Friday, February 26, 2010

Kronos: Music from 4 Fences

Kronos: Music from 4 Fences
February 25, 2010 8pm
Z Space @ Artaud

David Harrington, violin
John Sherba, violin
Hank Dutt, viola
Jeffrey Zeigler, cello

Frangiz Ale-Zadeh: Mugam Sayagi
John Zorn: 6 Selections from The Dead Man
Felipe Pérez Santiago: CampoSanto
Terry Riley: The Welcoming Baptism of Sweet Daisy Grace
Amon Tobin (arr. Stephen Prutsman and Michael Winger): Bloodstone
Traditional (arr. Jacob Garchick): Lullaby
Jon Rose: Music from 4 Fences

Scott Johnson: "It Raged" from How It Happens (says I.F. Stone)

I have never been to a Kronos Quartet show before, & if this experience is at all representative, it is as much theater as it is music-making. The quartet is lit in dramatic ways throughout. The pieces might involve bits of staging & employ stunt-like extended playing techniques. My favorite was a movement of John Zorn's The Dead Man in which the players whip their bows through the air to make a whooshing sound. Rosin flying off the bows adds to the visual effect. Many of the pieces incorporate a pre-recorded soundtrack, but I never got used to the live performers & the soundtrack having equal presence. For me these require 2 different ways of listening which are incompatible.

I liked Frangiz Ale-Zadeh's Mugam Sayagi, with its plaintive mood & roots in Central Asian folk music. The piece begins & ends with the cellist alone on stage, repeating a simple phrase while the viola sings softly off stage. The whole thing is like a little story. I also liked Amon Tobin's song-like Bloodstone. Its opening bars are truly sweet & lyrical, & the accompanying soundtrack is interesting in its own right.

The finale was a performance of Jon Rose's Music from 4 Fences. The quartet create musical sounds by plucking, striking & bowing metal wires, strung on large movable frames to look like a barbed wire fence. The 5 horizontal wires also look like a musical staff. The wires are amplified, & their sound is loud, reverberant & barbaric. The performance was visually enhanced by live video projection of the musicians hands. At the climax of the piece the performers arrange the fences so that they are caged in.

The plastic chairs in the Z Space got very uncomfortable by the end of the intermissionless show. I attended with John Marcher, & as we left we encountered Jon Rose himself on the sidewalk outside. I may have offended him when I asked if the fence piece was notated. There is indeed a score, but Mr. Rose was more concerned about the quartet's fence-playing skills. He thought they definitely needed to practice more.

I've subsequently learned that the cheerful fellow who took my ticket stub at the theater was most likely none other than The Standing Room.

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