Saturday, March 07, 2009

Indestructible Frailty

Modern Masters @ An Die Musik, Baltimore, MD
Friday, March 6, 2009

Carrie Rose: flute, movement, voice
Christie Finn: soprano voice
Sylvia Smith: percussion, piano, voice

In Hours Like These by Stuart Saunders Smith
Books of Flutes by Stuart Saunders Smith
Family Portraits: Delbert by Stuart Saunders Smith
Rose: by Stuart Saunders Smith
The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs by John Cage
Nowth Upon Nacht by John Cage
A Flower by John Cage
The Year Begins To Be Ripe by John Cage
High Flyer by Robert Erickson
Mureau by John Cage

Through exposed words - often teetering between meaning and sound - and the unassuming expression of humanity in the music of Smith, Cage and Erickson unfolded through a sequence of quiet pieces that hovered within an imagined stillness. A stillness that the city of Baltimore appeared determined to bend toward its own character through an unusually intense barrage of urban noise filtering into the isolated space of An Die Musik. Persistent pounding, guttural engines bereft of mufflers, wailing sirens and passing helicopters attempted to intrude into these unassuming soundscapes. And each was in turn absorbed into the stillness and Cage-like acceptance of all sounds regardless of intent. Expression of honest frailty at ease within a world of forces and powers.

In Hours Like These began the evening with a soft setting of Vladimir Mayakovsky's suicide note. A poem of painful solitude set to voice and orchestral bells that expresses loss and peace through subtle intensity. From this opening the evening took turns toward and away from voice and instrument as a carriers of concrete meaning.

The four John Cage songs were performed as a single set for voice and piano as percussion instrument. Sylvia Smith lightly tapping the closed instrument - or violently slamming it shut at the onset of Nowth Upon Nacht - as Cage's witty settings of James Joyce and Henry David Thoreau drew sounds and ideas from the voice with light recourse to extended technique. Chirstie Finn's intonation was remarkable through these pieces.

Carrie Rose presented passionate interpretations of solo flute compositions. Book of Flutes featured carefully selected excerpts from a larger set of writings by Stuart Smith Smith while Robert Erickson's High Flyer deftly worked in spoken and whipsered consonants and vowel sounds as a ripple of voice-like sounds within the flute textures.

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