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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Imagery takes online concert to exotic levels in Appleton

Critic At Large

Lawrence University New Music Ensemble

Concert poster.

APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Some of what the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic hath wrought is situations of forced originality.

At present on the Lawrence University website is concert of stretched-imagination music, normally just heard and witnessed in live performance but now interspersed with new imagery in the digital dimension.

A visit is a half-hour escape from ordinary thought. The mind goes someplace else, like a dream with collage music, in refreshing wakefulness.

An endthought of my experience: Holy cow!

Two works are introduced by Michael Clayville, director of the Lawrence University New Music Ensemble.

The concert is at Viewing is free.

The virtual New Music Series started Oct. 30 with Asha Srinivasan’s “Portraits.” That concert included one work accompanied by video.

This concert features both recordings set to videos.



Part I

+ “Shadowgraph 5” – George Lewis (born 1952); video by Alex Quade ’20, Lawrence University alum.

Along with a layer of stark and stealthy music, a field of images flows with everything music related.

Everything has form and structure – but not. The viewing screen is structure, as are instruments and glimpses of humans. But how sounds and images are ordered are not necessarily structured.

The mind takes vacation from being judgmental of established music genres. This ain’t rock ‘n’ roll or anything else in the ordinary realm.

Imagery moves. Among the hundreds of rectangles, one sample: A closeup of a young woman reed player breaks from its surroundings and slowly turns, and this is not a static snapshot but a motion picture.

Performers (* Lawrence faculty): Alison M. Gauvreau, flute; Sara Cooper, saxophone; Alyssa Kuss, saxophone; Jenn Overton, saxophone; Melanie Shefchik, saxophone; Adrian Birge, trumpet; Mariel Lopez-Cruz, French horn; Tim Albright, trombone*; Henry Parks, tuba; Nolan Ehlers ’20, percussion; Aaron Montreal, percussion; Luke Auchter, piano; Loren Dempster, cello*; Zoe Markle ’20, bass; Ben Portzen, electronics.

Part II

+ “Coming Together” – Frederic Rzewski (born 1938); video by Dave Razor, Appleton multi-media artist.

The work is based on a fragment of text from a letter written by Sam Melville, a New York state prison inmate who was killed in the Attica Prison Uprising in 1971, an event based upon prisoners’ demands for better living conditions and political rights. In the riot by 1,281 of the Attica’s approximately 2,200 inmates, the death toll was 10 correctional officers and employees and 33 inmates.

In the New Music Ensemble performance, layered in the music is the voice of a woman (Estali Gomez) repeating this text:

“I think the combination of age and a greater coming together is responsible for the speed of the passing time. It’s six months now, and I can tell you truthfully, few periods in my life have passed so quickly. I am in excellent physical and emotional health. There are doubtless subtle surprises ahead, but I feel secure and ready. As lovers will contrast their emotions in times of crisis so am I dealing with my environment. In the indifferent brutality, the incessant noise, the experimental chemistry of food, the ravings of lost hysterical men, I can act with clarity and meaning. I am deliberate, sometimes even calculating, seldom employing histrionics except as a test of the reactions of others. I read much, exercise, talk to guards and inmates, feeling for the inevitable direction of my life.”

The music is a repeated incessance, with the volume of the measured voice rising and falling along with it.

One of my interpretations is an impression of the coronavirus situation – a feeling of isolation and entrapment in a repetition of days amid words aching to get out.

Imagery in this video is not of this world, including diaphanous globs that slowly move and morph in the manner of jellyfish.

The editing!!!

Performers (* Lawrence University faculty): Estelí Gomez, voice*; Erin Lesser, flute*; Nate Scott, bassoon; Becky Swanson, saxophone; Nick Muellner, saxophone; Michael Clayville, trombone*; Nolan Ehlers ’20, percussion; Eve Werger ’20, keyboard/melodica; Michael Mizrahi, piano*; Mindara Krueger-Olson, violin; Gabriel Hartmark, viola; Julia Johnson ’20, cello; Zoe Markle ’20, bass; Mark Urness, bass*.

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