A Beautiful and Moving Piece of Music:
Yet another review in the form of a hastily and poorly written sonnet
A brief but rich evening I saw unfurl
With work by the composer David Lang
The story of the little matchstick girl
Within Mint Gallery, Kinnara sang
Delivering such beauty in large dose
For any hungry soul, no better food
Bass and tenor by Berlanga and Klose
The high notes sung by Yang Temko and Rood
From Herron’s hands, accompaniment sounds
Percussion simple and so sweetly played
The music echoed through the space around
The story of the girl was thus conveyed
Escape from suffering through flames divine
Told through sounds both beautiful and sublime
Bent Frequency and the Georgia State Center for Collaborative and International Arts brought composer Sarah Hennies to Atlanta for a brief residency that included a couple of pretty amazing concerts of her music. Friday night’s concert was held at Plaza Theatre and featured Contralto for video and chamber ensemble consisting of violin, viola, cello, double bass, and a variety of both traditional and novel percussion instruments. The video features eight transgender women going through a series of vocal exercises that are designed to help transwomen feminize their voices. The women are featured one at a time and the only time that their voices overlap are moments when Hennies mixes the sound of them singing their highest or lowest notes together to create a chord. The live ensemble served as a sort of accompaniment, the effect making me think of the relationship between a piano accompaniment and the soloist in a sonata. And I don’t know exactly why it made me think of a sonata rather than a cantata despite featuring human voice. Perhaps in the way that it was edited, the film felt a little more like an instrument being played by Hennies (as editor) than a chorus or series of vocal soloists.
The problem with liking new music in Atlanta is that concerts are often held in spaces with no climate control. Yesterday’s YInMn Project new music festival organized by Cassidy Chey Goldblatt was held in one of the galleries at Whitespace Gallery. While it’s a lovely space and its location in Inman Park likely provided the inspiration for the festival’s name (the blue chemical compound YInMn is a homophone of Inman), the gallery provided no cooling on a humid, sticky day that reached 90˚F. For ventilation, the gallery was left open to the property’s lovely courtyard, which is wonderfully well protected from any errant breezes that might try to invade it. So, sweaty, salty, and sticky, I sat for 6 ½ hours or so listening to six ensembles do an excellent job playing a wonderfully varied array of music. With the exception of one of the ensembles, there were no printed set lists and the heat slowed my poor brain down too much to note what the musicians said, so below are my general impressions of each set with only a few pieces mentioned by name.
I very nearly missed the Emory Percussion Symposium concert last night because I managed to overlook the little note in the email that said that we’d need to enter the Schwartz Center from the rear and come into Emerson Hall from back-stage. Fortunately, I saw a few people walking that way and started following them and, fortunately, they were going there, too. It was a good concert, so I’m glad that I didn’t give up and go home.
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.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that my favorite pieces on a program of new music were all over thirty years old. Then again, I am also over thirty years old and I’m your favorite, right? Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed Neophonia’s “Tête-à-Tête” at the Rialto last night. It was a woodwind-heavy program with fewer works by French composers than I’d have expected for a concert that was part of France-Atlanta 2017. With two world premiers and some very engaging music and should have been much better attended given the fact that it was free. Then again, maybe people wanted to steer clear of anything involving the French embassy after the French government’s Romani ethnic cleansing program at the beginning of this decade.
This evening, in the back-room of Orpheus Brewing, Chamber Cartel presented us with an hour of sonic grace in the form of a fantastic performance of Xenakis’ piece for six percussionists, “Pléïades.” The slightly different kit for each of the six percussionists were arranged in a very large V that encompassed two rows of audience seats in the same shape except for one short row at each end that was perpendicular to the V, like dimples on a smile. I had the good fortune to sit at the tip of the audience’s V, such that I had two performers in front of me, two to the side, and two behind, absorbing me in a dramatic 6.0 surround sound experience. Each of the four movements of the work has different instrumentation and Xenakis suggested two different orders for the movements. The Cartel played a reversal of the first suggested order: Peaux (skins), Claviers (keyboards), Métaux (metals), and Mélanges (mixtures). Unlike the previous concerts in this series, the price of admission didn’t include tickets for beer tasting but they did include earplugs, which were absolutely necessary.