LIVE: A Festival of Firsts @ The Brick Elephant, 10/03/09
It was wall-to-wall premieres of 21st-century music in Valley Falls last Saturday, as Re-soundings presented A Festival of Firsts. More than eight hours of adventurous modern music echoed (and resounded) off the walls of The Brick Elephant, the former Catholic church that’s now a concert venue as well as home to composer Mary Jane Leach.
I missed Dan Evans Farkas’ presentation of circuit bent children’s toys and Nicholas Chase’s world premiere of “Songs of The Thirsty Sword” (piano, interactive laptop and video) and also had to leave before Richard Lainhart’s world premiere of “No Other Time” (live analog electronics performance and high-definition computer-animated film projection) although he indicated that it will soon be available, as many of his pieces are, on Vimeo.
The great thing about a festival like this is that it offers such a diverse and ever-changing selection of sounds and ideas: Alfred Brown built dense and dreamlike constructions of sound from layers upon layers of rumbling ambient guitar echoing through the church. In contrast, David Gunn’s “Lunar Ear Mural,” which Laurel Ann Maurer performed on flute with a prerecorded backing track was delicate (and gorgeous). Taking off in a third direction, Al Margolis and Doug Van Nort collaborated on their laptops, improvised a sonic tapestry that ran the gamut from insect-like tones, to long droning loops to industrial oboes to swooping yodelling voices.
Next up was a reprise of Karl Korte’s “Drops of Water,” which premiered earlier in the day. It was a delightful, sometimes humorous 13-minute work in which, in a jaw-dropping amount of work, five audio samples of water were digitally processed to sound, at various times, like wood blocks, a harp, a guitar, a child’s rattle, steel drums and some bad science-fiction sound effects, interspersed with the original sounds of water.
Rocco Anthony Jerry performed six short pieces by five composers, all on accordion; no polkas, and the most challenging selections of the afternoon, running the gamut from jarring and dissonant to plaintive and soothing.
“I feel like I have stars in my head,” exclaimed Mary Jane Leach after the world premiere of “Piano E-Tude,” a work for taped e-bowed piano, live piano and her crooning soprano voice that slowly and playfully swooped around the harmonics generated by the piano. It was a mesmerizing highlight of the afternoon, as the setting sun poured in the stained glass windows of the church.
The event also included artwork by Casey Daurio, Jon Flanders and Tyler Weedon’s, whose “Big Guy, Little Guy” series of existential comics featuring a dialog between God and Man seemed right at home in the church. Kudos to Mary Jane Leach for putting together such an ambitious day of music and art.