Tom Strini
Review

Present Music’s Wherehouse lightning

By - Jun 19th, 2010 01:38 am
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Composer Du Yun.

Just as Du Yun’s fantastical Air Glow rumbled to its distant-thunder conclusion Friday, a vast bolt of lightning flashed across the sky behind the performers, beyond the enormous bank of industrial windows on the south wall of The Wherehouse.

The moment was so perfect that you’d expect to see “lightning flash” written in the score. It was that kind of night for Present Music, which ended its season with as eccentric and wonderful a concert one could hope to witness.

Du Yun flings sound about as Jackson Pollock flung paint. Yes, she writes stuff down, but her music is all splashes of color and gesture. In “Air Glow,” Du left Present Music’s Don Sipe (trumpet), Eric Segnitz (electric guitar), Marie Sander (assorted flutes) and Bill Helmers (clarinet) plenty of room to improvise as she produced atmospheric electronics. They did, in exactly the rambunctious spirit the music requires. Forget about chords and functional harmony. Du is all about piling up and roughing up raucous ideas. Remember those cartoon fights, whirls of dust emitting stars and lightning bolts? It’s like that, but in sound, and it’s a blast.

Du showed her diva side in Miranda, in which she sang/intoned a surrealistic text by Matt Haimovitz as she played a killer piano part. Dream-Bend, for her own voice and keyboard, cello (Peter Thomas) and viola (Brek Renzelman), is striving, groaning and relatively static, suspended in time.

After all that, excerpts from Gabriel Prokofiev’s String Quartets Nos. 1 and 2 seemed fairly conventional. They’re not, really. Prokofiev’s quartets are not about sonata form and development; they’re about the groove. Violinists Eric Segnitz and Jeff Yang, Renzelman and Thomas got that, and they got the differences among the grooves. They knew when Prokofiev referred to Hendrix and to East European folk music and to African music and to Bartók. Rhythmic vitality prevailed through all the composer’s rhythmic and allusive variety.

Clarinetist Helmers opened the concert with Steve Reich’s New York Counterpoint. He played the version for prerecorded tracks and solo clarinet. This is not counterpoint as fugue is counterpoint. It’s more like a series of echo chambers, in which assorted percolating figures bounce around, overlap and mutate. They’re more like layered ostinati than like themes. The music does not make an argument, it casts a series of spells.

Present Music artistic director loves to collaborate and loves dance. The sizzling Kelly Anderson reprised a bit of 26, which she recently choreographed for Milwaukee Opera Theatre. She stripped down to a sexy little slip and burned through her own tragicomic take on bad love, to Nathan Wesselowski’s piano arrangement of Caldera’s Sebben, Crudele.

Composer Christopher Burns.

Choreographer Luc Vanier, composer Christopher Burns and dancers Jaimi Patterson and Steven Moses made the biggest impression of this remarkable night, in Love’s Fodder. Patterson and Moses sat nearly still, side by side in modified lotus position, eyes closed, for quite a long while. As Burns’ unpredictably pulsing electronic music rose, they began to explore their own and each other’s bodies, first on the floor. They rose to twine, untie and twine again into the most complex and sensual knots.

Their focus, entirely inward at first, gradually turned toward their partners. Their grappling, erotically charged from the start, intensified as their bodies warmed and gained lithe flexibility and strength through their torsos. The dance is about not only the sensuality of contact, but also about the sensuality of movement and the full engagement of musculature, respiration and thought.

Love’s Fodder is physical, honest, noble in its way, and very, very sexy.

Categories: Classical, Dance

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