You have to admire Yarn/Wire. The quartet of two percussionists and two pianists is in the vanguard of new music and perform with commitment, intensity and precision. Yet, some might question whether these pieces can be called music, while others call it adventuresome listening. On Saturday night at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, a hard-core audience of about 60 people checked out Yarn/Wire’s selections. They proved more interesting and even more charming than one might expect.
The concert began with pianist Laura Barger and percussionist Russell Greenberg in David Brynjar Franzson’s “The Negotiation of Context (C)” from 2009-2011. An intimate piece for prepared piano with Greenberg working on the piano’s strings while Barger played at the keyboard, the slow piece was about timbre and rhythm only on a few specific tones with few chords. These were repeated in various patterns at different dynamic levels with intermittent bars of silence. Barger gave her passages phrasing, arch and emotion.
Pianist Ning Yu and percussionist Ian Antonio joined them for Ann Cleare’s “I should live in wires for leaving you behind” (2014). The four stood around the inside of a piano stroking the strings or glass bowls, which were placed on the strings, in rhythmic patterns that intermingled with the hollow tones emanating from the bowls. The quartet bobbed and weaved together and occasionally Greenberg or Antonio would theatrically hit a drum with a thwack. Tempos increased and effects were added: a bowed wire, tinkling bells, and lastly two spinning metal bowls. It was all kinda cool. The quartet was especially well rehearsed and obviously having fun.
Thomas Meadowcroft’s “Walkman Antiquarian” (2013) was also interesting with a mélange of acoustic sounds, sounds from what Antonio calls “textured objects,” and tape. Rhythm and timbre were still the focus enforced with low honks, hums, undulating patterns, hisses, bells, thumps, clacks and a bit of circus organ. Atmosphere was created. One magical section was like being in the caverns of the mountain dwarfs with Smaug of Hobbit fame.
Franzson’s “B” section from his “Context” was slower, pointillistic and added rumbles and thwacks on bass drums. It was sound vs. silence rather than timbre and rhythm without the “C” section’s structural clarity.
Oyvind Torvund’s six-part “Untitled School” (2014) pitted electronics against projected images with only partial success. Much of it seemed self-indulgent and chaotic except for the segments that had the quartet imitating fragments of orchestral pieces or the eerie, frightening alien-world metallic screams, which were performed in the dark.
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