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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Present Music

Graffiti (Innova)

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Present Music has been Milwaukee’s foremost performer and presenter of contemporary classical music since the early ‘80s. They have also played a role in commissioning new work. On Present Music’s new CD, Graffiti, the ensemble have recorded recent commissions from a trio of composers, unrelated to each other except for a shared, postmodern eclectic sensibility.

Elena Kats-Chernin’s rhythmically busy Village Idiot is a dynamic piece in several movements. The intricate arrangement rides on Philip Bush’s strident harpsichord (played like a subliminal tom-tom) along with Terry Smirl’s malletted percussion; electric guitarist Jason Seed softly punctuates the melody, carried in part by Stas Venglevski on bayan accordion. If a drum kit were added, Village Idiot could be a bridge between minimalism and prog rock.

Reflecting on childhood memories of the vicious 1960s riot in Detroit, Randall Woolf’s Motor City Requiem pulls sampled echoes of ‘60s soul together with teasing melodic and rhythmic hooks suggesting that era’s music. Finally, Armando Luna’s Graffiti in II Movements is a clever tribute to 13 very different composers, including Chick Corea and Dimitri Shastakovich, Bach and Brubeck.

—David Luhrssen

Present Music will perform another representative piece of contemporary music this weekend. Omnivorous Furniture is a recent work by Mason Bates, who straddles the worlds of serious composition and club music. Also on the program will be work by John Adams, Raymond Scott and Arnold Schoenberg, animation by UWM film students and a performance by Madison funk-klezmer band the Shtelblasters. 7:30 p.m., March 27, Turner Hall Ballroom.

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