American Festival of Microtonal Music, May 16, 1997.

American Festival of Microtonal Music

Day #1: “Spice”
NYU Frederick Lowe Theatre
New York, N.Y. May 16, 1997

Ah, New York, New York. A major international city. Quite a bit of microtonal activity there. For years, one of the major organizations performing and promoting the performance of all kinds of microtonality is the American Festival of Microtonal Music. Founded by Johnny Reinhard and Jon Catler in 1981, this years four day MicroMay ’97 festival opened on May 16 at NYU’s Loewe Theater.

Johnny led the audience in a ripping version of John Cage’s 0’00” (4’33 No. 2): solo to be performed in any way by anyone, in this case we were asked to play the shortest possible sound. Following was the first of many world premieres, Frank Wigglesworth’s Twin Songs for meantone flute, written for flautist Andrew Bolotowsky. The middle eastern tinged piece was in two movements.

Elodie Lauten’s Discombobulations for soprano, electric guitar, flute, synthesizer and tape was characteristic of the composer’s cyclic rhythms. The piece was in a combination of Vallotti temperament and just intonation – 5 limit with a touch of 7. (world premiere)

soprano – Meredeth Borden
electric ji guitar – Jon Catler
flute – Andrew Bolotowsky
synthesizer – Elodie Lauten
lyrics by Steven Hall

Leonardo for bassoon, cello and wrench guitar was commissioned by AFMM . This composition by Edgar David Grana included quartertones, multiphonics, extended techniques and a guitar retuned with it’s A string +1/8th tone, the G string -1/8th tone. At one point Reinhard took his bassoon apart and played the pieces. Ricci occasionally fretted notes but mostly used the wrench as a slide. The composition had a loose improvisatory feel. (world premiere)

bassoon – Johnny Reinhard
cello – David Eggar
wrench guitar – Vito Ricci

Birdhouse performed an extended version of Nightbird. Using cluster chords, called “manyminor” by composer Jon Catler, the duo explored the rich splendor of 13 limit just intonation and the 189th harmonic. Catler used his custom ji guitar with interchangeable fingerboards (fretless and 49 tone ji) and Meredith Borden sang like a bird. Music based on birdsongs is part of Birdhouse’s modus operandi.

This group has performed a bit around New York, recently performing two dates at La Mama la Gallereia earlier this month with Brad Catler, percussion and Andrew Bolotowsky, flute. Their debut CD will be released this summer.

soprano – Meredeth Borden
electric ji guitar – Jon Catler

Joseph Gabriel Maneri’s Sharafuddin b Yah Yah Maneri was composed for flute in 72 equal temperament. Exotic and very eastern, this composition was inspired by a 14th century Sufi saint, teacher and high priest: a Makdum ul-Mulk. Composer, saxophonist and clarinetist Maneri is Professor of Music at the New England Conservatory where he teaches microtonal music composition and theory. (NY premier)

flute – Andrew Bolotowsky

Arriving from Canada, composer Ganesh Anandan and composer/guitarist Rainer Wiens were held up at the airport and didn’t make the concert. As a substitution, the audience was treated to a tape of the group New Tokyo Berlin York, playing Johnny Reinhard’s Circle. This piece had an improvisatory feel using percussion, didjeridu and bassoon.

custom percussion – Yoshiaki Ochi
didjeridu – Ulrich Krieger
bassoon – Johnny Reinhard

A rare world premier of Wendy Carlos’s Afterlife featured the AFMM chorus, violin, cello, fretless bass, conga, timpani and tape. Using a combination of 12 and 15 tone equal temperament the piece certainly gave us a taste of the scary uncertainty of the Afterlife.

The piece will soon be released as part of Carlos’s new CD, Tales of Heaven and Hell.

American Festival of Microtonal Music Chorus: Meredith Borden, Piera F. Paine, Mayumi Reinhard, Elizabeth Lee, Brendan Glynn and Gabriel Mendlow
violin – Tom Chiu
cello – David Eggar
electric fretless bass guitar – Brad Catler
timpani and conga – Louis Winsberg

My picks: Nightbird and Afterlife.

Stay tuned for more…


Originally published on line at Juxtaposion Ezine.


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