At the Corcoran, a Different Tune

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Contemporary Music Forum's Sunday afternoon concert at the Corcoran Gallery was a palliative for the sore ears of concertgoers saturated with the traditional and the familiar. Here were dedicated musicians giving vigorous accounts of edgy new works that incorporate visual media, computer enhancement and novel instrumental effects. No Shostakovich or Mozart anniversary celebrations here.

Douglas Boyce's "La Guerra de la Driada" is a song setting of the Octavio Paz poem of the same name. Rather than trying to capture the meaning of the surrealist texts directly, the music conjures up more amorphous atmospherics. Episodes of driving rhythm compete with ghostly mystery. This tension further works itself out in the evolving relationship between the soloist (the thoughtful tenor Robert Baker) and accompaniment (violinist Lina Bahn, cellist Ignacio Alcover and violist Jennifer Mondie). Baker sang deftly, and the trio played with precision and intensity.

Frederick Weck's Video VI created a far-reaching sensory fabric, integrating a projection of colored patterns, recorded violin and played violin. As blocks of color on the screen became more diffuse, flowing melodies from Bahn's violin (live and recorded) were set against each other, transitioning from a dark smokiness to more crystalline fragility.

There was mercurial energy in Elliott Sharp's "Suberrebus." As the superb pianist Jenny Lin played a driving theme, generally moving from left to right on the keyboard, the composer fed the figures through his Macintosh computer and added a layer of sound projected through speakers, giving a persistent warble one second and brightening it the next.

The musicians, joined by flutist Carole Bean and clarinetist Donald Hoffman, highlighted a latticework of detail in Miroslav Pudlak's Sextet. A generally more sunny affair, the music seemed to continually climb upward with undulant melodies and rising scales.

-- Daniel Ginsberg


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