Saturday, September 28, 2013

Happy Hour with the A/B Duo

The Center for New Music, with Executive Director Adam Fong above, was the host for a 6 PM "Happy Hour" concert by the A/B Duo of flutist Meerenai Shim and percussionist Christopher G. Jones below. She lives in Campbell, CA, he's in Rochester, NY and they formed the duo in Chicago, IL last year, making for a truly American performance combo.

It was one of the most charming concerts imaginable, with three world premieres that were all musically absorbing, punctuated with intermissions between each piece where you could eat, drink good beer and wine, and chat with composers and fellow audience members while the musicians reconfigured the set up for the next number.

Echoloquacious was the title of the first piece by Oakland composer Matthew Joseph Payne above, which had Jones trading off between vibraphone and drum set, with Shim weaving a flute line around the musically amplified LSDJ Gameboy below. The music was bouncy, strange, interesting and fun.

It turns out that "chipmusic" has been around since the 1980s, mostly used in pop music, and has spawned an entire underground scene. Click here for a May 2013 New Yorker post by Ben Greenman.

The second piece, metalStaind, for piccolo and percussion was by Michigan/NYC composer Adam Cuthbert. The Center for New Music helpfully provided free earplugs which I used for protection against the shrieking of a piccolo, but the piece turned out to be lyrical and gentler than anticipated, with a Lou Harrison gamelan sound to it accompanied by a serious drumbeat.

The final world premiere, Things We Dream About, by Rochester composer Ivan Trevino was charmingly introduced by his friend Chris Jones, who explained that the four-movement work was a programmatic meditation on dreams. It starts with "Love," followed by the more energetic "Being a Rock Star," "Ghosts" and "Fun."

It called for Jones on the drum set and vibraphone while Meerenai switched between the flute and bass flute above. She also was asked to recite a sweet, short dream story of a dead grandfather onstage at a rock concert, and in the final, "fun" movement to play flute and drums simultaneously. She accomplished every role with perfect aplomb and Trevino's music was both lovely and rocking.

The A/B Duo is worth seeking out, and you might even win a lottery prize at the end of a concert that consists of one of the greatest pieces of vinyl packaging ever seen, complete with the original floppy disc. Even the printed program was imaginative and unusual, looking like a one-page menu for a fancy small plates restaurant. Well done.

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