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Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008

The Edge of Classical

Present Music’s season opener

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"It's exciting to play new music there," Stalheim says. "You feel the history, and it's like the place is brought back to life."

Bringing the feel of old Turner Hall back to life is Sofia Gubaidulina's Witty Waltzing and Igor Stravinsky's Ragtime, two compositions that turn back the clock to the days when the ballroom hosted formal dances. Caroline Mallonee's Keeping Time In a Bottle, a variation on 100 Bottles of Beer in which musicians play empty beer bottles, is a tongue-in-cheek throwback to the old German beer hall tradition. Elena Kats-Chernin's Charleston Noir and Randall Woolf's Hee Haw are digitally sequenced modern variants of antiquated dance numbers.

The program's centerpiece is the Midwest debut of prominent American composer John Adams' Son of Chamber Symphony, a three-movement composition written for 16 players. Adams cites Looney Tunes cartoon soundtracks as an artistic influence. Stalheim admits that the piece doesn't fit into the Turner Hall theme; it's in the program because it's one of his favorites.

Local indie rock vaudevilles The Scarring Party play the after-set; the tuba-banjo-accordion quartet draws upon the 1920s music hall sound, and has been known to incorporate typewriters, cast-iron balls and other unorthodox percussion devices into their songs.

Present Music's "Past Present" takes place 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, at Turner Hall Ballroom.

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