Ah, back in Lerner C555. A much-welcomed change for my classmates (previous concerts at nearby Broadway Presbyterian Church were flavored with passing taxis and buses). Enough could never be said about the symbolic importance of this musical space for the Columbia community.
It was great to see many of my friends’ pieces performed tonight. Highlights from the first half include Jasper’s vibrant combination of siren and bells (such a visceral sound), Gabe’s interesting use of the alto flute’s lowest register (he paired it with the soprano’s melody, creating an earthy sound), and the slips and slurps of the flute and clarinet in Brent’s Primordial Utterances. (I sadly neglected to take any notes during the first half of the concert because I wasn’t planning on writing anything. After hearing the concert, though, I just had to.)
The second half opened with Zak’s witty duet for soprano and flute. Quotes such as, “For not being female,” and, “He gets it off on a really massive scale and proves to the world that he is a man,” were downright hilarious. These comical statements were presented with an uncomfortably cheery flute (like a cheesy TV commercial from the 1950s).
The next piece on the docket was Dream by Sharon Hurvitz. I especially liked the interplay between the flute and voice in Sharon’s work. There was a point where the flutist echoed the soprano’s pitch and timbre; I briefly couldn’t tell the two instruments apart. Sharon was not afraid to include melodies: a prairie-like tune emerged after the opening minimalist texture. Her chordal writing sounded autumnal, an exploration of the instrumentation’s—clarinet, flute, violin, cello, and voice—sonic possibilities.
Conner began his work, A Carving Not a Kiss, with pulsing bells. A repeated rhythmic motif created a mysterious mood. At one point, the percussionist quickly drew a double bass bow across the vibraphone. The quavering overtones rang throughout the hall, a clarion call shining out of the ensemble’s texture.
Ben’s piece had a rather inopportune start. After about 20 seconds, the cellist asked to start the work over. At the time, I thought the false start was deliberate, given the work’s focus on the concept of motion. However, after the concert, Ben admitted to me that it was not written into the piece.
I found Ben’s textual games quite compelling. The soprano questioningly pleaded the word “and…” several times, building anticipation. After a few repetitions of “and,” Ben added the word “yet,” heightening tension. The bells softly concluded the section, signalling what I thought was the end of the piece. “And yet,” there was more; Ben’s linguistic trick works on multiple musical levels.
I was impressed by both the virtuosity and stamina of the TAK Ensemble. They played these new works, which teem with extended techniques and dense rhythmic textures, with an assured ease. Remarkably, the performers had only a couple of weeks to learn their parts. They also had only a few rehearsals with the composers (such is the necessarily unfortunate way of “New” Music I guess).
Tonight’s concert offered diverse musical styles. Each composer asserted their own voice, their own unique musical language. Professor Haas said it best by calling the group a “dishomogeneous” bunch. It was an exciting evening of music-making—a great way to kick off finals week.