A collection of posts from my original weblog...or the inscrutable rantings of a madman...could be both...

Monday, November 04, 2002

It's "Schizoid Man" time again...yours truly *finally* caught a live music performance this past weekend--and a cultured one at that. A friend of mine had tickets to see cellist Maya Beiser and pianist Anthony de Mare at Crowell Concert Hall. The Hall is located at Wesleyan University. The way the concert was described to me, I was expecting two sets of tango music--which was perfectly fine. They ended up doing a diverse selection of pieces by mainly international composers. Beiser is part of the N.Y.C. avant-classical group Bang On A Can, who recorded a stringed-instrument version of Brian Eno's seminal ambient album, Music For Airports, among other things. I hadn't heard of de Mare before--but he's an accomplished pianist and an entertaining performer.
They started the first set as a duo, playing a piece by Joaquin Nin (apparently he is famed writer Anais' father) called Suite Espagnole. During the four parts--each would lead for a different segment. They played well together and both seemed to enjoy their respective instruments. The piece was well-received by the modest crowd (the theater was half-empty, with the crowd consisting of some college-age hipsters and older folks out for some...ahem...'muuuu-sic'). Maya Beiser then took a solo spot as de Mare exited the stage. She performed Khse Buon, written by Cambodian composer Chinary Ung ("Khse Buon" means "four strings" in Cambodian). She explained about the piece, what sort of sounds it contained..and gave a mini-history of Ung's life..and then played away. Beiser has talent to spare and it was amazing to watch her coax all those sounds form her 'cello. "Khse Buon" is haunting, and you could hear that Ung was attempting to encapsulate some of the horrors of the Khmer Rouge's bloody rein into six or seven minutes of virtuoso playing. Anthony de Mare reappeared, as Beiser exited to applause, to perform Meredith Monk's Double Fiesta. I didn't know Monk was born in Connecticut and educated at Sarah Lawrence College, in New York. "Double Fiesta" features some Satie-like piano phrases and some strange, almost cartoonish singing. de Mare handled both parts well and had the audience laughing at his "ooooohs" and monkey-like vocalizing..a fun piece--makes me want to check out some more of Monk's works. Beiser returned to the stage as the applause for de Mare was waning..and they performed another tango piece, this one by one of the acclaimed masters of the genre, Astor Piazzolla, called Adios Nonino. This one was a bit sombre, but very intricate..and you could almost see dancers going through the motions of the tango dance while they played.
The second set began after a brief intermission with Maya Beiser performing solo. This time playing a piece by Franghis Ali-Zadeh, a composer from Khazakistan. The piece is called Habil-sajahy..and at times the 'cello was plucked to sound like fiddles or other string instruments from that region. de Mare helped out by hitting the piano strings with mallets..or running his fingers across the piano strings..or plucking them to imitate the sound of a zither. Very interesting music...at times intense..and others almost mournful. Beiser showed incredible command of the 'cello again, making it seem effortless to play this series of notes and moods all at once. de Mare took center stage to peform Piano Piece No. 4, written by Frederic Rzewski. Rzewski was born in the U.S., but moved to Europe after college..and ended up as part of the Musica Viva Electronica collective in Italy in the early 70s..as well as composing solo piano works. He is very political and often incorporates his views into his pieces. "Piano Piece No. 4" starts off as a minimalist work, but expands to include an old Chilean folk song which Rzewski adapted to keyboard. It's pretty fascinating and the beginning and end of the piece require the performer to hit one key repetitively and *fast*..this causes the piano to almost sound like a synthesized tape loop, you almost forget it's an acoustic piano--it takes on a machine-like quality. de Mare was heartily applauded and Beiser entered to play Kebyar Maya. The idea for the work was to attempt to create a gamelan orchestra for 'cello. Gamelans are found in Bali, and it's just several musicians playing flutes and percussion instruments (mainly gongs) together in an improvised way. The music is very hypnotic, much like the Master Musicians of Jajouka. Beiser mentioned to her colleague in Bang On A Can, Evan Ziporyn, her idea for the gamelan/'cello piece. At first they couldn't think of how to do that. Then Evan hit on the idea of recording different tracks of 'cello sounds and having Maya play live with the tapes. The result is not quite what they were aiming at..there's just not enough overall *sound* to have a complete gamelan effect. Also, Beiser knows *exactly* what the next notes will be and has time to respond to the backing tapes, so you lose the improvisory feel of a gamelan. Still, it's a great experiment and the piece works efficiently as ambient/chill-out music and you can tell Beiser clearly had fun while creating the backing tapes and echoing them on stage. Anthony de Mare returned to the piano bench and they finished the evening with another Piazzolla tango piece, Le Grand Tango. "Le Grand.." was more upbeat than "Adios Nonino"..and they performed impeccably...when all was said and done...a standing ovation was awarded. I had a smashing time, and I would encourage anyone to go see these two if you get a chance...they have a disc out together, called Oblivion, in which they recorded all tango music, mostly Piazzolla and Nin pieces.
Alright, rock and rollers...that's all I've got for this post..the new Badly Drawn Boy is out tomorrow--called "Have You Fed the Fish?"..it's been getting mixed reviews (including a "not so good" by C-Dog)..but I'll check it out and give you the lowdown. Brave Captain (Martin Carr, formerly of The Boo Radleys) has a new full-length out soon too, well in England anyway..it's called Advertisements For Myself..I'll try to score one on eBay as soon as I can..I don't know if it will show up domestically for quite some time. Primal Scream's "Evil Heat" is out in the U.K.--but I don't know if that's been released here yet either. And last but certainly not least..I've heard on the rumor line that Yo La Tengo have a new one coming out--they're certainly due...it's been two years since "And The Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.." Get back on the road, Ira, Georgia and Mr. McNew!! And play somewhere *close*, dammit!!