Unruly Music celebrated over four nights this week

By - Apr 12th, 2011 02:48 pm
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Followers of Present Music take note! UW-Milwaukee’s Unruly Music Festival will present new music concerts Thursday through Sunday at Marcus Center Vogel Hall. The concerts could hardly be more varied, with something new each night.


Yarn/Wire Quartet

Yarn/Wire Quartet

April 14 – Thursday evening features Yarn/Wire, comprising two pianists and two percussionists. The quartet champions and frequently premieres new works. Composers are attracted by their reputation for a disciplined approach, precise rhythms and an unlimited palette that offers an opportunity to experiment with contrasting sounds and patterns.

Alex Mincek, describes his work, Pendulum VI: “Trigger,” for Yarn/Wire as exploring “binary relationships; relationships such as short/long, fast/slow, high/low, loud/quiet, sparse/dense, unified/separated, clear/ambiguous, parallel/contrary, different/similar, mechanical/organic, etc. …(where) both sides of each polemic are treated as equals and are mediated by alternating in quick, constant succession from one to the other in an attempt to represent the insistence of ‘having it both ways.'”

Mei-Fang Lin dedicated her Yarny/Wiry to the quartet. Sample it here. The group will also play works by three local composers.


David Bithell's "Liminal Surface"

Image from David Bithell’s “Liminal Surface.”

April 15 – Friday’s artist, David Bithell, is as concerned as much with theater as with music.  Bithell will explore the mix in a suite of personal compositions in collaboration with Yarn/Wire (Thursday’s featured group). Bithell makes music to accompany experiments with motion, facial expressions and manipulated media. At its simplest, Bithell choreographs the performance of a team of percussionists. Or he might process images of faces and project them synchronized with music.

In The Liminal Surface, multiple cameras follow a collection of table-top electronic objects that create sound and motion on a miniature stage.

“Theater” results when music and images form patterns that introduce illusion and surprise.

Bithell will stay for a talk with the audience after the concert.


Christopher Adler playing the Khaen

Christopher Adler playing the Khaen

April 16 – Saturday evening features a unique instrument with exquisite overtones. Christopher Adler is a virtuso on the khaen, a traditional Thai instrument. (A variant is important to Hmong culture.) Imagine a fixed reed bamboo instrument capable of a single note. Organize a cluster of 16 of them around a windchest and manipulate holes on the pipes to open one or a combination. The resulting sound takes advantage of the resonance of adjacent pipes. Samples of the sound suggest an instrument of great beauty not paralleled in Western instruments.

The concert – New Musical Geographies – will feature improvisations of traditional Thai music as well as contemporary works Adler has commissioned – including angel music by Sidney Marquez Boquiren and Triangulation, by Unruly Music organizer Christopher Burns.

Eager to try to write a composition yourself for this marvelous instrument? Adler provides a convenient guide to the khaen’s capabilities here.

By the way – Adler will be previewing the concert from 1:00 – 1:30 on Saturday at the UW-Milwaukee Kenilworth Open Studios event.


Andrew McIntosh - violin

April 17 – Sunday evening, violinist (and occasional violist) Andrew McIntosh will perform 20th Century virtuoso works, including György Ligeti’s very difficult Sonata for solo viola and selections from John Cage’s Freeman Etudes. In an interview in the early 1980s, Cage asserted:

These are intentionally as difficult as I can make them, because I think we’re now surrounded by very serious problems in the society, and we tend to think that the situation is hopeless and that it’s just impossible to do something that will make everything turn out properly. So I think that this music, which is  almost impossible, gives an instance of the practicality of the impossible.

McIntosh will also explore micro-tonal works. An amateur guitar player trying to play a violin quickly learns that a violin is fretless — no guides on the fingerboard define pitch. Violinists can divide scales into intervals smaller than the half-steps, the smallest unit of pitch under the familiar equal temperament system. Small adjustments of finger places can fine-tune to adjust to different tuning protocols.

Why does this matter? The scales we are accustomed to are given fixed assignments which allow an instrument like a piano to comfortable play in any key with a fixed keyboard. But the intervals between notes are slightly compromised by the process.  Among the purists, even Bach is subject to restoration.

A solo violin can select notes whose intervals re-establish a “purer” sound. With many more selections, a much richer palette is presented. Works by Morton Feldman and Marc Sabat that explore contrasting intervals help to demonstrate the value of these choices.

All programs begin at 7:30 p.m. in Marcus Center Vogel Hall; enter on the State Street side, near the bridge over the Milwaukee River. More about UW-Milwaukee’s Unruly Music program series can be found here.  For tickets for this week’s events call: Marcus Center box office (414) 273-7206 or Peck School of the Arts box office (414) 229-4308 and at the Marcus Center box office, 414 273-7206.. $12 general/$10 seniors & UWM faculty, staff & alumni/$8 students.

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