Sunday, November 19, 2006

BoCo New Music Festival 2006: Day 3

Last night was the Ludovico Ensemble, TBC's student-run new music group, chance to expound on the lasting tendrils of Webern's influence. The theme of "Brevity, Quietness, The Aphoristic" seemed even a little more tenuous than the Argento Ensemble's proposal. (Also, aphoristic? Aphoristic music? Apparently this is also the New Words Festival.) This program was built around the tag team of John Cage and Morton Feldman, presumably linked by their fateful meeting after Webern's Symphony. Both of these guys are certainly known for their daring use of silence, even if Cage's boldest maneuver as such as been commandeered by stuffy establishmentarians into comedy.

The Feldman concentrated mainly on his middle period of surrendering to the performer the duration of the notes while strictly dictating the other three traits of the note. However, ever for the new music nutcase such as myself this makes for a very trying concert. Almost more so because the various ensembles knew what they were doing. Unlike minimalism that slowly but constantly unfolds before us, with these pieces all of our time was spent in anticipation. It's a stressful and unfamiliar place to be.

The Cage pieces selected were a little unusual, given the theme. His song The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs is certainly brief and a high point of the concert. Did he write other songs using a closed piano? It's a fantastic sound world. The first half closed with selections from his crowd-pleaser Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano. I'm not sure where Webern showed up here, but it's a pretty sweet sound world too.

The night closed with a more recent work, See, Even Night by Marti Epstein. This followed Feldman's school of gentle quite and looked forward towards the more prodigious lengths of his later works. It was only half an hour, not a million billion years. The programming seems a little confused but as with the festival thus far everyone brought their A-game. With a concert as such it's a fine line between obnoxious intrigue and being boring as shit. Big ups to blogginist Matthew Guerrieri for connecting the wisps of Feldman's Three Pieces for Piano into a beautiful, if taxing, performance. Sorry about my phone going off, this is seriously the only concert where vibrate mode isn't good enough.

The festival finishes with Harvard's White Rabbit ensemble, their ringmaster Eric Hewitt also happens to run the Wind Ensemble around these parts. Then I will finally post the next round of the tournament and get some sleep.

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