Thursday, October 31, 2013

Crissy Broadcast

On the 30 Stockton Muni bus that we rode to the edge of the Marina and the Presidio waterfront, the woman above mentioned that she was going to the 4PM outdoor performance of Lisa Bielawa's Crissy Broadcast for 800 musicians. Decades ago, she had enrolled in a memorable musical composition course at San Francisco State with Herb Bielawa, Lisa's dad, and was curious to hear what Lisa had conjured. (Click here for an interesting post by Janos Gereben quoting Charles Amirkhanian about a 1974 Bay Area musical happening organized by Herb.)

Sitting next to us was a tourist from St. Paul, Minnesota (above left) who had jumped on the bus to explore the city while his wife took a nap at their hotel.

"This is going to be an awesome, once in a lifetime event," we promised as we talked him into joining our impromptu group.

As a 1960s style happening, our promise turned out to be true, though as a musical experience the afternoon left something to be desired.

There were dozens of small musical ensembles involved, from string groups to brass groups to an Asian instruments band, most of them led by new music experts such as Jeff Anderle on clarinet above and Kyle Bruckmann on oboe below. (The two have just started a new music reed quintet called Splintered Reeds.)

The hour-long piece started out well, in an agreeable cacophony of massed sounds among the different performing groups.

Then the various groups headed off in all directions, sometimes playing a few phrases solo and other times joining in with other wandering groups.

I laid down on the lawn in the central area, and was hoping to hear the overlapping sounds of different performing forces such as had occurred during John Luther Adams' Inuksuit which was performed by two dozen percussionists in an outdoor glen on the UC Berkeley campus last year. That spatial music composition was written for Steven Schick above, who was also helping out with Crissy Broadcast, but in this case the Crissy field space was too huge and the ambient sounds of wind and foghorns stronger than any acoustic musical forces. Plus, the organizers were engaging in hyperbole with the claim of 800 musicians, since there looked to be about 300 performers at most.

The solution for a listener was to find the group you most enjoyed hearing and simply follow them on their appointed rounds.

My favorites, with some of the most expressive music, was a cute chamber chorus from UC Berkeley above, whose singing had a Ligeti style complexity that was breathtaking.

We were all hoping that the forces would reconverge at the central starting spot, but instead they joined into clumps at the finale in scattered sections of the field and waterfront. "My group," as I was coming to think of it, were joined by the trio of girls above who improved the party ambience by dancing on the sidelines, before we all wandered away.

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