Thursday, June 21, 2012

Generation of sounds....

Georgia Tech's resident new music ensemble Sonic Generator presented a concert that included:
Dodge- Viola Elegy (1987) with Charles Dodge, viola
Vogt, Goudarzi, Holdrich- Chirping Stars (2012)
Reich- Piano Phase (1967) with Stuart Gerber and Charles Settle, marimbas
Berger- Doubles (2004) Helen Kim and Adelaide Federici, violins, William Johnston, viola, and Brad Ritchie, cello

The concert was held in the beautiful Academy of Medicine building at Georgia Tech. 
Sonic Generator is one of the best musical ensembles in Atlanta.  It presents challenging, cutting-edge music that reflects the best in new music evolution.  Last year's day-long marathon at the Woodruff Atrium was as good as it gets. This concert was considerably shorter, but no less interesting. 

Charles Dodge is best known for his electronic and computer music composition.  I found this on the Web about the piece:
The following note is an excerpt from "Some Personal Reflections on the Music of Charles Dodge" written by Ingram Marshall to accompany a CD anthology of pieces by Charles Dodge on the New Albion label (NA043 CD).
Viola Elegy is, perhaps, Charles Dodge's most lyrical and beautiful composition to date. It was composed using an algorithm based on principles of Benoit Mandelbrot's fractal geometry. The tape part was composed and realized first. Then the viola part was made by selectively doubling lines on the tape part until it takes over completely and ends the work with a solo cadenza. To anyone familiar with Morton Feldman's viola pieces (The Viola in My Life, Rothko Chapel), the kinship and homage will be apparent. It was written as an elegy for Feldman, but there is a universal quality in that it bespeaks of a wider lament, for whom or what I can't say.  (oops- I just noticed that this quote is also in the program notes)

The Viola Elegy, other than being elegiac (duh), may best be described as a rhapsody where the viola plays along with an pre-recorded electronic score. Its seems like a difficult piece to perform, given that it has no strong rhythmic base and the electronic music has no discernible beat, at least to me.  The music rarely strayed from being rather heavy and dark.  Dodge did a remarkable job.  The viola did not seem to occupy the same acoustical space as the electronically generated music and was a bit disconcerting for me.  I am not sure if it was a stereo recording, but it not, it might have improved the integration of the viola and accompaniment.

Chirping Stars is "a tape piece made of the sonification of social media data,"  according to the program notes.  Alrighty then... this piece may have been interesting based upon how it was derived, but it did not engaged me.  It reminded me of the sound from overlapping AM radio stations. 

(from YouTube in the original piano version)

The Reich piece is wonderful.  Originally written for the piano it was played here by marimbas. From the programs notes "the piece begins with two pianos playing an identical melodic phrase consisting of twelve notes.  After playing in unison for a bit, one player begins to play slightly faster than the other.  Eventually, the players settle back into the same tempos with one player one note ahead of the other, in the melodic pattern." I find the repeated patterns in the music of Reich, Glass, Adams, Paart, and Riley (among others) to be compelling and hypnotic.  It drags me into the moment so that all I experience is the music.  A fascinating part of this music is that eventually the two marimbas, slightly askew, create a third line, that has its own rhythm and melody.  This line also changes over time.  It's a great work and an enjoyable exploration of our perception. 

Berger's piece, written for the St. Lawrence String Quartet, is quite beautiful.  here is what the composer said about the music:
Doubles recalls songs of peace, freedom and resistance that were influential in my youth. Some of the references are readily identifiable, others  obscured. The title 'Doubles' refers to the seventeenth century practice of pairing a short piece with a highly embellished version of itself. The doubles in the quartet consist of three pairs of ornamental variations. In each double a new theme emerges. This theme is itself ornamented in the subsequent section, thus creating two simultaneous shifted sets of doubles.

The piece provides a range of music, from exquisite melodies to strong emotional confrontation.  It was performed beautifully by the string quartet.  In addition to my excerpts, a full recording of Doubles can be streamed at:

Just a side note.  Cellist Brad Ritchie has to be the hardest working musician in Atlanta.  He performs with many groups and has a wide repertoire. He also plays very well. 

The next performance for Sonic Generator will be at the goat Farm in West Midtown on July 27, 2012.  It will feature Reich's Drumming.

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