Atlanta: Branching Out Beyond the Borders

Mark Gresham
Mark Gresham
Photo by Angela Lee

New music group Bent Frequency concluded their season with a concert at Eyedrum on May 8, titled (Bang Fist). Within the first half of the program, Stuart Gerber offered two interesting solo performance art pieces: Bang Fist, a short, early text by John Cage which eventually appeared in his piece 45′ For a Speaker, and Giorgio Battistelli’s Il Libro Celibe which has a score that is essentially pictures.

The “libro” is a large, briefcase-like box that the performer opens in the manner of a book, each “page” being a rather flat “instrument,” such as a piece of paper, cellophane, metal, or a sound-making construction. Sounds came from the amplified pages as they were manipulated by being torn, flapped, crinkled, blown around, or struck.

The rest of the first half included challenging music by James Tenney, Sylvano Bussotti, and Herbert Brün. Among them, Tenney’s Diaphonic Toccata for violin stood out as a process piece where the composer (per his stated aesthetic) deliberately avoids emotional elements. An unceasing string of 16th notes in octaves on the piano underscores a calculated, irregular line of longer notes in the violin.

Christopher Theofanidis and David Del Tredici
(L-R) Christopher Theofanidis and David Del Tredici
Photo by Jeff Baxter, courtesy of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

May 12–14, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus reached a milestone in its 60th anniversary season, the first time they have ever premiered two major works on the same program—and both choral-orchestral. The Music of Our Final Meeting by Christopher Theofanidis and Paul Revere’s Ride by David Del Tredici were the premieres on the docket with Bernstein’s “Jeremiah” Symphony. The luminous Theofanidis work was a setting of text by Rumi, in English translation by Coleman Barks of Athens, Georgia. Del Tredici’s exuberantly melodramatic setting of Longfellow’s Midnight Ride of Paul Revere was his tribute to the firefighters who died on 9/11, and featured the amplified voice and photographic memory of soprano Hila Plitmann, who performed in both works without score in hand. Seen in the audience and backstage was Plitmann’s husband, composer Eric Whitacre. ASO music director Robert Spano conceived of and conducted the program. The ASO&C also recorded for Telarc in the same marathon weekend: Theofanidis on Saturday and Del Tredici on Sunday.

Atlanta composer Eddie Horst completed the score and studio master tracks in early April for Fatwa, a feature film from Washington DC-based Capital City Entertainment, which had its debut private showing to press and invited guests last month in DC. Shot in Panasonic’s new VariCam® high definition video (which claims an image quality indistinguishable from film), the music and other sound elements were edited into the video at Atlanta’s own Lab 601 post-production house, say Horst. Rumor is that deals for exhibition in North American and European theaters and on cable television are “in negotiation” in Hollywood.

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A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Mark Gresham is a composer, publisher, and freelance music journalist. He is a contributing writer for Atlanta’s alternative weekly newspaper, Creative Loafing, and was winner of an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for Music Journalism in 2003.