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Either/Or:  Richard Carrick (piano), Andrea Schultz (violin), David Shively (percussion), Alex Waterman (cello), Tenri Cultural Institute, New York City, 9.11.2007 (BH)

Luigi Nono: …sofferte onde serene… (1976)
Richard Carrick: Duo Flow (2007, world premiere)
Thomas Meadowcroft: A Vanity Press (2005)
John Luther Adams: roar – crash – wail (2002)

This uncompromisingly abstract program once again showed that Either/Or offers a listening experience unlike any other in New York City.  The oldest piece on the program, Nono’s …sofferte onde serene…, was championed by Maurizio Pollini, whose classic recording may be the only recording, and live performances are rare.  The sonorities were inspired by bells audible from the Nono’s home in Venice, and the electronic portion sometimes duplicates the piano’s timbre, but with extra frequencies either added or taken away, often seeming to foreshadow some of the concerns of the spectralist composers.  With David Shively monitoring the electronics, Richard Carrick made the piece sound positively nostalgic.  His shimmering piano tones were in complete contrast to the tape’s primal rumblings.

Carrick’s Duo Flow was constructed for violin and cello, and part of a longer cycle using various permutations of a string trio, with the entire piece to be finished next year.  It was the gentlest of the works on the program, and I sometimes thought,
Bartók Visits Africa, acknowledging Carrick’s scholarship and interest in the music of the Tanzania and elsewhere.  Filled with episodes of glissandi and pizzicatos, the work was lovingly played by violinist Andrea Schultz and cellist Alex Waterman.  I particularly liked a middle section that had the mystery of some sinister folk song.

Australian-born composer Thomas Meadowcroft (born 1972) has studied with George Crumb and Brian Ferneyhough, and completed A Vanity Press in Los Angeles
.  The material was assembled over a period of seven years, with the help of Waterman, and includes a panorama of cello sounds, to which Meadowcroft added tones from a Hammond theatre organ purchased from “a guy’s grandmother in Orange County.”  Waterman came out with a huge score that dwarfed its music stand, then plunged his cello into a sea of harmonics, haze, fuzz and raspy textures—an intense, scratchy trance.  From the enthusiastic audience response, it might have been the evening’s sleeper hit.

Roar – crash – wail comes from an evening-length work called The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies by John Luther Adams, and it is an exploration of sound in its purest form.  Its three sections are for gong, cymbals and siren, respectively, all combined with electronics.  From an almost imperceptible rumbling, the first section builds to a thunderous groan.  The second presses cymbals to an outer limit of piercing volume, as does the final section, which (in this case) percussionist Shively graciously restrained, so as not to cause neighboring residents undue alarm.  At its peak, a hand-cranked siren can be heard for three-quarters of a mile.  Shively expertly modulated each section, fluidly increasing the volume and bending over with hunched concentration that at the conclusion, made him jerk upright and shake to stave off muscle cramps.  One could only admire this kind of dogged focus and devotion to a composer’s austere, slightly impish vision.

Bruce Hodges


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