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. •