Big rooms, slick clothes, and pricey intermission drink prices have their place, but I thought I should get out to shows organized by smaller, less tightly knit groups, where the filters are off and the experimentation is on. I also thought that I’d seen lots of fiddles and horns, so it might be worth finding a show where there’s more plugged in than the announcer’s microphone.
The first day of the Umbrella Music Festival got under way with co-curator Dave Rempis describing Chicago as a “nexus of creative improvised music.” He went on to describe the city as “a resonant, nodal point that makes connections with players and listeners worldwide.” The music that followed reflected upon the vibrancy of the Chicago music scene, as well as the sonic communications that cross both genre boundaries and international borders.
French and German accents can still be found across the Boston musical landscape—the Boston Symphony, under James Levine, seemed to double down on its Munch-era French specialization, while the Boston Lyric Opera, under new leadership, has been taking tentative steps into the realm of Regietheater. New music has always been more of a grab bag. But a couple of concerts this month at least took that old German-French axis as a starting point—though the music ended up in rather more cosmopolitan territory.
In addition to a wide variety of sculpture, painting, and installations, the Blanton Museum features the Soundspace series which pairs composers with choreographers and dancers with instrumentalists to create interdisciplinary works that interact with and explore various spaces and works of art within the museum.
Bringing to light the latest generation’s approach to music, a few courageous folks recently set out to show us all what today’s music is really like and just how expansive it can be. Showcasing over 100 composers from six continents (all age 40 and under), 16 ensembles, and dozens of premieres, the SONiC Festival—which ran October 14-22 in venues all over New York City—brought the sound of the 21st century to life.
Recently, the Center for American Architecture and Design, The School of Architecture, and The Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music hosted Music in Architecture • Architecture in Music, an international symposium to “explore the connections between architecture and music through research, composition, design, installation, and live performance.” The four-day event featured papers and presentations from an international gathering of artists and scholars, plus a collaborative composition/architecture competition.
Although some two dozen performances had already happened by that point, the official opening concert of the 2011 Ostrava Days—a biennial new music festival in the Czech Republic founded by the Czech-born, U.S.-based composer and conductor Petr Kotik—began with a massive orchestra on the floor, a pair of percussionists on the stage, and disembodied voices intermittently echoing through the hall, a meditation interrupted by brash, ritualistic themes and romantic interludes combined with an unusual pathos, moderating between militance and stillness.