Yesterday’s lunchtime concert in the RBA consisted of four pieces for voice, tuned percussion and assorted other instruments by percussionist and composer Bob Becker. Apparently the tonal palette for all four was taken from the North Indian rag; Rag Chandrakosh. This is the sort of information I wouldn’t even be able to process without the help of the Wunderlemur.
Anyhow, the pieces were extremely interesting. The first, Never in a Word setting text by Conrad Aiken, was scored for soprano, vibraphone, glockenspiel/crotales and piano. Lindsay Kesselman sang the text with great clarity despite it being a tough sing. The percussionists played superbly. I really am astonished that people with two hands can manipulate four hammers. The music was extremely interesting; abrasive, touches of minimalism, somewhat atonal. Completely individual.
More Aitken text in To Immortal Bloom; a more meditative but still quite intense piece for vibraphone, cello, piano and mezzo soprano, in this case Andrea Ludwig, also quite excellent. Again no easy sing and the intensity reinforced by the lower register of the cello.
Cryin’ Time (text by Sandra Meigs) is a curious piece about a woman who drops her baby in a canyon. The words suggest a Country and Western song(*) but the setting for soprano, vibraphone, marimba and piano, couldn’t be further away from that aesthetic. The cruelly high vocal part (Kesselman) is supported by a restless energy from the percussion and crashing chords from the piano. Most effective.
Back to Aiken for the final piece, Clear Things May Not Be Seen, for string quartet, regular and bass clarinet, vibraphone, marimba and both vocalists. This was a bit different. The sound world here was much more akin to a song in chamber orchestra arrangement than a percussion piece with vocals. It was quite immersive and very enjoyable. Both vocalists sang very nicely with Kesselman once again having some really high parts to cope with.
Instrumentalists on various pieces; Bob Becker, Christopher Norton, Louis Pino (percussion), Midori Koga (piano), Collen Cook and Tiago Delgado (clarinets), Heng-Han Hou and Gloria Yip (violins), Maxime Despax (viola) and Allison Rich (cello).
(*)So how long will it be in this era of self driving vehicles before there is a C&W song about some guy’s truck leaving him? Which is a tougher machine learning challenge; a self driving truck or writing a C&W song?
Photo credits: Ian McIntosh