The second concert of the 15th Other Minds Festival of New Music (OM 15) was held in San Francisco on March 5, 2010. In typical OM fashion the concert was a mix of both the old and the young, the established and the new. The evening featured two spatially immersive tape pieces by the young English composer Natasha Barrett, who incorporates ambient sounds, fragments of text, and carefully placed electronic sounds in her engaging acoustamitic compositions. Also heard this evening were two extended works for jazz trio composed by the legendary saxophonist Kidd Joradan and performed with the assistance of Warren Smith and William Parker. Completeing the program were two experimental classical compositions by Paweł Mykietyn, a Polish composer whose breathtaking works, with the assistance of Other Minds, are just beginning to reach the ears of an appreciative audience in the United States. The first work, for solo piano is performed by Eva-Maria Zimmermann, while the concluding string quartet is presented by those talented interpreters of contemporary classical music, the Del Sol Quartet.
Moblis in Mobili
The ocean’s physical nature, mystery, drama, mythology and concept have inspired art and culture throughout history and throughout the world. “Mobilis in Mobili” is the 8-minute central axis of the larger electro-acoustic work, “Trade Winds” (2004-06), and is inspired by this vast expanse of sea. The title “Moblis in Mobili is from “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne. “Several times, during various lulls of wind and sea, I thought I heard indistinct sounds, a sort of elusive harmony produced by distant musical chords...A few moments later, eight strapping fellows appeared... and dragged us down into their fearsome machine...we were suddenly plunged into darkness, utter darkness. The ceiling lights went out so quickly, my eyes literally ached...a sliding sound became audible. You could tell that some panels were shifting over the Nautilus’s sides...Suddenly, through two oblong openings, daylight appeared on both sides of the lounge. What a sight! What pen could describe it? Who could portray the effects of this light through these translucent sheets of water, the subtlety of its progressive shadings into the ocean’s upper and lower strata?” -- Natasha Barrett
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
Ballad for Trane
Two works for a jazz trio of saxophone, bass, and percussion by Kidd Jordan. The first work, “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” was reportedly conceived just a day or two before this concert, and is in no small part improvisatorial in nature, containing all the extended solos and integrated jams that are the hallmark of free-jazz. The second work, “Ballad for Trane,” was written on the day Jordan heard that John Coltrane had died, and it is a fitting elegy for the great musician, a bluesy, melancholic ode to times and people passed by. Like light seeping under a back alley barroom door and music wafting through a dusty transom window, the sounds of the tenor sax drifts up and mixes with the subtle patterning of bass and drums. The effect is that of evoking memories of late nights spent in the sanctum of smoke filled concert halls.
“Kernel Expansion” contains three interconnected sections and addresses the essence of sound in its rich multiplicity, ambiguity and schizophrenia. Sketches began by drawing on the sounds and language of the acousmatic tradition, attempting to relinquish the task of inventing a language from scratch and with the aim of freely exploring music. From these first musical sketches the language of the work began to emerge. Interior spaces and timbres invert into exterior spaces and allusions. Rhythm, articulation and pitch planes, embedded in naturally occurring materials evolve into controlled performances of instrumental nature: a drum resonance and the birds of the Mexican Golodrinas, the clearing of winter snow and the crush of a pestle and mortar. Dualities such as these are used to connect unrelated material until al sound condenses into a musical singularity. -- Natasha Barrett
“Epiphora” starts with something like a big bang, and out of it a chord crystallizes. This chord returns again and again throughout the piece, and sounds as if it originated both from outer space and from the inner womb. Interspliced with this “cantus firmus” are musical quotes from an earlier time that spiral, at one point twice around the entire circle of fifths, spinning the listener out of orientation, and ending finally (and repeatedly) on a bombastic D-Flat Major chord. The speaker tells us (translated from the Dutch): “But you are my mother, not, because that’s the order of things (because that’s life.) And he said to him: But you are my father, not because that’s the truth of things. He turned around and walked through the big door. They never saw him again.” -- Eva-Maria Zimmermann
String Quartet No. 2
“String Quartet No. 2” is a fantasy in microtonal harmonics. From the opening texture of quarter-tones woven in rhythmic pulses, the music moves through a series of hocketing arpeggiated melodic gestures, built largely from the eerie hollow tones of artificial harmonics, a technique where one finger stops the string and another creates a node of vibration on the same string. The interplay is succeeded by a series of melodies on individual instruments, often capturing an image of a pastoral tune played on a crude flute. Unexpectedly, in the final section, the feeling of ambiguity, of harmonically drifting, disappears in a burst of pure harmonic tones, like church bells ringing in the distance. The quartet ends with one last verse of hocketing quarter tones. -- Charlton Lee
Notes: “Kernel Expansion” was commissioned by and realized in, the studios of ZKM, with additional support from the Norwegian Cultural Council. “Epiphora” was commissioned by the Experimental Studio of Polish Radio and is dedicated to Maciej Grzybowski.” “String Quartet No. 2” was commissioned by the Festival of Polish Music for the Kronos Quartet. Works and the appearance of Paweł Mykietyn are presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute.
To see the full concert program guide go to: http://www.otherminds.org/shtml/OM15program.shtml