Friday, March 11, 2011

Other Minds Music Festival: Friday, March 4

The second evening of the 16th Annual Other Minds Music Festival started with a "spatial music" world premiere commission from the festival called The Space Between by David Jaffe with special instruments created by Trimpin (second and third from left above). The composer Kyle Gann relates the following anecdote about the installation at PostClassic, his Arts Journal blog:
"Trimpin, whose mischievously adolescent sense of humor is one of his most endearing qualities, had the best joke of the week. David A. Jaffe had inherited a bunch of percussion from his teacher Henry Brant, and he used those instruments in his piece The Space Between Us. Included were about 25 chimes, and Trimpin had the idea of suspending the chimes from the ceiling and having them played via MIDI. So David’s piece had two string quartets, one on each side of the audience, plus a Disklavier onstage, a couple of MIDI-played xylophones, and the chimes hung from the ceiling. On the preceding panel, as the audience sat underneath those chimes, David explained that Trimpin had suggested suspending the chimes, but that he, David, was afraid that they would fall down and strike audience members. Charles asked, “So Trimpin, how are the chimes suspended from the ceiling?”, and Trimpin answered, “Oh, with very thin twine….”

Gann continues: "The Space Between Us was perhaps the festival highlight, with the string quartets playing ethereal melodies with the disembodied chimes in rhythmic unison."

The spread-out string players were from the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble and the Del Sol String Quartet, with percussionist Andrew Schloss (above, talking to pianist Sarah Cahill) standing on stage like the Wizard of Oz, waving his wands to conjure up magical effects.

Next up was a sensational set by the Balinese guitarist I Wayan Balawan (center), with I Nyoman Suarsana and I Nyoman Suwida playing gamelan, and Dylan Johnson and Scott Amendola playing pickup bass and drums respectively. This was world fusion music at its most entertaining, an amazingly fresh mixture of traditional gamelan, rock guitar, and jazz. I Wayan Balawan, according to the Other Minds website, "plays a special guitar with two necks made by Julius Salaka. There are six strings on the guitar's upper neck and seven strings on the lower neck, which utilizes MIDI pickups to trigger synths and samplers."

I Wayan Balawan not only played his two-necked guitar/MIDI sampler with the virtuosic speed and skill of a Jimi Hendrix, but he sang and led the entire ensemble, which included some lightning-fast gamelan work by his colleagues above. This was his first appearance in the United States, but he's returning June 30th for a Thursday evening MATCHA event at the Asian Art Museum in conjunction with its Bali exhibition. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT miss this if at all possible.

I wasn't able to stay for the second half of the concert, which featured a short piece by Agata Zubel and a long percussion improvisation by the the legendary Dutch jazz drummer and artist Han Bennink (above right, talking to Trimpin). A few trusted concertgoers told me that the performance by both was a triumph. Matthew Cmiel at San Francisco Classical Voice has an entertaining description of the "riot of activity."

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