Sunday, February 06, 2005
Tonight was a long overdue outing to hear some live music. Lori Freedman was playing over the bridge in Seattle so I set out to treat my ears for the evening.
The performance venue was small. Even by new music standards. Ms. Freedman was casually preparing for her performance on stage as the place filled up to capacity (approximately 20 people being all it takes to pack the place). Her friendly banter with both friends and strangers set a nice tone and served as a prelude for the evening's activities.
The first set was solo Freedman. She played both bass clarinet and B Flat clarinet and fluidly drew upon several extended techniques. After a great opening piece she seemed eager to thaw the respectfully silent audience by inviting people to speak up or otherwise indicate their level of experience with unaccompanied, monadic instrumental music. As her performance progressed the appreciation for her individualistic voice was easy to express.
Through her playing she answered several questions I've had about the bass clarinet and even addressed a few I hadn't yet thought of. I'd long wondered about the tonal quality of the instrument in extreme registers as well as the practical dynamic range. She demonstrated an expressive potential in the instrument that I'd never suspected was possible. I was amazed at how clear the pitch could be at very low volumes and thrilled by her vocalizations and circular breathing technique. On the B Flat clarinet she demonstrated a playful approach to altering timbre and spatial perceptions by pointing the bell end toward reflective surfaces or muzzling it directly into the carpet below her feet. At times there was a bewildering juxtaposition of the human cries and screams emanating from the instrument while her face held a calm, near tranquil state.
For the second set she was joined by Gust Burns on piano and Tom Swafford on violin for some trio improvisations. It was good to hear how Freedman directs her creative energy in this kind of interactive setting. This trio presented a satisfying range of textures and restrained playing that allowed for the emergence of sonic abstract "painting" that forms when group improvisation is working.
This was adventurous music and my ears were pleased to hear it. As a guest to Seattle I hope Lori Freedman will always find such hospitable (if small) spaces for her sound to thrive. It certainly presented my composing mind with plenty of raw material to puzzle over in terms of writing for clarinet and bass clarinet.