Mobtown Modern, Baltimore’s cutting-edge contemporary music series, has severed ties with the Contemporary Museum, which used to host its concerts. At issue was the change of the executive director at the museum; happily, a new partnership, as of yet unannounced, is in the works for next year. Meanwhile, the series’ curators have invited performers to present contemporary music in the 2640 Space, a charming venue inside the somewhat run-down sanctuary of a Methodist church.
On Wednesday night, it was the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, a group of hardworking undergraduate students from Michigan who have gained notice in the new-music community for two well-received recordings and a certain savvy with YouTube. The group’s most recent recording combines a performance of Terry Riley’s “In C” with remixes of its performance made by several more recent composers. This concert ended with three of those remixes, arranged to involve live performers, yielding a kaleidoscopic refraction of this landmark minimalist work, from the hypnotic crescendo of Zoe Keating’s “Zinc” to the childlike clowning of Jad Abumrad’s “Counting in C.”
Two pieces by the group’s director, Bill Ryan, showed the influence of ambient music, such as that of Brian Eno. In “Blurred,” from 2003, single notes blended into harmonies in a pattern that eventually drew in the entire ensemble of eight musicians. Jonathan Nichol, a Grand Valley professor, gave a sultry rendition of Ryan’s “Smoke,” from 2010, an alto saxophone solo that layers a live performance against a recorded track by the same player. Ryan also led a curious group improvisation, “Shop at the Stop,” organized around a system of gestures, developed by Walter Thompson and known as Soundpainting, that Ryan communicated to the musicians from the podium.
Downey is a freelance writer.