Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mile High Voltage Concert Two

The second concert of Denver's Mile High Voltage Festival opened with Imaginary City, a major music/video/performance work from Sö Percussion, who not only performed the work but also created it. If you see 4 young guys on stage with numerous percussion instruments, you might expect the music to proceed tutti fortissimo. Instead, these söwers offered mostly quiet, contemplative, attractive sounds. In addition to the usual instruments, we heard a toy piano, prerecorded material both played into mics as well as via tiny powered guitar practice amps, crashing tin cans, and shouts from the audience; a lot of variety during the hour-long performance. Accompanying all this was a seductive, slowly dissolving video, using images from the Denver area, all created by (uncredited) Jenise Treuting. The work was directed by Rinde Eckert, a familiar name here at Starkland.

It's a pleasure to report the ambitious Newman Center was a co-commissioner of this substantial work, along with the always cool Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Myrna Loy Center (Helena, MT), The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Flynn Center (Burlington, VT), and Diverseworks Art Space (Houston, TX).

The evening's other major work was Michael Harrison's compelling performance of excerpts from his astonishing Revelation, a major work for a standard piano extensively retuned according to the composer's theories. The unexpected sonorities that emerged were rich, otherworldly, striking. In short, a, well, revelation to me. I guess I'm the last on my block to learn about this, since the CD has been widely praised and ended up on many Best of the Year lists.

The concert also included performances of David Lang's classic Cheating, Lying, Stealing, as well as DU's Conrad Kehn's Maximinimal, for accordion (live, processed, and pre-recorded) and visuals.

The unprecedented Mile High Music Festival was ambitious and successful. This is not your grandfather's new music that was "good for you" (like foul-tasting medicine), but rather the music was invigorating, beautiful, and leading-edge. The festival had some world-class performers playing some of today's most vital music. Congrats to all involved. Let's hope there's more in the future.

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