American Women Composers Inc., a national organization dedicated to promoting the works of contemporary women, presented a concert yesterday afternoon at the Corcoran's Armand Hammer Auditorium. Most of the works were given their Washington premiere, and all were given insightful and polished performances by flutist Penelope Fischer, clarinetist Stephen Bates, cellist Virginia Gardener and pianist Jutta Eigen.
Several of the program's works were closely tied to visual images and consequently helped the listener grasp their complex constructions more easily. "Gazebo Music," Judith Shatin Allen's flute and cello piece composed for an open-air dance performance, effectively evokes a nature scene without resorting to blatant pastoral imitation. Ruth Loman's "Five Ceremonial Masks," for prepared piano, is a more direct depiction of the action in a Navajo chant ritual, yet the skillful use of different rhythmic clusters keeps the music from becoming a mere patchwork of colorful timbres.
A work for solo flute by Janice Misurell Mitchell takes the Mo bius strip as its visual starting point, developing one chunk of sound and exploring its permutations as it travels down an imaginary "strip" -- a piece of paper twisted once and joined end to end. "Mo bius Trip" conquers a problem often found in contemporary music literature: The work preserves the integrity of its theoretical premise while maintaining a purely esthetic guise. Ursula Mamlok's "Polyphony I," for clarinet, doesn't seem as successful at breaking these tricky barriers. It stays in the realm of the clever exercise.
Other composers represented were Laura Kaminsky, whose "Enkomios" contrasts the flute's capacity for microtones with the piano's pitch limitations, Ruth Shaw Wylie and Eleanor Cory.