The Contemporary Music Forum kicked off its 11th season last night attempting again to prove that modern music is more than "sound and fury signifying nothing." A receptive audience, which included Belgium Ambassador J. Raoul Schoumaker, heard the ensemble perform a program of works by Belgian and American composers at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

The music was highly expressive, and defined its terms on a gut level. Two of the works, by resident composers Frances McKay and Ulf Grahn, dropped like a plumb line into the emotional levels of awareness. Manipulated sound and unusual structures marked McKay's "Elegy in the Form of a Dream" and Grahn's world premiere, "From Dusk to Dawn."

McKay's programmatic composition unwound like a perpetual slow-motion machine, an aural "This Is Your Life" with the requisite memories and pain. Grahn's piece provoked differing responses from the audience, from bemusement to rapture. Soprano Pamela Jordan interpreted the sounds of twilight by hissing and rolling fat vowels or razor-sharp consonants off her tongue and occasionally striking three cymbals. She was accompanied by Edward Hayes on a family of clarinets.

Pianist Barbro Dahlman dominated the Belgian selections with her self-assured, purposeful style and exacting technical prowess. Dahlman transformed the keyboard into a kaleidoscope of brilliant, shifting colors and ordered patterns of seemingly endless variety during Henri Pousseur's "Yin-Yang." Paul Michel's compelling "Toreutique" opened the concert, and Jacqueline Fontyn's "Zones" concluded the program. Violinist Helmut Braunlich conducted the ensemble for "Zones," a self-indulgent piece, complete with sound effects suitable for Saturday morning cartoons. -- J. Kenneth Townsend Expressive Contemporary Music

The Contemporary Music Forum kicked off its 11th season last night attempting again to prove that modern music is more than "sound and fury signifying nothing." A receptive audience, which included Belgium Ambassador J. Raoul Schoumaker, heard the ensemble perform a program of works by Belgian and American composers at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

The music was highly expressive, and defined its terms on a gut level. Two of the works, by resident composers Frances McKay and Ulf Grahn, dropped like a plumb line into the emotional levels of awareness. Manipulated sound and unusual structures marked McKay's "Elegy in the Form of a Dream" and Grahn's world premiere, "From Dusk to Dawn."

McKay's programmatic composition unwound like a perpetual slow-motion machine, an aural "This Is Your Life" with the requisite memories and pain. Grahn's piece provoked differing responses from the audience, from bemusement to rapture. Soprano Pamela Jordan interpreted the sounds of twilight by hissing and rolling fat vowels or razor-sharp consonants off her tongue and occasionally striking three cymbals. She was accompanied by Edward Hayes on a family of clarinets.

Pianist Barbro Dahlman dominated the Belgian selections with her self-assured, purposeful style and exacting technical prowess. Dahlman transformed the keyboard into a kaleidoscope of brilliant, shifting colors and ordered patterns of seemingly endless variety during Henri Pousseur's "Yin-Yang." Paul Michel's compelling "Toreutique" opened the concert, and Jacqueline Fontyn's "Zones" concluded the program. Violinist Helmut Braunlich conducted the ensemble for "Zones," a self-indulgent piece, complete with sound effects suitable for Saturday morning cartoons.