BoCo New Music Festival 2006: Day 4

Submitted by Andy on Fri, 11/24/2006 - 16:15

Sorry about the delay, you all knew it was going too well and that I was going to fall off the wagon eventually. Anyway the final night of the new music festival featured conductor Eric Hewitt and his White Rabbit ensemble. Just like the festival openers the Argento Ensemble, these are guys who are actually out there doing it. Nonetheless, after three days of serialesque I had come into this final concert with some preconceptions especially upon receipt of the program notes. I basically spent the whole pre-concert about how I don't like Babbitt very much and how there's no decent electronic music before '95. It sounds pretty stupid now.

This program was presents as the intersection of Webern's technique and American optimism. (In a different way than Ludovico's Cage-n-Feldman fest.) Perhaps fittingly for the end of the festival, the two Webern works acted as relaxations when placed next to the more extended lines of the American works. The first hit was Babbitt's All Set, a serialist piece for the jazz ensemble. I had been trash talking the man, but this drove like nothing else. It didn't sound like the kit was doing any beats, per se, but a pulse was sort of carried by various instruments as a sum. I wonder what sort of jazz Eric Hewitt listens to, his program notes cite Chet Baker and Lee Konitz? I'd say Coleman instead, Zappa more likely.

Like the Berg on Friday, Stravinsky's Three Songs from Shakespeare were a romantic take on tone rows that wasn't that far removed from his own Rake's Progress. The performance was good, except the soprano on the third song clearly had absolutely no idea what she was speaking of. Come on guys, don't sluff off just because it's in English.

The festival as a whole closed with Charles Wuorinen's New York Notes. The piece dates from 1981/2 but at least the festival ended with an active composer. (His Theologoumenon will premiere this season at the BSO.) It's a blistering virtuosic work that features a tape part. This is where things get a little sticky. A lot of electronically generated music gets cheesy way fast, or way boring. Reich famously struck out of his attempts all total electronic music, not mention it obscured the last five years of Zappa's composing. Tone is an issue. The tone on the tape for New York Notes is often buried by the other six parts, and tones Wuorinen used cut through enough. The trouble came with a lengthy "tape cadenza" at the end of the first movement, it played well with others but was extensively irritating by itself. I was concerned that another one would finish the piece and festival. It did end with a tape generated note, but not the Synclavier voice used throughout the rest of the piece. A square wave generated by God himself. Awexome.

After the concert I realized a dig like the piece Philomel, which kind of shot my tape piece and Babbitt prejudices to shit. Festival wrapup tomorrow (yes, a week late I know), which will put me on schedule to start round 2 of the tournament a week late as well. Nice.