It's a pleasure to report that this year's 15th Other Minds new music festival was a solid success. It's the 14th year I've attended this distinguished series.
In some ways, Carla Kihlstedt was the brightest star at Other Minds. Her piece Pandaemonium, which concluded the festival, was attractive, distinctive, well performed by the always on-top-of-it Rova Saxophone Quartet, and enthusiastically received by the audience. The piece employed 2 narrators describing reactions to previous advances in technology, as well as having the Rovans playing some percussion and haunting harmonicas, all of which worked well. The 30-minute work was commissioned by Other Minds and Rova:Arts; they are surely pleased with the results.
In the opening concert, Carla donned her performer's hat to simultaneously sing and play violin in a virtuoso performance of Lisa Bielawa's effective Kafka's Songs, which, unsurprisingly, was written for this unusually talented performer.
Any electroacoustic or surround sound fans in the audience were riveted by the expert command of the hall's full space by Natasha Barrett. She has extensively studied surround sound, acousmatic music, and ambisonics. The first piece, Mobilis in Mobili, referencing Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, contained recognizable sounds (water, waves, a sea chantey, an organ) that flowed around us.
Klangdome hall at ZKM studios in Germany, the piece uses ambisonics, octophonic panning, and sophisticated Zirconium software. Theory aside, the convincing envelopment and constant motion of sound within the overall space was thrilling. She's a master. The excellent sound emerged from 8 Meyer speakers.
I also enjoyed the piquant harmonies of Chou Wen-chung's The Willows Are New for piano, as well as the moody Epiphora (for piano and pre-recorded media) from Pawel Mykietyn. Both works were superbly performed by Eva-Maria Zimmermann.
Other pieces ranged from pleasant to uninteresting, to be expected at any such festival.
The Other Minds festival is unique; there's nothing else like it. Previous years have featured Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Conlon Nancarrow, Ingram Marshall, Terry Riley, Tan Dun, Laurie Anderson, Henry Brant, Lou Harrison, John Luther Adams, Fred Frith, and many more.
Credit goes to the tireless, hardworking, ever-networking Charles Amirkhanian.
If you care about new music, plan to attend in 2011.