American Festival of Microtonal Music, May 23, 1997.

American Festival of Microtonal Music
Day #4: “Spirit”
NYU Frederick Lowe Theatre
New York, N.Y. May 23, 1997

The fourth and final day of this festival started with Follow the Wrecking Ball, Wish I Thought of it Sooner by Virgil Moorefield. The first half of the piece featured a cello solo and the other had the band pulsating along in a minimalist fashion. I think the piece was in 48 tone equal temperament. World premiere.

violin – Tom Chiu
cello – David Eggar
guitar – Woody Pak
clarinet and baritone sax – Tim Otto
synthesizer – Virgil Moorefield

Dedicated to the memory of her late father, Mayumi Reinhard’s Near By Life was a deeply beautiful elegy. The piece was performed using the rich sounds of a Kurtzweil synthesizer tuned to the Tibetan tuning preset. World premiere.

synthesizer – Mayumi Reinhard

The close dissonances of La Ritournelle et le Galop by Pascale Criton were produced by stringing a 24 tone equal temperament guitar with 6 low E strings and tuning them 1/16th of a tone apart. The composition started with some close pitches then evolved to a point where the guitarist was sliding a chord up and down the neck while rapidly picking arpeggios and scraping one fingernail across the strings. American premiere.

96 tone equal temperament guitar – Wim Hoogewerf

I pretty much missed The Song of Songs – Violin Sonata #3 by Mordecai Sandberg – I needed to take a personal intermission.

violin – Tom Chiu

Another major highlight of the festival was the performance of Free Music for 4 Theremin by Percy Grainger. The Theremin is a rarely spotted in public alone, even rarer in groups. For this performance they were arranged so that there was one in each corner. The composition was full of the drastic dynamics and glissandi that this electronic music instrument is capable of. At intermission, I walked around, checked out the various Theremin and I could see that a graphic score was used. World premiere.

theremins – Lydia Kavina, Eric Ross, Bradford Catler, and Nicholas Brooke
conductor – Johnny Reinhard

Ivan Wyschnegradsky’s Chant Nocturne was a real treat. Using two pianos tuned a quarter tone apart and a violin soloist who ventures in to 48 tone equal temperament territory, it was a rich exploration of the possibilities of this kind of tuning.

violin – Tom Chiu
24ET pianos – Joshua Pierce and Dorothy Jonas

Kyle Gann’s How Miraculous Things Happen used a 23 note 11 limit just intonation tuning. This new work is a bit different the Conlon Nancarrow influenced work I heard at Experimental Intermedia in December ’95. Gone are rhythmic ratios, now replaced with a more minimal approach. When is someone going to release all this on a cd? World premiere.

synthesizer – Kyle Gann

The collective improvisation More.Meat.For.Apes was performed by Harvard Project4NewMusic. Here’s how the work started: One person hit a metal sculpture while another tossed objects into metal containers. Pretty metal sounds. Then the joined two other performers sitting cross legged on the floor where they played portable cd players. What kind of material was on the cd’s isn’t really clear, it could have been other people’s work (like John Cage’s Imaginary Landscape series) or previously prepared CD-R material. What the audience heard was a nice post-industral, dark ambient din. The improvisation ended when one of the performers got up and started a series of boxes lined along the edge of the stage. World premiere.

Harvard Project4NewMusic:
Fleur de Vie Weinstock, Alice Liu, Kyle Lapidus, Ron Rosennian, Luke Fischbec, and Sasha Costanza-Chock

To end this marathon evening and the MicroMay ’97 fest was the Catler Bros. performing two pieces from their Crash Landing cd. Jon Catler’s Spiritual Brother is a slow modal rocker with lots of room for him to stretch out and improvise. Most musicians would cut loose and play lots of notes over the slow groove, but here he took his time and made every note count. In fact, at this point, Miles Davis would have been playing too much compared to Catler.

In contrast, Free by Ornette Coleman was a chance for the band to go wild. After the zany Coleman head, drummer Kane started tapping the idiomatically correct ride cymbal and Brad Catler walked the bass while Jon ripped on the guitar, slipping, sliding, playing lots of notes and rock ‘n roll feedback.

just intonation guitar – Jon Catler
fretless bass – Bradford Catler
drums – Jonathan Kane

My picks: Near By Life, La Ritournelle et le Galop, How Miraculous Things Happen and of course, the Catler Bros.
See you at the next microfest!
db
5/30/97

Originally published on line at Juxtaposion Ezine.

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