I heard the first performance of Talking About Dancing at Stony Brook yesterday. To get there, I had to take a boat, which I don’t do nearly enough. It really feels like an accomplishment, making a boat journey. I also like the feeling of ferry-boats, which all seem to originate from the same era (maybe the 60’s?) after which they apparently stopped making them. I’ve never seen a new ferry. The Martha’s Vineyard Islander was my favorite when I was six, and she apparently just retired last year!
he SUNY campuses also seem to have been built around the same time as all ferries, at the height of the kind of impersonal modernism that everybody now hates. The buildings are brown-brick monoliths with huge, featureless spaces between them. The interiors of the buildings are identical corridors of white cinderblock. I’m sure that if I went to school there, I would get lost most days, especially since there are no windows with which to orient oneself.
Flying Forms put on an incredibly ambitious concert of seven world premières. I think this means that the modern repertoire for Baroque trio just increased by about 30 percent. My friends Robin and Zach both wrote really enjoyable pieces, Robin’s a pretty literal interpretation of ancient Scottish folk-song practice, and Zach’s a spicy neoclassical tribute to the Greek muses. Even though many of the pieces referred to the past for inspiration (mine included) I was impressed with the variety of styles and instrumental idioms that people came up with. The trio played tirelessly, in fact even seemed to gain energy towards the end of the concert, when they were joined by an awesome soprano named Elisabeth Holmertz.
Last Thursday was another New Music New Haven, one of the strangest I’ve been to: two and a half hours of weird stylistic juxtapositions. Tom Duffy dressed up in a half-black-half-white tuxedo, with makeup and hair… paint (there was music that went along with that, too). Derrick had an improv… techno? piece? And don’t forget Alvin Lucier’s Silver Streetcar for Orchestra, a 15-minute triangle solo spectacularly played by Mike Compitello. Then Jay had a moody, atmospheric piece for trombone and sampled trombone. In between those were some more normal pieces, which I think only seemed normal compared to their surroundings (my piece, Play it by Ear, again included).
I had a strange experience the morning of the concert. I woke up not hearing well in my right ear; it felt sealed off somehow. The health service discovered that in fact both my ear canals were almost completely blocked. I’d been hearing everything through two pinholes for who knows how long. So they shot some water all up ins and that seemed to do the trick. I spent the day being entranced by what I had thought were familiar sounds; a running faucet, rustling bedclothes, typing on my computer, and so forth. All those high frequencies I’d been missing! I could even hear the beats in Fideliotrio (just in time)! I can’t imagine a better state of mind (and body) in which to listen to Lucier’s music (OK, perhaps I can), most of which is based on the unhurried exploration of natural sonic phenomena. I really enjoyed Silver Streetcar. Triangles have some truly amazing overtones.