Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Hot Air Music Festival 2011

Hot Air Music Festival 2011Sunday I was at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music to check out the Hot Air Music Festival. This is an entirely student-run marathon of contemporary music, taking place in 2 halls for 8 hours non-stop. I went in & out & heard a half-dozen or so pieces. I started in the small recital hall & found the piano trio by Pierre Jalbert immediately appealing. It is in 2 contrasting movements, the 1st rhythmically driving & blues-like, the 2nd spiritual & meditative. The Delphi Trio gave a secure, incisive performance. I like the pianist's playing, which is forceful without being too percussive. The next group of musicians wore half-masks covering their eyes while they performed George Crumb's Vox Balanae. In the opening movement, Daniel Sharp impressively hummed & played the flute at the same time. He also whistled delicately. Composer Anthony Porter explained that his piece, not quite what i was planning, is a game of telephone played between 2 vocalists & a group of instruments. At the end, a 6-word phrase emerges, which in our case was "wasn't noticed so fuck him louder."

Hot Air Music Festival 2011In the concert hall I heard Louis Andriessen's raucous Worker's Union, which one of the musicians explained is written for "any number of loud, discordant instruments." He emphasized the point by noting that even though he was a guitarist, he would be playing for us on an out-of-tune violin. The performance began with 2 violins, but as it progressed more musicians walked on stage & joined in. The mix eventually included cello, marimba, electric guitar, piano, trombone & even an accordion. Everyone plays in a kind of raucous unison. An extra level of chaos was injected by random mishaps. A violinist lost his shoulder rest, & 2 players apparently ran out of music & had to find new stand partners.

Steve Reich's Six Pianos was performed on 6 electronic keyboards in a horseshoe arrangement. The pianists executed the piece with confidence, & the end was startling when they all stopped at once. It was a novelty to see an ensemble of 12 guitars for Dan Becker's DoubleSpeak. The piece's rhythmic pulsing made me think of John Adams. Everyone looked like they were focusing hard on staying together.

A cancellation allowed the organizers to commemorate Milton Babbitt by inserting his taped piece Occasional Variations. There was much laughter when someone applauded the announcement that Milton Babbitt had died the previous week. The piece, with its blips & synthesized tones, reminded me of a primitive video game. The day ended with John Adams's expansive concerto for electric violin, The Dharma at Big Sur. The performance had to be re-started when something went wrong with the electronic instrument's amp. Morgan O'Shaughnessey was a happy soloist & communicated a sense of joy in performing.

People came & went throughout the day, but the audiences were never large, perhaps maxing out at 90 for the John Adams. During the afternoon, I met the up-beat Rik Malone of KDFC as well as cheerful violist Mr. O'Shaughnessey. He showed us the beautiful Jordan electric 7-string hybrid violin he would play, with its inlay figures of schooling dolphins. He even let me tuck it under my chin, where it was quite comfortable to hold.

§ Hot Air Music Festival 2011

Trio: Pierre Jalbert
Delphi Trio: Liana Bérubé, violin; Michele Kwon, cello; Jeffrey LaDeur, piano

Vox Balaenae: George Crumb
Daniel Sharp, flute; Sung Bin Choi, cello; Sandra Gu, piano

not quite what i was planning: Anthony Porter
Maria Janus, Elizabeth Kimble, vocalists; Adam Cockerham, guitar; Sasha Launer, flute; Joanne De Mars, cello; Anthony Porter, accordion; Paul Psarras, conductor

Worker's Union: Louis Andriessen
Red Bennett, David Boyden, Raphael Chinn, Matthew Cmiel, Chris Edwards, David Gottlieb, Jesse Jenks, Anthony Porter, Anna Rubenstein, Kevin Schlossman, Kevin Villalta, Kelsey Walsh

Six Pianos: Steve Reich
Mark Clifford, Dominique Leone, Lucy Moore, Anthony Porter, Regina Schaffer, Zizhu Zhao, pianos

Double Speak: Dan Becker
Mason Fish, Carolyn Smith, Eric Sandoval, Matthew Holmes-Linder, Tatiana Senderowicz, Tony Kakamakov, Robert Nance, Paul Psarras, Yu Wu, classical guitar; Ramon Fermin, Nahuel Bronzini, electric guitar; Adam Cockerham, bass guitar; David Tanenbaum, conductor

Occasional Variations: Milton Babbitt

The Dharma at Big Sur: John Adams
Morgan O'Shaughnessey, electric 6-string hybrid violin; Ross Thomas Ipsen, conductor; The Hot Air Adams Orchestra

Sunday, 6 February, 2011 1:45p - 9:00p
San Francisco Conservatory of Music


John Marcher said...

Did they cancel the Saariaho piece?

I was going to go but the weather said not to.

Axel Feldheim said...

Yup, due to the performer's illness, the Saariaho was replaced by the Babbitt. It was an appropriate substitution, but I found it unsatisfying to hear a piece of taped music that did not require live performers.

During the event I took 2 very long breaks in the Hayes Valley neighborhood, so I did not feel like I missed out entirely on the balmy weather this weekend.