Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Other Minds Music Festival: Wednesday, March 2

The Other Minds Music Festival is an annual gathering in the Bay Area where approximately ten composers from around the world, some famous and some obscure, are invited for a week-long residency. The first four days are spent in a communal nature retreat at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, and the finale is a three-day concert series featuring mixed bills of their music in the concert hall at San Francisco's Jewish Community Center (above).

This year, the festival's sixteenth, inaugurated a new wrinkle where four young composers were picked for a Fellowship, which mostly involved hanging out at rehearsals and concerts for the entire music festival, and having their own music played at a "Composer Fellowship Concert" the night before the festival began. This intimate event was held on the third floor of the Meridian Gallery (above) on Powell near Sutter, and it was delightful on account of the quality of the music, which were all world premieres.

The inaugural Fellowship composers were (left to right above) the Chicago-based Ben Hjertmann, the fabulously unpronounceable New Yorker-via-Lithuiania Zibuokle Martinaityte, the New Yorker-via-Missouri Lisa R. Coons, and the Oregonian-via-CalArts&Europe Nicholas Chase.

Coon's Music Painted from Memory, a three-movement duet for violin and cello, is an attempt to come to terms with her Missouri roots. It starts off softly and then makes its way through a thorny thicket of different feelings, continues with an energetic and funny depiction of "the sensations of working on the farm around aging and breaking equipment," and finishes with an elegie that the composer calls "a portrait of nostalgia."

The piece was exquisite, and given a magnificent performance by the Navitas Ensemble, which consists of Elizabeth Choi and Hannah Addario-Berry above.

They joined Jill Heinke on flute and Jeffrey Anderle on clarinet (above) in Ben Hjertmann's (below right) Bhyxe, which featured the quartet playing music in and around a prerecorded piece on speakers that Hjertmann had played himself, and then transposed electronically into a deep, rumbling presence.

Nicholas Chase (above left) also used electronics, but he was actively deploying his sound samples in a duet with Jill Heinke on flute called Gin Blossoms & Broccoli Boutonnieres.

The composer notes that the piece "recapitulates my childhood fascination with the sound of all the things you can (but shouldn't) do with a record," and its mixture of stops, starts, scratches, and spittings on both flute and laptop were infused with wit in a virtuoso performance by both Heinke and Chase.

American Hodgepodge by Zibuokle Martinaityte (above) had a pre-recorded collage of "American" sounds that wandered from "How are you?" repeated by dozens of voices to weather reports, sports reports, and the detritus of found speech on the internet. Over this alternately funny and horrifying background, the quartet played seven continuously interesting movements that sounded a bit like Sofia Gubaidulina trying to make her way in New York.

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