American Festival of Microtonal Music
May 23rd, 1999
NYU Physics Auditorium
by David Beardsley
Highlights from a great but a long festival…
Eric Nauman & Douglas Cohen’s performance of three of six/lander, waltz, cha-cha/two people /break/six minutes/continue: Eric fading in guitar chords with one hand, flipping index cards with the other while Douglas provided an ambient soundscape from a laptop computer. Cohen ended the piece by closing the screen to his computer like closing a piano keyboard lid. My only complaint is that the piece didn’t last for an hour or so. Yep!
Michiyo Suziki performed Joji Yausa’s Solitude – everything this clarinetist performs turns to gold. Amazing.
John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano was performed by Joshua Pierce. After all the recordings I’ve heard on large grand pianos, this sounded a bit different. But Pierce’s performance on the halls resident piano still impressed me, the preparations still resonated true.
Violetta Dinescu’s Intarsien performed by Thomas Rutishauser on cello with wild glissando and percussive tapping on the instrument. Why isn’t this composer’s work more widely performed??? Shouldn’t there be a festival devoted to Dinescu’s work?
Sasha Bagdanowitch performed his An Ocean Walks Behind a Lake. Wearing a headphone/microphone/wireless combination, he sang and danced along with his pre-recorded singing Sashas on pre-recorded tape for about 20 min. Oh, those pure intervals sung by voices! An original vision influenced by the east, Sasha deserves wider exposure.
Johnny Reinhard rolled out a version of his solo Zanzibar, now a duet for two bassoons. Yung-Ling Chang accompanied JR in assembling the instruments while using extended techniques to give life to the piece. NYC’s downtown music crowd don’t know what they’re missing – the multiphonics, the extended techniques!
Meredith Borden of NYC’s hardest working microtonal band Birdhouse, performed her Icarus Dreams for voice and autoharp in just intonation. As always, amazing range and a sensitivity to pitch made this piece work beyond any expectations. Knocked me out – she used some techniques that I don’t think I’ve heard her use before. Amen!
Four keyboards and three percussionists gave life to composer Patrick Grant’s Everything Distinct: Everything the Same. Keyboards tuned to a gamalan tuning, in fact the piece seems to be influenced by the gamelan of Bali – I was blown away. It’s so exciting to hear this music live.
Eric Ross and David Simmons – theremin Vito Ricci – wrench guitar Johnny Reinhard – bassoon performed an improvisation Spring, where each performer represented a season. I had trouble separating the seasons but no trouble enjoying the collected improvisations of this seasoned quartet.
And those are only the highlights, I couldn’t hear everything, couldn’t sit all the time, had to get up, stretch and get fresh air.
Much credit goes to Johnny Reinhard – for making it all happen, Ted Coons, President AFMM and Professor of Psychology at NYU for getting us the hall, Patrick Grant for provding a sound system and expert sound check advice.
And I really enjoyed performing my piece Sonic Bloom at the festival. A privilege.
Originally published on line at Juxtaposion Ezine.