Monday, November 17, 2014

Festival of New American Music

Every year for 37 years my alma mater Sac State hosts the Festival of New American Music.  I attended all or part of 3 concerts.

November 10

Michael Norsworthy, clarinet
David Gompper, piano

I attended performances of:

SchiZm (1993-94) in two movements for piano and clarinet by Derek Bermel
It goes without Saying for recording and clarinet by Nico Muhly
Traceur for piano and clarinet by David Gompper, the pianist here.

Nico Muhly is famous by now since his opera Two Boys played at the Metropolitan Opera last season.  The important thing about his piece is that the recorded sounds were all made in his kitchen.  I assume that means his synthesizer was in the kitchen.

It's nice to hear what's going on, but for me the loud, harsh sounds produced on the clarinet were just a bit too ugly for me.

November 12

Fidelio Trio
Darragh Morgan, violin
Deirdre Cooper, cello
Mary Dullea, piano

This is an Irish piano trio with their own web page who play a wide variety of repertoire.  I stayed for the entire concert.

Piano Trio (1985) by Charles Wuorinen
Trio II (2003) in four movements by John Harbison
Blackberries (2007) by Elena Ruehr
Typical Music (2000) by Evan Ziporyn

Harbison is the composer of the opera The Great Gatsby. Wuorinen composed the recently streamed Brokeback Mountain

The last two composers were at the concert.  I felt that only Elena Ruehr achieved the sonority associated with a piano trio.  Many of the composers didn't seem to understand that all three players should play at once most of the time.  Why call it a piano trio if it's just three people playing solos in turn?

Evan Ziporyn has composed for gamelan and only recently returned to western music.  The Asian influence was apparent.

November 16

Glass & Blood
Chase Spruill, violin
Michael Riesman, piano

Michael Riesman is a Philip Glass enthusiast who has arranged this music from movie sound tracks for violin and piano.

I stayed for

Suite from The Hours for violin and piano (2002/2014)
Suite from Candyman for violin and piano (1992/2014)

The Hours is not a horror movie, and the music was standard serene Glass noodle music.  You know what I mean--noodle noodle noodle noodle....

Candyman is serious horror, and the music expresses it.

I discussed briefly with a friend at intermission.  It is always surprising to me that the music of Glass expresses so much more than the actual notes would lead you to believe.  I remember that he studied with Nadia Boulanger and cannot at all imagine what the conversations would have consisted of.

I should have stayed for Suite from Dracula.

I sometimes ask myself what this music is for, and then I remember the requirement for sound tracks.  Glass does a great deal of this kind of work.

There was no singing in any of these concerts.

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