|Sample Live Performances
Beebop Tango by Frank Zappa
arr. by Geoffrey Burleson, piano
Grand Sonata by Michael Sahl
Mary Rowell, violin; Geoffrey Burleson, piano
Ten Children by Michael Lowenstern
|Concerts & Events
•Dinner in Tribeca
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New Music for New Ears
Afterward, I headed downtown for the first concert of the fifth Tribeca New Music Festival, mounted by composer Preston Stahly's New York Art Ensemble in the cozy Flea Theater. (Performing on the set of a current Off Off Broadway production, the musicians seemed to be playing in someone's living room.) This evening's installment, titled "Generation-Y," was devoted to music by emerging composers in their 20s and 30s. The first work on the program, Michael Brown's Echoes of Byzantium, was inspired by Yeats's poem Sailing to Byzantium. A still, hushed opening based on Byzantine chant opened into a lush, modal reverie, confidently handled by violinist Wayne Lee and pianist Yalin Chi. Pieces of Things, by Matthew Briggs, presented an animated conversation for percussionists Gregory Landes and Dave Roth, who seemed to complete one another's sentences as they paired on marimbas, triangles, crotales, woodblocks and bongos. Briggs, a percussionist, writes boldly for his instrumentarium; some passages were clearly almost impossible to execute. Landes and Roth did an altogether laudable job of managing the composer's challenges.
Pianist-composer Sebastian Chang played six of his twelve Etudes for Piano, each of which was based not on a standard key signature, but rather on a trichord built on a root note and two additional pitches -- for example, the opening piece, "Soliloquy (025)," was based on a chord built from a root note, the note two pitches higher, and the note five pitches higher than that. Performing with no score and lights lowered, it was easy to imagine that Chang was freely improvising his six intricate miniatures, which summoned in equal measure impressions of Debussy, Prokofiev, Nancarrow and Keith Jarrett. Listening to his profusion of stream-of-consciousness melodies and counterpoint, you couldn't help but smile along with the performer as he visibly enjoyed his own prowess at tricky fingerings and cross-handed passages. Someone should pass along Chang's e-mail address to Lang Lang, quick.
Robert Farren's Climix "Redux" was something of a live remix of an earlier work for solo cello, performed here by violist Daniel Stewart as the composer tweaked his sound with an impressive array of vintage rock-guitar effect pedals and other implements. The manner in which these two players interacted onstage -- particularly the way Farren lurched and swooned as he punched buttons and turned knobs on a foot pedal -- was something you'd sooner expect to see during a set of improvised noise at Brooklyn's No Fun Fest; still, it was easy to discern the handsome contours of the composer's original conception, and the electronics added rich resonances.
The concert ended with the evening's most substantial piece, Judd Greenstein's Sonata for Cello and Piano. Performed by cellist Jody Redhage and pianist David Hanlon, the work was cast in three movements -- reportedly at the insistence of Greenstein's teacher at Yale, Martin Bresnick. The repeated melodic cells of the opening movement, subtitled "(sometimes I imagine)," hung in stasis, suggesting a sort of spiritual inertia. In the second movement, "(she is still)," surging triplets and sextuplets attempted to provoke some kind of development. Surprisingly, the finale resolved into a soulful gospel melody -- a boldly direct resolution for so mysterious a piece. Redhage demonstrated exceptional technical command in managing Greenstein's ghostly melodies, and Hanlon lent the piece a handsome flow. (You can hear two different performances of the piece by downloading MP3s from Greenstein's website, here.)
New York Times
'Emerging Avant-Pop': From Charles Ives to Frank Zappa
By ALLAN KOZINN
That description is a bigger catchall than it might at first seem: at the Sunday evening performance by the violinist Mary Rowell and the pianist Geoffrey Burleson it included Charles Ives's "Three-Page Sonata" (1905) and Vincent Persichetti's Sonata No. 12 (1982): arguably avant, in their day, and pop, after a fashion, but hardly emerging.
Still, both works are couched in complex rhythms, with attractively simple melodies sometimes swimming through them. And Mr. Burleson played them with the energy and passion of a jazz player at the densest moment of a solo. He brought a similar power, as well as an improvisatory imagination and a few minor sound effects (knocking on the piano, giving the strings a couple of strums) to Frank Zappa's "Bebop Tango."
Ms. Rowell's solo moments included a sweetly angular "Elegy" (2005) by Carol Alban and "Try to Believe," a short but wide-ranging score for violin and computer by Randall Woolf. Ms. Alban's work, originally for flute, is a memorial to the victims of Hurricane Katrina and was expanded for Ms. Rowell. The violin version has passages in double stops that, at least as Ms. Rowell played them, evoke Cajun fiddling.
Mr. Woolf's work, a movement from a set called "Bodegas," puts the violin against an electronic drumbeat and samples originally played, hip-hop style, on turntables and included in the computer track. There are few boundaries here: Minimalism morphs into a dense, electric blues solo and then into a single line that has the character of a Bach prelude.
The works that Ms. Rowell and Mr. Burleson played together were Michael Sahl's Grand Sonata and Preston Stahly's Three Pieces for Violin and Piano. They have elements in common. Both allude to a competing pair of Romantic traditions: long-lined, lyrical melodies, particularly for the violin, and overt virtuosity for both instruments. Both also reach into pop music's rhythmic arsenal, with Mr. Sahl pulling out tight syncopations for his sonata's closing Rondo, and Mr. Stahly using pointed jazz rhythms in his opening movement, and something closer to the insistent energy of rock in the last two.
The Tribeca New Music Festival continues with a piano recital by Kathleen Supové, on May 14, and a performance by the Electric Kompany, on May 21, at the Flea Theater, 41 White Street, Lower Manhattan, (212) 234-4325.