American Festival of Microtonal Music, May 22, 1997.

American Festival of Microtonal Music
Day #3: “Ear Garden”
Columbia University’s St. Paul’s Chapel
New York, N.Y. May 22, 1997

Ear Garden opened with the minimalist classic “In C” by Terry Riley. This version was performed using instruments that are plucked: guitar, viola, harpsichord and kanon (zither). At times the music  seemed bathed in the reverberant space of St. Paul’s chapel, at other times, the room was heard more then the instruments. Probably the best seat in the house would be on your back, on the floor at the feet of the performers. The performance was beautiful, the effect of the chapel was nice, but it obscured the best efforts of the performers.
“In C in Just Intonation” was premered by the AFMM in 1988.

just intonation guitars – John Schneider and Wim Hoogewerf
kanon – Skip LaPlante
harpsichord – Rebecca Pechefsky
viola – Anastasia Solberg
pulse guitar – Steve Antonelli

Luc Marcel’s Beach Glass microtonalness came from harmonics and multiphonics on the bassoon and glissando’s on the strings. After the quiet moments of In C, Beach Glass was almost deafening. In fact maybe the strings over powered the bassoon. There was some fellow standing between the bassoonist and I, waving his arms about. Perhaps if I had a better seat, I would have heard the performance better.

conductor – Charles Zacharie Bornstein
bassoon – Johnny Reinhard
violin – Tom Chiu
viola – Anastasia Solberg
cello – David Eggar

Enbellie by Iannis Xenakis for solo viola was characteristic of the composer’s music. In fact, this version was more expressive then any I’ve heard before. Lot of hard bowing close to the bridge gave a dry tone where the tortured harmonics jumped out. A tortured lull in the storm? Alternately then, quiet high notes. My references inform me that this is quartertone tuning.

viola – Anastasia Solberg

Sophia Gubaidulina’s Duo Sonata for 2 Bassoons showed what a pair of bassoons can do. Quartertones, harmonic tunings and multiphonics. Quite the opportunity for circular breathing and the chords between the two horns were heavenly. I don’t think I’ve heard anything like it. Gubaidulina’s music never fails to surprise.

bassoons – Frank Morelli and Johnny Reinhard

Johnny Reinhard’s Odysseus Cello Concerto had it all. Odyssus (David Eggar) and his soldiers wandered around St. Paul’s chapel for 30 to 40 min. During their travels they discovered islands and strange beautiful instruments in different tunings: polymicrotonality, Reinhard’s term for using more then one tuning.

Where else can you see microtonalist guitarists John Schneider and Wim Hoogewerf kill a trombonist (Julie Josephson) with their guitars, tear off chunks and eat them? They offered some to Odysseus who politely refused with a shake of his head and a wave of the hand.

Lotus Eater Island (blown winds) was in one balcony while Aiolius (bagpipes) was in another.

Odysseus traveled to and from the underworld by sliding on his back across the floor under the piano.

At one point, Odysseus played some walking bass while his band of soldiers improvised some swinging microtonal jazz.

Two Sirens (Carol Flamm, Piera F. Paine) magically appeared in the pulpit and sang while a third (Christine Coppola) danced a wildly seductive dace to lure Odysseus.

No doubt Scylla and Charibdis (Jon Catler, just intonation guitar and Eric Ross, therermin) scared Odysseus and his gang half to death. What a racket!

There were many custom and/or rarely used instruments like 96 tone equal temperament harp, shofar, psalteries, just intonation pedal steel guitar, large glass bowl in G, bansuri and shakuhachi flutes, ocarina, bagpipes, tarogato, theremin, and conch shells.

My picks: Enbellie, Duo Sonata for Two Bassoons and Odysseus.

Stay tuned for more…

Originally published on line at Juxtaposion Ezine.


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