Murray Schafer. The score for this piece (an FFT plot transcribed into pitch and frequency notation) was NOT easy to read! Especially in the dark. I am not sure that the pitches matched what the musicians played, but the unfolding through the attempt seemed to be the goal here. Julia! What word(s) is your voice saying in this sample-plot printed on the cover of the program?

Guillermo Gregorio works with his "Madipieces" (a serious series) like an architect, because that's how he was trained. He speaks of concrete' intermezzo, and "romantically spirited percussion cadenzas." (comment by Bob Falesch). Joined today by Auris, this was yet another eloquent slice of the iconoclast composer's ongoing life-score. Gg needs a band to conduct! Gregorio's pieces do not have a beginning, middle, nor end. His scores are living organisms, and musicians amplify small portions of the stream, accidentaly interpreting the precise notations. There is no such thing as improvisation in these scores, (ironically!) The result is always a surprise pleasure to hear, with any ensemble, and I always feel Gregorio's music ends too soon. The man needs a band and a venue where he can perform for four hours or so.

Sharon Chung is an amazing violist and Jeremy Brunk: first-class virtuoso of marimba. Bravo!

Robert Falesch: "Verisaras"--This piece is the reason the Green Mill series is vibrant. The care taken in the recorded vocalists' recitation, the flashes of highly processed sounds that speed in and out of perception, the sound of rats talking, the excellence of the high pitched saxophone (again Ruthrauff, now doubling sopranino), crunchy-voice electronic, this is computer music at it's finest, by a computer programmer/poet! I think you should spend more time composing Bob!

To end this memorable Spring concert, Lisa Abbatomarco made-my-day with this tableaux of sounds becoming extinct (?). This work has so many layers, but the focus in this article is the sound. The form was very strong: Long first section only 3 voices, second section: thum thum thum of pedal, left left right right, hypnotic motion, is it a factory? The stage at the Green Mill looks awesome with the four performers engaged in their roles, and the lights on the sewing machines cast a calm glow. The sounds of this piece were eerily soothing, familiar, and also not familiar because these are ignored sounds, at least some of them are. Paper sounds, Twitching. This piece is a reminder that the theatrical aspect of stage performance cannot be ignored by contemporary composers. And, all sound(s) is/are available to the composer. This performance seemed Fluxus inspired, and also archival, in terms of the sounds chosen. Bravo Lisa!

Musicians! Composers! Please respond to my thoughts on this concert, I would certainly appreciate some opposing views! (or, hearings, or, opinions).......And, let me know if you want to get your music on the OCTOBER 25 concert.

Yours in musique,

Jeff Kowalkowski
musik critik

Saturday, May 2, 2009

NMGM May 3 Concert Program


Timothy Edwards - Triptych (1998) for alto saxophone and 2-channel digital audio
Andrew Carpenter, alto saxophone

John Timothy Saunders - Akashina
Great Lakes Flute Quartet

To Obverse
Noé Cuellar, harmonium

Charles Lipp - Bone Metal Meditation (2009)
Jeremy Ruthrauff, baritone saxophone
Steve Butters, percussion

Julia Miller - Princes
Trevor Wilcock, flute


Julia Miller - for many notes or many players
Auris + Guillermo Gregorio, clarinet, et al

Guillermo Gregorio - Madipiece #3 (Rodchenko Suite Part 2)
Auris + Guillermo Gregorio, clarinet

Alejandro Vinao - Khan Variations for solo marimba
Osvaldo Golijov - Mariel for viola and marimba
Sharon Chung, viola
Jeremy Brunk, percussion

Robert Falesch - Versirás
Jeremy Ruthrauff, sopranino saxophone and electronics

Lisa Abbatomarco - “Moot Distillation (thenow)”
a sound piece for 3 voices and 2 sewing machines
text extractions from the Encyclopedia Britannica #26 Macropaedia Knowledge in DEPTH. Construed, reconfigured, and some impressions of Gertrude Stein.
Lisa Abbatomarco
Maritza Bautista
Meredith Zielke
Judith Sample

NMGM - Mayfest

New Music at the Green Mill is happy to participate in the Mayfest sponsored by New Music Chicago. Following is an article on the festival by Wynne Delacoma in the Sun-Times.

MAYFEST showcases new music ensembles

May 1, 2009

It's a contemporary music festival literally waiting to happen.
Beginning Saturday and running through May 17, 11 of Chicago's new music ensembles will give 12 concerts in venues ranging from the Green Mill lounge in Uptown to the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown. New Music Chicago, an umbrella organization that fosters composers and ensembles devoted to contemporary music, has decided to link the concerts in a two-week MAYFEST extravaganza.

"MAYFEST grew out of all the new music concerts already planned by the members,'' according to Larry Axelrod of the Chicago Composers Consortium, a member group of New Music Chicago. "New Music Chicago is simply throwing a spotlight on ... new art music here.''
Chicago's contemporary music scene has grown steadily in the last decade. Talented young musicians have formed groups like ensemble dal niente, a five-year-old collective of 25 musicians whose repertoire ranges from Radiohead to Stockhausen, while established groups such as the Chicago Chamber Musicians have expanded their repertoire into the 21st century. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's MusicNOW series has primed the musical pump, and during any given week, local fans of contemporary music usually can find a concert to attend. The next two weeks, however, are unusually jam-packed.

Following is the festival lineup. Check each group's Web site for complete details.

7:30 p.m. Saturday: Chicago Composers Forum and ensemble dal niente. Acme Arts at St. Paul's 2215 W. North. New music by members of the Chicago Composers Forum and the Seattle Composers Alliance. $10-$15.
2 p.m. Sunday: New Music at the Green Mill. The Great Lakes Flute Quartet and other ensembles. Green Mill, 4802 Broadway. $5.
7:30 p.m. May 8: Chicago Chamber Musicians. Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago. Music of George Crumb and Rolf Wallin. $10-$25. Pre-concert talk with Wallin at 6:30 p.m.
6 p.m. May 11: Chicago Composers Consortium. 4933 N. Oakley. Cyber Victorian Parlor Concert. $5-$10.
5:30 p.m. May 12: Open rehearsal of Fulcrum Point New Music Project. Darnton and Hersh Violins, Stradivari Music and Arts Center, 30 N. Adams, Suite 1200. Free.
6 p.m. May. 15: Chicago Composers Forum. PianoForte Chicago, 410 S. Michigan. Experimental music performed by pianist Matthew McCright. $10-$15.
7:30 p.m. May 15: Contempo, the University of Chicago's new music ensemble. Fulton Hall, 1000 E. 59th St. Free.
8 p.m. May 15: New Music DePaul. DePaul Concert Hall, 800 W. Belden. Free.
7:30 p.m. May 16: Northwestern Contemporary Music Ensemble. Music on the theme of technology and nature. Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle, Evanston. $5-$7.
7:30 p.m. May 16: The Accessible Contemporary Music ensemble presents rags, stomps and stride music performed by pianist Reginald Robinson. Gottlieb Hall, Merit Music School, 38 S. Peoria. $5-$12.
2 p.m. May 17: The ensemble CUBE performs works by Samuel Barber, William Bolcom, Ralph Shapey and other composers in a concert featuring baritone Daniel Billings. Elizabeth Stein Co., 410 S. Michigan. $10-$15.
7 p.m. May 17: Maverick Ensemble. Music of Elliott Carter, Steven Stucky, Robert Sierra, Villa-Lobos and others. Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, 2320 W. Chicago. $15.

Wynne Delacoma is a local free-lance writer.