The city-wide festival for Louis Andriessen’s 75th birthday continued on Monday night at the Atlas Performing Arts Center with a concert featuring a piece by the Dutch composer and music by composers he influenced. The hour-long program was performed by violinist Monica Germino, the composer’s wife, and her instrument and voice were enhanced and processed by sound designer Frank van der Weij.
Andriessen’s “Xenia” is a three-movement etude-like piece, commissioned by the Manchester International Violin Competition. A “Sarabande” of slow glissandi in double-stops is contrasted with a “Caccia” of pulsing repeated notes, followed by a melody sung by the performer and accompanied by the violin, coming to rest on a major chord. Donnacha Dennehy’s “Overstrung” explored a series of scratchy harmonics over a pulsing recorded track. In the world premiere of Kate Moore’s “Dolorosa,” Germino sang a melody inspired by a 13th-century hymn, accompanied by shorter notes on the violin.
If none of these pieces made much of an impression, at least one could tolerate them, which could not be said of two works from composers of the Bang on a Can collective, a group strongly influenced by Andriessen’s exploitation of repetitive rock and jazz elements. Julia Wolfe’s “With a Blue Dress On” extended the repetitive qualities of a Celtic folk song to an excruciating length, and Germino had to curb the pacing of her live tempo to stay with a recorded track, which robbed the piece of the spontaneity of its folk model. Michael Gordon’s “Industry” uses distortion to make the violin into something like an electric guitar, and its single musical gesture, a long crescendo to an ear-shattering loudness, soon became unbearable. Ear plugs, for those who want to avoid cochlear damage, should have been provided.
Downey is a freelance writer.