Articles by Matthew Guerrieri
The HONK! Festival identifies itself as a festival of “activist street bands,” and while some participants still fit squarely in that category—preaching revolution, buoying the oppressed, putting the call-and-response of political protest to a drumline beat—others seemed fired up less by demonstration than by musical immoderation: the sheer multiple-forte thrill of brass and percussion with the leash off, or the welcome-all-comers triumph of volume over precision.
Carter and Dargel make a virtue of musical disruption, showing that the most interesting narratives don’t necessarily project well onto music of smoothness and ease. The characters might vary—Carter’s voluble and acerbic, Dargel’s defiantly damaged—but both dramas spring from the same conviction: that the get-together only starts to be really interesting once things get broken.
Martin Pearlman’s Finnegans Wake: An Operoar did right by James Joyce’s garrulous tumble of language. What success the work produced could be traced to two fundamental decisions: not cutting the text (the piece sets the novel’s first seven pages in whole), and opting for a reciting actor (Adam Harvey) rather than singers.
The sound of trains runs through Harry Partch’s music, the wheeze and whine of whistles drifting over and beyond the settled grid of equal temperament, the percussive cycles phasing in and out like the rods and wheels of a locomotive.
The Festival of Contemporary Music produces an annual, temporary, vibrant community—at times, it feels like a new music networking event with added concerts—but one set apart from the customary Tanglewood crowds. It’s genial to outsiders, but also prone to bewilder them.
Questions of “real” or “fake” are dialectically put aside on the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s new recording of music by Anthony De Ritis, music in which, in a way, everything is real and fake all at the same time. Or, more precisely: this is music which is constantly, enthusiastically directing your attention to the materials out of which it’s fashioned.
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Amplification, it turns out, is a fine line, and the amplification of this particular concert left me in the position of feeling critical towards a program on which, paradoxically, I actually liked a lot of the music itself.
There’s a tension between the natural world songbirdsongs is meant to evoke and the artificial means of the evocation that gives the music an interesting texture. Lovely things happen in every movement of the piece, but in a way that is meant to feel accidental and found, rather than designed and anticipated.
The 2012 Iditarod, as the Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice finale has come to be called, clocked in at more than eleven hours—the longest since I’ve been going. In the end, eleven hours wasn’t all that bad—the sheer bulk of time encouraging a get-comfortable attitude that made every piece feel a little more generous than it might on a regular concert.