A first-time visitor to Strathmore Hall's aristocratic music room on Saturday was a pinball machine, winking luridly at the audience, awaiting new music by German electronic composer Ulrich Suesse. In wandered the musicians, who elbowed for turns at the machine. When flutist Karen Johnson reached the total "closest to the number 51800," as directed by the score for Suesse's "No Player," she quit, picked up her flute and began tootling around with the numbers 5, 1, 8, -- the fifth, first and eighth degrees of the A minor scale -- opening Bach's English Suite in that key.
The other musicians then joined Johnson, adding their own bits of instrumental color to Suesse's typewriter-style reading of the suite from the piano. At irregular but right-sounding intervals, the pinball machine, remotely manipulated by sound artist Doug Quin, chimed in on the beat with thumping baroque regularity. It would have made P.D.Q. Bach squirm with envy.
Suesse's electronic music is proof the medium has changed. Despite his career manipulating expensive behemoths back home in Stuttgart's Studio for Electronic and Computer Music, Suesse creates music that shares little with the remote, austere experiments created in that medium.
A prodigal son of the cut-and-splice school of composition, Suesse hints at fruitful times ahead in the field of theatrical experimental music.
Suesse's human approach to electronic music was obvious in the next piece, "Tone" (1973). With traces of anti-technological polemic, soprano Marilyn DeReggi sighed helplessly as Suesse's prepared piano and assorted electronic noises enveloped her coloratura snippets.
The last of three works, "Evening" recapitulated taped and live recollections of prior events -- from Suesse's prefatory remarks to applause.
The collage of sounds and experience shaped the entire concert as a giant sonata form -- not reproducing it in classical fashion, but adding it to the entire resonance of experience.