IN: Reviews

Hypermusic Prologue an Outing to Be Avoided


Hypermusic Prologue at Pickman Concert Hall, Longy School of Music, Saturday, February 27, was given this advanced announcement on the Internet:

“Barcelona composer Hector Parra of the IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique organized by Pierre Boulez) in Paris, will perform a version of the popular Hypermusic Prologue at Longy in Pickman Hall on Feb. 27. Hypermusic Prologue is a unique project for intercommunication between science, music and art. The opera libretto was written by the prestigious theoretical physicist Lisa Randall of Harvard who is a member of Longy’s Board of Visitors. The work has been described as “one of the great achievements of European contemporary music in this century.” Parra also will conduct a master class during his Longy visit. The IRCAM is a European institute for science about music and sound and avant garde electro-acoustical art music.”

With some 30 members of the audience seated by 7:30 and ready for such intrigue, the program start became 7:40. With all lights turned out except for that at the podium, Randall then began her introduction. Someone in the audience asked if she could speak louder. But louder did not help much. With no programs or handouts—a very good thing for going green—titles, credits, an outline, was needed to know what was up and where we were going. Ms. Randall’s soft, quick delivery was difficult if not impossible to follow.

Following her introduction that included several excerpts from the opera, Hector Parra took over. On the big screen on stage, his first slide contained a diagrammatic maze about fricatives and the like. Continuing on, his explanation of how he was putting everything together became a maze to me.

Most telling, and I believe the readers have already gotten it from the announcement quoted above, this was one of those academic outings to be avoided. Name dropping at from the start of Randall’s intro was a clear signal. Excerpts cast on the big screen showed two of the opera’s characters, an orchestra, a conductor and some backgrounds mixed together something like the hyped cable TV news shows. The music itself seemed to have been written many years ago, over and over again.

David Patterson, Professor of Music and Chairman of the Department at U. Mass Boston for the past 15 years, was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award in Teaching and the Chancellor’s Distinction in Teaching Award. Also a composer, he lives in Watertown.

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  1. The delicious French word for this kind of event, assuming that it has been accurately decribed (and I have no reason to doubt) is “patronage.”

    Comment by Joel Cohen — March 2, 2010 at 9:41 am

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