Present Music Explores The Wherehouse
composer/performer was Du Yun (b. 1977), who was born and raised in Shanghai,
China, but now works in the United States. She is part of a new trend of
composing and performing with laptop as a central instrument. Her Air Glow featured an ensemble of
instruments in aleatoric episodes over a bed of vague electronic sound. In most
ways it reminded a listener of the “chance music” of the avant-garde of the
1950s and ’60s.
Other works by Du
Yun included Dream-Bend and Miranda, with the composer singing a
dense and cryptic poem. I came away thinking that though she achieves
unconventional expression, it does not go far enough. We have experienced so
much in the concert hall that it takes more extreme composition and performance
to create a sense of edgy avant-garde these days.
Helmers delivered a pleasing and technically impressive performance of Steve
Reich’s bubbly, good-natured New York
Counterpoint, played with a recording of clarinets and employing the subtly
changing syncopation of classic minimalism. Three movements for string quartet
by Gabriel Prokofiev (grandson of the famous Russian composer Sergei) had
promising substance and energy.
Two dance pieces rounded out the program. A tastelessly schmaltzy arrangement by Nathan Wesselowski of Caldara’s 18th-century song “Sebben, crudele” (badly recorded on an out-of-tune piano) served as score for a bland dance by choreographer/dancer Kelly Anderson. Love’s Fodder has choreography by Luc Vanier and music by Christopher Burns. It is not so strong as a composition, either musically or choreographically, but was saved by its two dancers, Steven Moses and Jaimi Patterson. Wearing black underwear, the two found interesting, if disconnected, intricate duo poses.