MCA Presents MUSIC FOR MERCE Review – Celebrating the musicians connected with the MCDC (Merce Cunningham Dance Company)

Editor's Note:  This MUSIC FOR MERCE concert was held in conjunction with the MCA's exhibit- "Merce Cunningham:  Common Time". 

MCA hosts a concert, Music for Merce, artfully curated by John King featuring musicians connected with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC), an all-star cast comprised of many whom had toured with the company worldwide during its long and celebrated existence.

Pensive beginnings

The evening began with Or 4 People by Christian Wolff, a reflective introduction for a journey  to many sonic vistas. The space between each of the notes provided an opportunity listen, each artist considering carefully the notes and gestures he put forth.

Vocal gymnastics

In contrast to the first, Joan La Barbara followed with an energetic performance of her own  Solitary Journeys of the Mind, reminiscent of John Cage's Aria and Berio's Sequenza III, pieces in which the vocalist becomes more of an instrument than a conveyer of overt semantic meaning.  Expressive and emotive, La Barbara intimately drew us in to her world with her expertise and powerful presence.

Integration of technology

Radioheads drummer Philip Selway and Quinta paired to perform a series of pieces. Yeasholl, the first piece, used the marimba to trigger repetitive patterns of prerecorded vocal phonemes and cat purrs, with interruptive coughing sounds – providing both a clever transition from the previous piece and the integration of levity and art in this captivating piece.  Performing on laptop, Ikue Morie provided further reinforcement, becoming prominent in the second half of this piece as she synthesized a wall of noise, creating an effective contrast to the organic beginning. The second piece piece of this duo, One Note Arpeggio, involved Quinta expertly bowing a saw, sounding much like a theramin, to create beautiful melodies, She was exquisite in the way she played expressively to Selway's piano accompaniment.

MCA Presents MUSIC FOR MERCE Review – Celebrating the musicians connected with the MCDC
Performance view, Music for Merce, MCA Chicago February 25-26, 2017 Photo: Nathan Keay

The last piece again featured Selway on the marimba triggering samples of a string ensemble to create an immersive accompaniment to Quinta's melodies, also featuring King on the piano.

Unforeseen synchronicity

The first segment of the program concluded with a performance of John Cage's Fontana Mix with Aria with Indeterminacy. In the spirit of John Cage, many independent layers were involved in this piece.  The interaction between the dramatic vocalizing of La Barbara's performance of Aria and Fast Forward's reading of Indeterminacy provided a trip down the rabbit hole – one can make various unintended connections between the various layers (the electronics, the vocals, and the narrative) to have a personal experience with the performance, one dependent on one's own choices of involvement as a listener.

The power of noise

The second half began with David Tudor's Untitled (1975/1994) performed by John King, a visceral experience of computer music exploiting the spatialized capabilities of an immersive sound environment.  It was at this point I had truly forgotten how I entered this concert, and how far we had come as abstract sonic landscapes poured forth.

Layers

King's petite ouverture en forme de mErCE CunninGHAm was another mesmerizing fabric of layers. Many combinations of the various performers provided interesting interactions, duets, and trios.   The playing of the harp with an egg beater to strike the strings or a bow created amazing textures in conjunction with the live electronics: fluctuations from a dense cacophony to a single sustained layer.

Choices

The concert culminated in an “EVENT” wherein all the musicians present for the evening performed together. Poignant memories of the concert come from this piece wherein Behrman was playing with a set of amplified handbells, at first in its box which he rattled, and at last dropped and retrieved energetically on the stage to create scintillating, shimmering, sonic fabric.  We always had something to see or listen to, either as a group composition or single musicians. The curation of the concert itself was a work of art, wherein King at times programed pieces that used similar elements of a previous piece to move to the next, or the lack thereof to provide contrast. The concert had a wonderful trajectory to it, and the closing of the “Event” left me wanting more.

The power of noise

The second half began with David Tudor's Untitled (1975/1994) performed by John King, a visceral experience of computer music exploiting the spatialized capabilities of an immersive sound environment. It was at this point I had truly forgotten how I entered this concert, and how far we had come as abstract sonic landscapes poured forth.

Layers

King's petite ouverture en forme de mErCE CunninGHAm was another mesmerizing fabric of layers. Many combinations of the various performers provided interesting interactions, duets, and trios. The playing of the harp with an egg beater to strike the strings or a bow created amazing textures in conjunction with the live electronics: fluctuations from a dense cacophony to a single sustained layer.

Choices

The concert culminated in an “EVENT” wherein all the musicians present for the evening performed together. Poignant memories of the concert come from this piece wherein Behrman was playing with a set of amplified handbells, at first in its box which he rattled, and at last dropped and retrieved energetically on the stage to create scintillating, shimmering, sonic fabric. We always had something to see or listen to, either as a group composition or single musicians. The curation of the concert itself was a work of art, wherein King at times programed pieces that used similar elements of a previous piece to move to the next, or the lack thereof to provide contrast. The concert had a wonderful trajectory to it, and the closing of the “Event” left me wanting more.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Read composer Brad Robin’s review of an earlier EVENTS music and dance event at the MCA here.

And, to plug into Picture this Post’s ongoing conversations with choreographers about Merce Cunninghams’s work visit our page “Cunningham Through Choreographers’ Eyes” .

The conversation continues--

Choreographers' Eyes - Dancers Explain Dance

BradRobinheadshotAbout the Author:

Brad Robin composes and conducts music in a multitude of styles for soloists and ensembles ranging from jazz band to contemporary chamber groups and orchestras.  Compositions have also included a computer component designed to manipulate and augment naturally occurring environmental sounds, as well as those of acoustic instruments. As a pianist and keyboardist, he composes and performs music for dance, theatre, film and multimedia performance art. In addition to the United States, his music has been performed in Croatia, Mexico and New Zealand. Having completed a PhD in Music Composition from the University of North Texas and Master's degree in music composition at DePaul University, he currently resides in Chicago with his wife Nicole and continues his studies at Northwestern University.

www.bradrobin.com

 

Make a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *