Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Wild Rumpus Musical Gift at The Center
There was an unusually generous musical event offered Saturday afternoon at San Francisco's Center for New Music involving a rehearsal and first musical readings by the brilliant new chamber ensemble, Wild Rumpus.
They were rehearsing first read-throughs of two commissioned pieces by David Bird and Ben Richter which will be played by the group, featuring cellist Joanne de Mars above, at a future concert.
The young composer-focused group, co-founded by Jen Wang and Dan VanHassel (above left), also extended an invitation to any composer under the age 40 or any obscure composer of any age to have a reading of their scores at the same rehearsal, an offer taken up by UC Berkeley student Scott Rubin (above right).
The first piece was by David Bird who was listening in and answering questions through an on-again, off-again computer connection, performed by (left to right) Amy Sedan on flute, Sophie Huet on clarinet, and Joanne de Mars on cello.
There was quite a bit of collaborative give-and-take between performers and composer on how to obtain a particular sound effect and which notes were actually impossible to play on a particular instrument. The funniest moment arrived when the composer requested an exact effect he wanted from Amy Sedan above on the flute, "I'm here on the East Coast where they have furnaces everywhere, and that's the sound I want, that "Hssssssssss..." which was greeted by the ensemble with the news that it was a particularly beautiful Saturday in California and people were wearing shorts and tank tops while drinking beers.
Ben Richter's computer connection wasn't working, so the larger ensemble under conductor Nathaniel Berman (above right) made a recording of the rehearsal, complete with pauses for questions to the composer along the lines of, "What are these notations supposed to mean, exactly?"
Scott Rubin's piece, which still didn't have a name, was played for the first time ever with the composer sitting in on viola, which he plays "at the back of the string section in the UC Berkeley orchestra, I'm not confident in my playing like these people at all."
He had quickly rewritten the score so that a clarinet could stand in for a trombone (or a trumpet, I've forgotten), along with a harp section that he had pianist Margaret Halbig strum on the piano strings. She protested at the beginning that it was too difficult going back and forth from inside and outside the piano while reading the score so VanHassel jumped in and played the faux harpist parts. The piece was lively as hell, particularly after the more austere previous scores, with David Wegehaupt's saxophone (above) and Halbig's piano particular standouts.
The young composer above was pushy and quick to correct matters of sound and tempo during the reading, but at least he knew what he wanted. Watching the look of joy on his face as one particularly tricky section came together after a few run-throughs by the ensemble was the highlight of the afternoon.
Finally, cellist Joanne de Mars performed a short solo she had written that had something to do with the ocean and palindromes, but her explanation was unnecessary. It was beautiful, hypnotic and though she apologized that she should have warmed up ahead of time, Mars' playing is thrilling to watch and hear. The ensemble is planning another one of these events at The Center early next year, and if you happen to get an invitation, I recommend it highly. Listening to complex new music being shaped by a group of smart young performers is a real privilege.