On our screens came Celebrity Series At Home, with a Neighborhood Arts outing by the much-touted Hub New Music, a mixed quartet self-described as “a little unique.” Michael Avitabile, flute; Alyssa Wang, violin; Nicholas Brown, clarinet; and Jesse Christeson, cello, world-premiered compositions of Natalie Diettrich, Shaw Pong Liu, Dai Wei, and Eric Nathan. Hub spokespeople believe that the music “really tests the listener and player to expand into every corner of raw emotion and technique.”
Just perusing Celebrity’s first-rate online “Listening Local” booklet will surely re-tune memories of attending many fine and varied live programs pre-Covid19. During the pandemic, videographers have increasingly become a concert fixture.
Quoting Hub: “I think a real advantage with the streaming concerts we are doing now is that it gives audiences to see aspects of the performance that they haven’t seen before, so we can get really close inside the ensemble, you can see someone cuing another player, or just like the movement of a bow, or Nick and I just kinda’ gesturing to one another, and sometimes you just don’t get that from the distance of the stage.”
Loop Lab shot the program conservatively, casting Hub in a Masonic Hall cum recording studio, with architectural elements quietly lit up in alternating purple and green columns, and seemingly celebrating mics, cables and technical accoutrements. Julia Louida called the shots with a clear purpose but relaxed affect. The venue, Futura Productions, developed and once owned by the late BSO flutist Fenwick Smith, is familiar to many musicians for its spectacular acoustics and usefulness as a recording studio.
Hub New Music displayed its conversant powers throughout all four premieres; the youthful-leaning communiqués positively invited recognition. Hub’s unflinching attentiveness to the composers’ musical quests should be a call to the ambitions of a younger generation of composers.
Natalie Diettrich writes about her Dendrochrone as motivated by “the science of dating tree rings” and “thinking about the parallels between nature and human experience.” Birdlike chirping in minimalist modality, wavelike phrases ebb and flow. Countrylike with maybe a glance of an old reed organ. Two different tempos. Welcoming music.
On How the Stars Vanish… Dai Wei writes, “This piece is based on my observation and imagination of the stars.” Slower action at times reminiscent of Japan’s imperial music, Gagaku. Strings glissandos, harmonics, a piccolo, flutter-tongues and tremolos, perhaps the stars are in procession, twinkling, and then, toward the end, they appear as grinding pulsars.
Celebrity Series commissioned Scenes from Surreality by Shaw Pong Liu. The two scenes are “Surreality,” that is “life as surreal at the beginning of the quarantine,” and “Primary Emotion,” referring to “my discovery that my familiar companion, anger, was actually a second emotion hiding deep wells of sadness.” Raw emotion shows up with a changeover to bass clarinet and fast quartet patter. The composer’s sound-sphere is a travelogue often busy and somewhat chaotic; gypsy, bluesy, Middle Eastern, vocalizing sotto voce as in magical incantations. Air blown through the wind instrument…the disembodied?
For his seven pieces, Eric Nathan’s Missing Words VI adopts newly created German words with comparable English words with explanations. For examples, Betttrug (Bed-Deception) “The fleeting sense of disorientation on waking in a strange bed” and Dilennystagmus (Hallway-Nystagmus) “Repeatedly catching and avoiding people’s gazes, when, say, approaching them down a long corridor.” Now, echoes of Gagaku’s Shō (mouth-organ) mix with knotted boxed rhythms wanting out. Beethoven emblems pop up. Here a silly ending, there a scary ending. Nathan possesses deft craft and a sonic industriousness.
An encore! Shaw Pong Liuk’s Carb-y “is my first funny piece and I hope listeners will laugh!” Tune in to find out what the title might mean, clues: a little menu, a drone with some more Hub patter, “yum” for one.
Streaming Thursday, March 11th through Sunday, April 11th HERE