Bent Frequency: Lines, Broken

Last night’s Bent Frequency concert, “Lines, Broken,” was among the best that I’ve had the pleasure of attending. Originally scheduled to be held at Eyedrum’s downtown space, because of the fire it was held at the First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta in Candler Park. I recall how the space seemed to mute the sound somewhat at a Chamber Cartel performance that I attended there back in 2015 but, for some reason, the sounds of last night’s performance resonated throughout the intimate venue quite well.

The program began with Elainie Lillios’ “Hazy Moonlight” for soprano saxophone, percussion, and electroacoustic sounds. The parts for sax and percussion were very interesting and enjoyable, but the electroacoustics sounded like nature sounds from a really bad noise machine and they never really meshed with the purely acoustic portions of the piece in a satisfying way for me. Because of this, the performance felt somehow more enjoyable than the piece itself was.

This was followed by the evening’s guest artist, soprano Rebekah Alexander, performing John Cage’s “Aria with Fontana Mix.” Like much of Cage’s work, the piece is designed to allow numerous factors to change how it comes out. In this case, the score is a bunch of colorful, curvy lines that the performer may interpret as they see fit. There are also a series of 16 black squares that denote “non-musical” vocal noises. The Fontana mix is an four channel electroacoustic tape that Cage has used with a number of his compositions. Prior to performing, Alexander gave an introduction to the work and showed the score to us. Her performance of the piece was a lot of fun. I loved how all of the desperate sounds came together to form a kind of anomalous whole and her approach was definitely engaging.

Taking its name and inspiration from Niloufar Talebi’s translation of Nader Nadepour’s Persian poem entitled “Point and Line,” John Liberatore’s “a line broken, traced” was like a very enjoyable journey scored for alto sax and percussion. The first movement was really interesting to me as I got an impression of tripping or stumbling without it being reflected in the rhythmic patterns of the percussion.

Closing the program was a selection of five movements from “Tombstones” by Michael Pisaro: New Orleans; Tombstone; Why; It Doesn’t Matter; and Time May. Each had a small snippet of a lyric from other songs sung by Alexander with accompaniment of piano, baritone saxophone, percussion and, in the first movement, bowed piano strings. This was more beautiful than I had expected from the program notes. Each piece was like a memorial to the idea behind some song represented by just the lyric fragment. I found that concluding with Time May, using a line from David Bowie’s “Changes”, was very satisfying: it sounded lost and confused, almost like it was struggling to find its way back into relevance.

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