Sunday, February 01, 2009

Mob Testimony

Mobtown Modern: More Than Words
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Contemporary Museum, Baltimore, MD

Lipstick by Jacob ter Veldhuis
Katayoon Hodjati: flute

Manto III by Giacinto Scelsi
Wendy Richman: viola, voice

Les Corps A Corps by Georges Aperghis
Tim Feeney: percussion, voice

Zansetsu by Ken Ueno
Ken Ueno: voice, electronic processing, pop rocks

Shy Girl Shouting Music by Missy Mazzoli
Julieanne Klein: soprano
Steve Lesche: guitar
Joel Ciaccio: bass
Devin Hurd: piano

The reclusive Italian baron Giacinto Scelsi reportedly prefered having his music performed by women. The plaintive, aching beauty of Wendy Richman's performance of Manto III held many of the haunting, spiritually taut and breathlessly intense qualities that bear the distinct mark of Scelsi's music. The one-person interplay between voice and viola held the moments in suspended animation as the tension and frailty mined the singularity of focus that Scelsi's music accomplishes in the expansive, other worldly way of his own devising. Not just "more than words," this was a fleeting glimpse into a sounding universe drawn out by Richman's attentive focus to the subtle dynamic terrain and intuitive feel that bears out Scelsi's expressed preference for performances by her gender.

The "masculine" contrast to the brittle, reserved textures of Scelsi came in the form of composer/performer Ken Ueno's forceful amplification of his own extended voice techniques in Zansetsu. Here the texture is built up from an unflinching exploration of the biological components of the human voice, culminating in the chemical fizzure of dissovling Pop Rocks candy brought into close proximity to the microphone. The theatrical gesture of tearing open the bag of candy, consuming its contents and tossing away the emptied wrapper provided a punctuated moment of bravado and swagger before drawing the ears back into a sound thick with both process and processing.

With Lipstick, Jacob ter Veldhuis takes a pre-rendered track of voice samples as an accompanying rhythm track that the flute meets with percussive finger pads and swirling runs (beautifully executed by Katayoon Hodjati) that develop an expressive tension between pre-rendered source and live performance. The fractured language becomes the basis of jagged groove.

Les Corpse A Corpse builds upon the sound of percussion. Tim Feeney began by performing with a vocal sol fege of drum-like syllables to accompany his own physical drumming. The punctuating impacts of hand upon membrane triggering a clear change in the simple light structure sitting directly behind him as an added visual corollary. The composition then slowly weaves in the heavy concrete of words that form sentences over time. These were introduced deliberately, without warning, before returning with increasing development over regular intervals.

It is difficult to imagine how one perceives Shy Girl Shouting Music without having approached it through study, rehearsal and the perspective of playing it from behind the piano. What began as a rhythmic study, at times demanding in its independence between the four performers, unfolded into a surprising gem that supports the oddly reserved vocal part through a persistent thrashing in the instrumental parts. The jagged sense of groove, bordering on the funky side of Conlon Nancarrow, has piqued my curiosity for Missy Mazzoli's bandsemble Victoire.

With a focus on voice, and occasionally words, "More Than Words" unfolded layers of contrast along the soft tissue of a connecting theme. With the visual component of Guy Werner's lighting and video accompaniment the Mobtown Modern have again created a new music experience that draws in ears and minds with a mix of cohesion and music that is challenging without hostility. Reveling in the variety found on the creative fringe.

1 comment:

Wendy R said...

Thanks so much for the kind words!! That concert was a lot of fun, and you guys were great. It was a bummer to read the Sun review (even though there were some obvious errors in it!), so I really appreciate both you and Erik putting something up on your blogs. Hope to see you again soon. :-)