Friday, November 28, 2008

Sarah Cahill at Mills College

Sarah Cahill gave a show-and-tell preview of her "A Sweeter Music" project last Monday in a small classroom at Mills College in the Oakland foothills (click here for an explanation of the musical commissions).

She played the first movement from a four-movement work by Peter Garland, and a complex ragtime piece by Terry Riley, and asked for a volunteer to help turn the wide pages of the Riley score for her.

Her pageturner was the 17-year-old Preben Antonsen who had written the next piece, "Dar el-Harb (House of War)" whose title was taken from an expletive directed at the invading U.S. forces in Iraq by the local Muslims, and which was tattooed on the arm of one of Preben's cousins who was part of the United States force. It was a precociously interesting piece of music. And his website is sort of scary professional (click here).

Sarah looked insecure about her music project all evening, but there was no need for her to worry. Everything she played was fascinating.

In the case of Pauline Oliveros' "New Indigo Peace," which is a simple bluesy melody with a nursery rhyme calling for peace, Ms. Cahill may have a new classic on her hand. It's singable, even for people who can barely stay on pitch like myself, and the lyrics are absurdly easy without being particularly stupid.

Cahill still hasn't received all the scores from her 18 commissioned pieces, and some of the scores she's received are "really difficult," such as the 4th movement by Frederic Rzewski in his "Peace Dances." She introduced them with, "this is great music but right now I'm going to have to take the fourth movement at half-time. It's hard."

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