in: Reviews

October 3, 2010

Sound-Time Space with Dinosaur Annex at Brandeis

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Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble with Julian Pellicano, guest conductor, was at Slosberg Recital Hall, Brandeis University, Saturday, October 2. Here is a little of what transpired.

little bits by Stacy Garrop opened the concert. There were five “bits” beginning withSputter,” which could have passed for movie music. Fast furiousness from the piano of Christopher Oldfather and the clarinet of Katherine V. Matasy covered the violin and cello parts of Katherine Winterstein and Michael Curry. Continuing with “Crumbs,” stringed glissandos, tremolos, and pizzicatos, among other sounds, carried on in start-stop fashion. “Pithy” noisily sped ahead, too fast to figure out. Following along as though it were soundtrack, I seemed to have decoded a bit, even its cute ending. More textbook “extended techniques” appeared in the slow moving fourth bit, “Morsel.” To conclude, “Doubledare” moved aggressively with short-long piano power chords, streamed sound, rhythmic clusters. The clarinet at double — more likely triple — forte pierced the ear. For me, Garrop’s little bits were by and large inscrutable.

Four of the five of pieces were posted in the program as Boston premieres, the earliest composition dated 1999, the most recent 2006, Andrew Waggoner’s Soon, The Rosy-Fingered Dawn. Of some fifteen minutes’ duration, its two movements, Aubade and The Long and Winding Road, left the excruciating sound-time space of what came before and what was to come afterward. Omar Chen Guey, violin, Anne Black, viola, and Michael Curry, cello, assumed total technical control, never once making a display of their accomplishment to the audience. They drew us into their idiom which composer Waggoner reckoned with quite extensively in his writing. Extended techniques, they were not. A flash of harmony, American, maybe the seed was taken from Copland or Adams, and then fleet flourishes from extreme lows on the strings to  extreme highs, while baffling, did keep me on my toes asking, “What am I missing?” More so, some degree of kindness was conjured in Soon, The Rosy-Fingered Dawn. Perhaps an opportunity to take a breath somewhere? Hmmm. This music did not.

I only glanced at the program notes, trying instead to just listen. As with the first two pieces, I continued on, uninformed I suppose one could say, seeing, or rather hearing, what was transpiring with Dinosaur Annex’s choice of composers and works. Now, it was back to that sound-time space bred in the second half of the 20th century. The loud and louder screaming composition of Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, Trio-Variations, proved right off the bat that Slosberg’s concert hall can be too resonant. The shrill high-range flute and clarinet (B-flat and bass) from Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin and Katherine V. Matasy, respectively, joined the percussive piano of Christopher Oldfather, altogether producing a blurred result. It was too much for the hall. Also not knowing where the music is going is in keeping with the tenets of this sound-time space. Each one of us can make that call — thumbs up or down.

2, yes that is the title of Keeril Makan’s 1999 work. My listening was more informed thanks to the brief but helpful comments from the composer. Listen for twos, he advised. I especially took to his idea of having the violin, Katherine Winterstein, and percussion, Robert Schulz, shadow each other. Having just attended a concert of Middle Eastern music at the University of Massachusetts Boston earlier in the day, I believe, enabled me to spot the seeds or generators for 2. Its shadowing was not unlike the heterophony of oud and ney. That Makan put constraints on himself was obvious and made his piece stand out from all the rest, for better or for worse. Springing up one by one in longer and longer bursts following an overly long unchanging, simple and non-mesmerizing beat from both players, the music pushed forward. Before revealing itself further, though, a long, fast running melody, perhaps harkening to Turkish music, took us once again into the inscrutable. A surprisingly nasty and unexpected percussion sound ended the work. What could this have meant?

To end the concert with a punch, Melinda Wagner’s Wick for seven players punched and jabbed, caught a case of angst, recovered, then, volleyed more rounds of the same. An evening of sound-time space would not be complete without all the instruments scrambling to the same note — the unison! from which they then all long to break.

The composers, I imagine, would have been extremely pleased with the exceptional performances given by Dinosaur Annex. One other note: it was a relief to leave the hot, stuffy concert hall.

David Patterson, Professor of Music and former Chairman of the Performing Arts Department at UMass Boston,  was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award and the Chancellor’s Distinction in  Teaching Award. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier  Messiaen in Paris and holds a PhD from Harvard University. www.notescape.net

3 Comments

  1. This review lets the readers know little more than that the reviewer didn’t understand any of the pieces on the concert, and that he’d been in a concert hall that he thought was “hot and stuffy.”

    To him the first piece was “by and large inscrutable,” and the second “baffling.” We are treated to why he was baffled: “‘What am I missing?'” he asks. With respect to the third piece, the reviewer was “uninformed I suppose one could say,” but in the fourth piece his “listening was more informed thanks to the brief but helpful comments form the composer.” The comments must not have helped enough, though, because the last comment about this piece from the reviewer was: “What could this have meant?”

    Will someone else, who was at the concert and is capable of deciphering some of the music heard that evening, please give an account of the pieces?

    Comment by Harold Meltzer — October 4, 2010 at 7:26 pm

  2. That a reviewer as highly credentialed and open minded as David Patterson was baffled speaks volumes.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — October 4, 2010 at 7:52 pm

  3. What does it say except that a “highly credentialed and open minded” reviewer was baffled? And hot.

    Comment by Harold Meltzer — October 4, 2010 at 8:00 pm

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