Monday, February 21, 2011

Sound Thinking

Dust of Snow
Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

There was no crow, but Frost’s poem popped into my head as I was trying to see some beauty and whimsy in this latest blanket of the white stuff.

The year is bringing many whirlwinds. Witnessing the sirocco of protest going through the Middle East is mind blowing. Of course for me it’s from the safety of Twitter.

The Avant and the Uber

On a direct cultural level, back-to-back concerts have recently blown my mind: one from the second annual Avant Music Festival, the other the Bach B Minor Mass. BOING!

The Avant Music Festival is curated by composer Randy Gibson and soprano Megan Schubert, down at the Wild Project. I got into it from a very special, longtime friend, Reiko F├╝ting, who is a composer and performer. His music was featured along with the music of Nils Vigeland, one of his mentors.

AMF2011 Preview Video from Avant Media on Vimeo.

The evening was built around duets. It was an engaging programming device. Each piece was in duet with a piano, which connected the evening and was further connected by the same pianist playing each piece, Yegor Shevtson. The pieces were in duet with each other as the program alternated between the 2 composers.

It opened with Reiko’s Three American Folk Songs (2007) and closed with Vigland’s setting of Three Shaker Songs (2009). The other pieces featured individual violin, viola, cello, flute, and the great Carol McGonnell on clarinet.

The pieces were both rich and minimal, with a lightness of depth. That’s what I love about contemporary modern music: the oxymoron juxtapositions.

And then there’s the Bach B Minor Mass. The piece people say has inspired nonChristians to convert (probably apocryphal, but you know what they mean: it’s that inspiring). The piece some people believe is the closest thing we have on earth to knowing the mind of God. The great Latin Catholic mass from the great Lutheran composer.

I agree with Oestreich in the NY Times that the St. Thomas Boys & Men choir seemed a bit off for the Friday night performance, and the soloists weren’t the best. But the piece itself is so stupendous, and the performance so spirited that there was transcendence on the cold, February night.

Meanwhile, Back at the ranch . . .

Progress on the bath remodel is slow, but you can’t hurry an artiste. Carol Reed's The Agony and the Ecstasy is echoing in my apartment:

Rex Harrison’s Pope Julius II/M.A.Peel: “When will you make an end?”

Charlton Heston’s Michelangelo/Contractor: “When I am finished!”