by Mark Gresham | 28 DEC 2016On Friday, December 23, as many people wee rushing to finish last-minute holiday shopping runs, Eyedrum Arts & Music Gallery hosted a concert of music by composer Cody Brookshire for the fourth installment of its recently established Composer’s Concert Series.
In advance of Brookshire’s music was a set by electric guitarists Justin Tolan and Se’nam Palmer, who traded a few looping, effects-laden solo numbers back and forth then played a final duo, after which came a brief intermission.
Brookshire introduced his part of the program, decked out in casual attire for the occasion in a red t-shirt and Santa Claus hat replete with leopard-spotted fur lining – appropriate given both the event date and Eyedrum’s signature hyper-informal environment.
First up among Brookshire’s six featured compositions was Kindlemusik, a momentum-driven piece for marimba duo, performed by Ethan Strickland and Olivia Kieffer (who also curates the Composer’s Series). Electronic music on stereophonic fixed media followed: three selections from Harmonic Meditations: I. Siddhartha, III. We Could Live Forever Tonight and V. Wasting All My Precious Time.
Although similar in style and character to many contemporary compositions for unaccompanied flute, Brookshire’s Whispers, Secrets and Codes is nonetheless a respectable contribution to the genre, ably performed in this instance by flutist Matthieu Clavé.Most interesting among the evening’s offerings was From Afar, Drawing Near, for trumpet and electronics, performed by trumpeter Victoria Bethel. Spatial effects involving the performer turning left and right while playing, and the extended use of a Harmon mute in the beginning, gave this piece a menacing character, like a siren in the midst of an air-raid warning-inspired texture, including the thunderous sounds of drones. Electronic elements were also affected by the GPS location of the composer’s cell phone.
One more electronic work was next on tap: META11UR6Y, based on manipulation of pre-recorded screaming “metal riffs” on electric guitars. On the one hand, it mentally connected back with Tolan and Palmer’s opening set, but also took the the listener out into a conceptually fragmented world of great sonic contrasts, with fortissimo clips often coming in bursts to interrupt vague background textures.
The concert closed with Triple Helix, another work for multiple marimbas – in this case a trio (as the title implies). It was performed by Lineage Percussion – Wesley Sumpter, Lauren Floyd and Trevor Barroero. The performers used headphones and a click track to coordinate the piece, which Brookshire described succinctly as “a web of multiple tempos.”
A bit of good news for concerts like this one, Eyedrum itself appears to have cleaned up its act in the literal sense over past months. The space far, far less junk-and-trash riddled than experienced on previous visits, though it is still lacking in decent, sufficient lighting by which performers can both see and be seen. Even so, things are clearly in a process of improving for the small performance space at 88 Forsyth Street. •
by Mark Gresham | 6 DEC 2016Congratulations to William Ransom, pianist and artistic director of the Emory Chamber Music Society of Atlanta, who has been named by Musical America as one of its “30 Professionals of the Year: The Innovators ” for 2016.
Musical America published profiles of each of its 30 Innovators in its December Special Reports section. The article about Ransom, by John Fleming, was published online this morning (December 6). The entire Special Report is also downloadable in PDF form.
Last year, Musical America’s 30 Professionals recognized “The Influencers” (PDF) which included WABE-FM programming director and radio personality Lois Reitzes, and the 2014 list, “Profiles in Courage” (PDF) included Atlanta Symphony Orchestra music director Robert Spano. The inclusion of Ransom in this year’s MA 30 list results in Atlanta’s classical music scene being represented three years in a row. •
by Mark Gresham | 4 DEC 2016
On Sunday evening the Emory Gamelan Ensemble presented a one-hour concert of Javanese classical music entitled “Winter Flowers” at Emory University’s Performing Arts Studio on Burlington Road
The program featured Javanese gamelan music meant to be heard on its own, rather than as accompaniment for other performing arts. The ensemble performed a total of eight pieces, the first five in the slendro tuning system and the final two in the contrasting pélog system. In between was a unique, pivotal piece, Bima Kroda (“Bima is Angry”), which began in slendro but shifted midway to pélog.
Because Emory owns sets of instruments in both Javanese tuning systems, the ensemble is able to set up the slendro instruments so the musicians face the audience, with the pélog instruments positioned so the they need only turn to one side to play them. The final two compositions in pélog, Pangkur (“Pickaxe”) and Udan Mas (“Golden Rain”), had also been played in the slendro scale early in the concert. That they were repeated in a different tuning system lent each a different character in its second presentation.
These three compositions were among a handful that were also heard in a similar performance by Emory Gamelan Ensemble last April, which seems to imply that the group is trying to establish for itself a more secure body of regular repertoire, rather than than rushing between projects where entirely new music has to be learned afresh with each project. This would be a healthy thing for the musical confidence of the ensemble, which typically draws a sizable crowd to the 260-seat PAS. Sunday’s audience was a bit smaller than usual, with attendance most likely dampened due to the chilly, rainy weather. The performance was nonetheless a delightfully exotic and meditative experience with which to conclude the weekend. •