in: Reviews

November 20, 2011

Brilliant Close to Electroacoustic Festival

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“Sound in Space Festival: The Art of Interpretation of Electroacoustic Music” concluded with “North American Works” on Saturday evening, November20th at  the Fenway Center in Boston. The three-day festival included pairs of workshops, programs of Sound in Space competitions, and portrait concerts featuring the music of Daniel Teruggi and Ludger Brümmer. Links to related reviews and articles are on this page.

All works on tonight’s program were performed by the “Harvard University ‘Hydra’ Speaker-Orchestra” with Elainie Lillios, playing her own work, and Hans Tutschku, taking the console for his piece along with those of Gilles Gobeil and Stephen David Beck.

Stumbling Dance, writes its composer Elainie Lillios, “imitates life’s occasionally tumultuous progress—starting, stopping, lurching forward, and tumbling backwards.” Superbly timed zaps with an undercurrent of finely registered shaking culminated with the realistic recreation of a marble rolling towards us, making for a tightly and attractively constructed opening. The use of three major crescendos to delineate her overall scheme further intensified Lillios’ music. While making some structural sense, these crescendos substantively relied on insufficient material, though the third and longest took on minimalist techniques that did have some real building power.

Composer Gilles Gobeil writes of his work, “With Ombres, espaces, silences… (Shadow, Spaces, Rests…) I wished to revisit early polyphonic music” and in “the History of Christianity’s fascinating phenomenon — the hermits, or ‘Desert Fathers’.” Through a good portion of this vast, surrealistic canvas, those butterflies we feel in our stomachs surged and subsided over long stretches of time. The distant human voices, first appearing as Gregorian chant and later as early Western polyphony, alternated with weird cries from shadowy creatures. Wind, thunder, rain, footsteps, and other referential material deepened an already profound mystical vision of a world beyond. Hans Tutschku’s deeply affecting performance also demonstrated the “Hydra’s” distinctive capabilities of sound diffusion. I wish Beck’s remarkably evocative work were not quite so long.

The shortest work on the program, Unhinged, by Stephen David Beck, pursues “the interior of sounds, that being the micro-fluctuations of waveforms, transients and noise…an old elevator door slamming shut” being the 5-second audio sample on which the entire piece is composed. Glissandos and crescendos of squeaking doors are far too commonplace in electroacoustic music, and machinegun-like reports aimed directly at my ear from the right side of the one-time sanctuary space came as an assault.

The twenty-one minute electroacoustic work, Zwei Räume (Two spaces) composed and performed by Hans Tutschku on his “Hydra” featuring three rings of eight loudspeakers (small, mid-size, and large), was a display nothing short of brilliant and brilliance—the concept of diffusion made ever-so clearly, convincingly, and creatively. Tininess, dryness, crispiness, leanness, and spaciousness splayed through the rings of loudspeakers in a transfixing continuum.

Imaginative solutions to centering the composition, such as with a soprano, chime or other timbre remaining stationary in frequency rather than in duration, also freed the highly varied sounds to move not only spatially (around the room), but temporally (musical movement). Inventor, composer, performer Tutschku received truly appreciative rounds of applause from a highly informed audience.

The Reception and Composition Competition Awards Ceremony followed in the Goethe-Institut Boston. The winners are first place, Andrew Babcock; second place, Martin Bédard and third place Adam Basanta.

The festival was made possible by the Goethe-Institut Boston, the Cultural Services of the French Consulate Boston, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and was supported by the Elysée Treaty Fund for Franco-German Cultural Events in Third Countries.

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.

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