IN: Reviews

A Mother and an Artist 


On Sunday afternoon at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum the touring project, “Diametrically Composed,” displayed a collection of newly commissioned works featuring flute, voice, and piano, the trio of Allison Loggins-Hull, Alicia Hall Moran, and Gabriela Martinez rendering depictions of today’s women. The ring of this Calderwood Hall had museum-goers on alert to explore “the duality of being a mother and an artist”—music made by moms, as they sometimes simply describe themselves.

Well under 60 minutes, 14 titles, four composers, three performers mostly microphoned, this program did not come up short addressing motherhood. Every now and then, a poignant line spoken by various pre-recorded voices or sung live by Moran reached out to receptive listeners. Calderwood, though, was by no means at capacity. The elegantly dressed trio had to have caught the eye yet in limited ways the ear. Throughout the brief encounter, sound was at the forefront, this note or that from the trio each having a life of its own. The same could not be said about the words, too many were concealed in an abundant sumptuousness of soundmaking.

Some of the pieces were quite short and some only a bit longer, none of any major length. The 14 compositions, five by Loggins-Hull, six by Moran, and one each by Sarah Kirkland Snider, Paola Prestini, and Jessica Meyer, followed one another without intervening applause or an intermission. There were exceptions, first when applause spontaneously broke out and another prompted by a piece that itself had the trio rhythmically clapping. One may have wondered if the tepid applause at the conclusion of the “project” was due to the uniformity of music, the performance, or both.

The titles of pieces, Ready or Not, Smile, Vulnerability [interlude], Parallel Play, Challenges [interlude], Driving, did not always help with mapping one’s way through the trio’s program, neither did the often-brief pauses between the pieces. Furthermore, no printouts of the song texts were provided. It was difficult to find in the music of these composers their drawing vital energy from being moms. Astonishingly absent was feeling.

Stylistic Americanisms, reliability on a limited range of harmonic design, go-to minimalism tendencies, mic-making alterations, especially in the upper registers of the flute and piano, the vocalist acting out opera-like the songs’ words, and the overall lack of organic energy suggest a rethinking of the mother-artist project as it was presented at the Gardner. Beyond the brochure’s proclamations, catching the compositional and the maternal duality in concert, remained, disappointingly, elusive.

Yet the trio of moms’ assiduous soundmaking clearly mirrored their extensive credentials. Allison Loggins-Hull, flute, electronics, and leader, Alicia Hall Moran, voice, and Gabriela Martinez, piano, have garnered acclaim as performers with many prestigious organizations at major venues.

David Patterson, Professor of Music and former Chair 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. He is the author of 20 Little Piano Pieces from Around the World (G. Schirmer).



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