And a marathon it was running from 12:00 noon until 10:00pm; I didn’t get there at the absolute beginning and didn’t stay until the absolute end, but did manage to get in about 8 hours of quality time with some very fine musicians playing a varied and interesting fare of post-modern music. There were thirteen different groups featured and I saw nine of them – I missed the first act (because work) and the 9th act (had to get some grub and hang out with my lady-love) and it got past my bedtime so I missed the final two acts. Pity because I knew some of the people in the second to last; but had to get home and sleep.
It was an awesome show – I made the first one two years ago and it impressed me much – that’s where I heard this piece:
The first one was held in an art studio – The Trunk Space. http://www.thetrunkspace.com/
But for year three, OME hit the big-time and booked the fabulous Mesa Arts Center:
And the acts were…
- 12.0 LORKAS Laptop Orchesta – Electronic Music (Missed them. Damn. Work)
- 1.0 Gulch – Electronic Music (Intruded I estimate about 1/3 in…)
- 1.30 Orange Crunsh (Guitar duo – minimalist electronica)
- 2.0 Exit 128 (Chamber Orchestra + Soprano – Opera Excerpt from the opera “Hat Rack”)
- 3.0 ASU SCI (Mixed Group various pieces)
- 3.45 Driftwood Quintet (Woodwind Quintet)
- 4.30 thingNY (Vocal / Instrumental duo – performance-art one-act opera)
- 5.15 Holly Pyle (solo vocal loop electronic singing)
- 6.0 Keith/Larson & APHSIA (Guitar / Flute duo – didn’t see them…)
- 7.0 Josh Bennett (Blackwind) (Bb Clarinet and electronics)
- 8.0 TIMBER by Michael Gordon (Arizona State University Percussion Ensemble)
- 9.0 Magic Sky Fairy (missed it…)
- 9.30 The Lessing is Miracle (missed it…)
As I had intimated, I walked into Gulch – they are three gents, one on soundboard, one on guitar, and one on laptop. It was loud, but loud was called for. One particular effect I found intriguing was a sort of rasping square-wave like sound; like a low-pitched saw-mill; but for those who know what a heavy-duty machining center sounds like while chattering during a roughing operation…yeah, like that. Mawrrrrr…But it was the guitar. And with a subtle twist of a dial, the sound morphed in to distorted guitar. I won’t be able to hear the mills at work doing roughing operations without expecting them to morph into guitars! It was cool and I liked Gulch. Pure abstract noise/music.
Orange Crunsh guitar duo played strictly patterned minimalist music all single-note flat-picked on solid body electric guitar. Their music was disciplined yet urbane and interesting. I enjoyed it and thought their set was just a little bit short. I’m sure they have more material but kept it concise and nice. Keep them wanting you!
Exit 128 (https://www.facebook.com/Exit128Orch) was up next. A chamber symphony (string quartet, bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trombone, trumpet) and for this performance, soprano. Hailing from the University of Missouri, they provided further evidence that great music and great musicians continue to pour out of the heartland. We musicians know that despite all the hype and hoopla surrounding NY and LA/Hollywood, really great music and musicians can reliably be found in the mid-west and Texas. I mean monster musicians!
They presented a single work – an excerpt from a yet-to-be-produced one-act opera, “Hat Rack” – the plot describes a woman who works as a prostitute while dreaming of becoming a fashion model. I like modern one-act operas – Henry Mollicone’s “The Face on the Barroom Floor” comes to mind and I hope they manage a full production of “Hat Rack“. Opera can be a tough sell, a challenging art form requiring tremendous talent, tremendous logistical challenges in staging and production; and they’re expensive to produce. I love opera. I hope they pull this off. Anyhow, they rocked the casbah!
Up next was the Arizona State University (ASU) Composer’s Society – ASU SCI.
They played a series of short interesting pieces by their members. I didn’t take detailed notes indicating composer and title; but just chilled and took it all in. Please fill in necessary detail in the “comments” section and any other notes. The musical selections were colorful and interesting, and rather short.
Driftwood Quintet, is a woodwind group comprised of oboe/English horn, alto sax, bassoon, bass clarinet, and clarinet.
They played three pieces:
- I Smell Paint, Smoke, and Dust – Elizabeth Kennedy Bayer
- Reed Quintet No. 1 – Lisa Atkinson
- Portraits of Josephine – Valerie Coleman
- Ol’ St. Louis
- Les Milandes
- Paris 1925
We were equipped with felt pens and art paper conveniently mounted to a clipboard and encouraged to draw a “musical map” of the performance. It was fun and a bit challenging to attempt to channel the performance to a spontaneous felt-pen drawing. We were instructed to take a cell-phone photo and send it in via Instagram. I don’t have an Instagram account, but here’s my musical map anyhow!
The pieces were surprisingly virtuoso and demanding – I’ve played every instrument in that group but bassoon and majored in oboe for my short duration in music school. They were challenging pieces and I am always pleasantly surprised to find such great, young musicians.
I had originally planned on missing thingNY due to the logistics of meeting people and feeding myself, but things were running late, in fact late enough that I was also able to take in Holly Pyle, (no way I was going to miss her – I’m familiar with her work) so I missed Keith/Larson & APHASIA instead.
I’m glad I got a chance to witness the spectacle of thingNY’s mini-opera / performance art “Jeff Young and Paul Pinto, Patriots, Run for Public Office on a Platform of Swift and Righteous Immigration Reform, Lots of Jobs, and a Healthy Environment: An Opera by Paul Pinto and Jeffrey Young.” It was very live and engaging.
Jeff and Paul, sang, played, speechified, campaigned up and down the audience aisles, and changed clothes/costumes on stage. It was one live act! Oh and the music was quite good – to my ear reminiscent of some of Frank Zappa’s later work.
Holly Pyle was absolutely fabulous as usual! She did a short set of unaccompanied loop-recorded singing, which if you haven’t heard her go see her as she performs all over Phoenix. She uses a recording set-up to lay down backup vocals, vocalized rhythm figures, and vocal harmonies. Nothing is prerecorded. She makes up all the parts on the spot and then sings “lead” to her arrangements. One very talented young woman.
Just as Holly Pyle was finishing up, my date texted me – she was in the lobby so I headed out for Mexican food and a couple of beers, missing Keith/Larson & APHASIA, but making it back just in time for Josh Bennett as Blackwind.
Josh plays clarinet with accompanying electronic music including what sounded to me like loop recording similar to Holly Pyle. An accomplished clarinetist, his composition Improvisation X? was interesting and his acoustic clarinet work integrated seamlessly with the electronic complement. The second half of his set was “It Goes Without Saying” by Nico Muhly.
The Contemporary Percussion Ensemble of ASU presented, in its over 1 hour entirety, Michael Gordon’s TIMBER. Here’s a nice write-up on the piece:
Though categorized as a minimalist piece, TIMBER is really something else; I’m not quite sure what though. I had not heard it before this performance, and it is quite the experience to go on this journey though sound-rhythm for such an extended time – it’s almost like chanting and meditating; you really do go into a kind of altered-state. I can only imagine what the performers were experiencing! They play like non-stop for over an hour and you can tell that the music is demanding their full attention. It was a very interesting experience.
As I mentioned above, I missed the last two acts; but I’m sure they were awesome!
If you were there, you know all I say is true, and if you missed it this year – make it next year. It’s really a blast!