New Music for the 21st Century
December 29, 2014
New Music for the 21st Century
REVIEW: An Organic Blend
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New Music for the 21st Century
Masatora Goya Melissa Grey Robert Voisey Douglas DaSilva David Morneau


Compooser's Voice

An Organic Blend

December 14 , 2014 - Composer's Voice Concert Review
Review by Jack Crager

By Jack Crager

The December 14 Composer’s Voice Concert at Jan Hus Church is a dazzling mesh of sound and sight. Guest Curator David Morneau presents a series of improvisational compositions accompanied by the lively dance work of Andrea Skurr and the performance group Ruah, Inc. The result is a melange of abstract sounds and fluid movements, blending together like an exotic dish and delicate sauce whose magic is inexplicable but tasty nonetheless.

Andrea Skurr and David Morneau

First up are the co-curators: Morneau performs his own composition, "Blue Toe," on trombone, with structured dance improvisation by Skurr and direction from Guest Artistic Director Beth Megill. The piece begins with mournful horn phrases like howls in the wild, alternating between sliding glissandos and brisk arpeggios, accompanied by a flowing dance that feeds off the energy and suspense of the slippery notes and hanging pauses. As Morneau circles the stage, playing into different corners of the Jan Hus hall to achieve varied sounds, Skurr circles behind him, her body rising and pushing as the notes lift and winding down with the downward aural slides; the electricity between the performers culminates with her mysterious tap of his shoulder to end the piece.

Fifteen Minutes of Fame Diego Vasquez

A quick segue-way brings clarinetist Diego Vasquez to the stage to perform the CV mainstay "Fifteen Minutes of Fame," curated by Vasquez with movement direction by Skurr. This progression of one-minute pieces unfolds as an animated dance interchange between Vasquez, Skurr, and creative collaborators Stine Moen and Brenna Palughi, with music and movements setting sparks off one another.

The sequence begins with Vasquez alone performing Emil Khoury's "Jamboree," playing his woodwind with motion that's lively to the point of manic. Shifting into Thomas Goedecke's "Meandering by Myself" (ironically enough), Vasquez is joined by Skurr and Moen, who hoist him to their shoulders and and spin the clarinetist as he plays, before lowering him during a subdued passage. The pace picks up again for Daniel Arnold's "Flamenco," with Moen and Vasquez engaged at one point in a seductive bump-and-grind dance; the playfulness continues as Palughi joins Vasquez in a peek-a-boo exchange for David Bohn's "Jenny Kissed Me." Later, during Michael Barrett Donovan's "Artificial Bird," all four performers break into a mechanical formation complete with wing flaps and tail flutters; this segues into Sara Huff's "Sun Bird," during which Vasquez is hoisted onto two dancers' backs, lowered, and led in circles as another holds his music. The circular romps and sashaying games continue as the musical pieces weave and build, culminating in the symbiotic choreography of Juan Maria Solare's "Yelling Rainbow," followed by the closer, Brian Petuch's "Twitch," during which the dancers vigorously surround the clarinetist and then sudden finish in drop-dead mode. Of course.

New Thread Quartet

After an instrumentalist ambushed by dancers, what's next? Woodwinds in the round — namely a saxophone combo called the New Thread Quartet, including Kristen McKeon, Zach Herchen, Geoffrey Landman, and Erin Rogers. Rogers is the composer of the afternoon finale, "Moving Lines," which is choreographed under the artistic direction of Skurr and featuring "Ruah + guests." The piece begins with a series of mysterious chords by the sax quartet, emerging like church-organ musings while two dancers (Skurr and Moen), still down from the last count, slowly come to and literally roll off stage. Palughi remains and, as the music builds, she is joined by a passer-by male dancer from the audience who revives her like a reluctant flower and stirs up a duet. The other dancers return for an energetic four-way interplay, while the saxes exchange increasingly frantic flurries and an almost combative sonic bantering.

This gives way to a regal harmonic section, like a quiet sunrise, as the four shift into a flowing dance of sun salutations and pretzel-like twists that reflects the tautness of the rising tones. As the music grows more contemplative, the dancers seem to alternate between rest and action, tugging each other with flirtation and avoidance, pairing off in different scenarios until Palughi engages her male partner in a folding sequence, as if old age has taken over. While the long chords grow more intense she wraps him into prayer-like poses, bends him into states of repose, and finally sets him aside as if he's turned to stone. The "Moving Lines" have abated. And the artistic afternoon has come to a somber but resonate end.

You can find more as well as see and hear some of the performances at the following link: http://www.ComposersVoice.com/media/

Jack Crager

Jack Crager

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