Where we been? Well, there was one concert, then another, then another. Only one out of the three was new, true, but I did manage to take in some Saariaho at Carnegie, and even opine about it, and bask in the amazingness that is Ursula Oppens. Along the way, some thoughts about new music…
The conceit of the C4 concert (C4 is a collective of conductors, singers, and composers) was songs without words, which nonetheless have something to communicate. By removing the most obvious feature of choral music, two interesting and opposite styles emerged.
About half the pieces were a kind of tribal throwback, emulations of foreign sounds inspired by the music of Bulgaria (Martha Sullivan), Finland (Jaako Mӓntyjärvi), China (Huang Ruo) and, in a particularly aggressive ear worm by Toby Twining, Africa. Most were tuneful, lively, and, imho, went on just a touch too long.
Two of the pieces, by C4 leader David Harris and Lithuanian composer Zibuokle Martinaityte illustrated the opposite. David’s piece was a flowing, atmospheric journey whose texture grew thicker in the middle with the addition of an elaborate catch. The longer notes were intoned on neutral syllables (with some cool overtones and other effects), the catch was on word-like little snippets.
The Martinaityte, likely my favorite on the program, was bright with nuanced tone clusters, with lines alternating their dissonance to each other in spooky, urgent momentum. It reminded me of the famous Ligeti Requiem.
I wonder if these two archetypes are a product of our time. We now have electronics that can create soundscapes, so perhaps as an extension of our technology fascination, we create acoustic music that sounds like it could have come from a program. And in an opposite reaction, perhaps from a longing for a simpler, earthier time, we reimagine what that time and place might have sounded like.