Cold Night Hot Music

The October Portland New Music Society concert was a little bit of a departure from the usual eclectic mix of live electronics and improvisation. This evening was all composed music, although compositions with very open structures, to be sure, with electronics and improv.

 The unusually cold evening kept the usual Jáce Gáce crowd away, but it didn’t seem to deter any of the new music crowd from coming out to the waffle house for their monthly fix of new music.

Martin and Jace GaceFirst up was an electroacoustic piece (for you) by Jeremy Martin, recently arrived in Portland, and set to stay awhile I hope. His music was an electroacoustic track playing underneath his live electronics (improvisatory but seemingly very carefully thought out before hand), done mainly with an amplified box with springs stretched across it and some African piano type metal strips attached to one end. This was a very rich, densely textured piece, very tight interaction between live and recorded sound. A satisfying piece to watch live, but, I suspect, also just as satisfying to listen to at home on the stereo.

Following gameNext was a piece by Adam Reese, well-known in Portland for interesting and innovative theatrical music. This time, in Following game. we watched Ben Kates and Reed Wallsmith, on alto saxes, follow each other’s leads (playing simply some pitch higher than the other, or lower, depending on the circumstances—but never to repeat a pitch). If one of them repeated a pitch or played lower when he should have played higher et cetera, then they’d stop, give the other one a point, and start up again. It’s one of those things that seems like a good idea but might not be all that much fun to listen to. But was fun to listen to, very much so. Partly because Ben and Reed were both obviously having a great time, but only partly. The sounds themselves were completely satisfying. (By the way, I think one of them did win, but they both agreed that they had tied. So evidently we all won.)

Views from the First HouseThen PDX New curator Brandon Conway gave us Views from the First House, with Jonathan Sielaff (bass clarinet, Ben Kates (saxophone), Brandon Conway (modified autoharp), and John Niekrasz reciting from Ben Marcus’ The Age of Wire and String. This was very different from anything I’d heard of Brandon’s (a recording of his string quartet and some live improv), a tight piece that moved so smoothly from composed to improv and back that it sounded like he’d written out every single note. He hadn’t; there were graphic bits in the score, but all played so seamlessly that the illusion was complete. And the text? Well, Brandon introduced the piece by telling us how impressed he was with Ben Marcus’ book. And sure enough, what John read was very impressive.

At the risk of sounding like a stuck record (except of course that that’s not a bad thing, not any more), I have to say it: Another richly rewarding evening of interesting and innovative music. On November 10 (before I get back from the Gaida festival, sadly), Lukas Ligeti will perform at Jáce Gáce. That’s a Monday, note, not a Wednesday.

Here’s the blurb that went out with the announcement:

“Composer-percussionist Lukas Ligeti is developing a style of music uniquely his own, drawing upon Downtown New York experimentalism, contemporary classical music, jazz, electronica, as well as world music, particularly from Africa…. Oblivious to categorizations such as “classical”, “pop”, etc., Lukas‘ main interests include cultural exchange, new forms of interplay between musicians in an ensemble, polyrhythms/polytempo structures, and non-tempered tunings, and his music ranges from the through-composed to the free-improvised. Other major sources of inspiration include experimental mathematics, computer technology, architecture and visual art, sociology and politics, and traveling…. His concert music has been commissioned by Bang on a Can, the Vienna Festwochen, Ensemble Modern, Kronos Quartet, Colin Currie and Håkan Hardenberger, the American Composers Forum, New York University, ORF Austrian Broadcasting Company, Radio France, and many others; he has also composed for dance, film, and installation.” —-

There will also be a workshop at Portland State University that afternoon from 3 to 4:30, location to be announced. (Check the sidebar. I’ll update that with the location as soon as I know it. Or check the PDX New site,

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