Thursday, January 16, 2014

Eclipse Quartet @ Monk Space, 12/17/13

Happy 2014! After a holiday break, Auscultations is back in motion.

About month ago, on December 17, I got to hear the Eclipse Quartet perform at Monk Space as part of the Tuesdays@Monk Space series. This great concert included three pieces. The first half consisted of  Johanna Beyer's Quartet No. 2 and Julia Wolfe's Four Marys, while John Adams' John's Book of Alleged Dances took up the second half. The programming of the concert felt very organic, and one could imagine a sort of musicological narrative through-line.

Johanna Beyer's piece from 1936 portrayed a very era-specific relationship between form, consonance, and dissonance - sometimes steeped in functional harmony, other times steeped in dissonant counterpoint reminiscent of Rudhyar, Ruggles, or the Seegers. The piece seemed to be teetering on a conflicted edge, wanting to delve into a more free-form sound world but not quite ready to fully commit.

That lead nicely into Four Marys by Julia Wolfe, which fulfilled those aural implications of the Beyer. Eschewing the melodic content that may have burdened Beyer, Wolfe's piece leant heavily on the intuitively streamlined gestural textures that characterize much of her music. This was my favorite of the three pieces, and the quartet seemed to really dig into it.

After an intermission came the John Adams. John's Book of Alleged Dances was great to hear live, and it sounded like it was a lot of fun to play. The quartet played along with a pre-recorded track of prepared piano grooves, adding a acousmatic vibe to these playful tunes. This piece was written for the Kronos Quartet to perform with a pedal-operated sampler to be triggered onstage. However, the accompanying samples were later edited into a fixed recording to make live performance less harrowing for the players.

The Eclipse Quartet has a record of championing contemporary music. In June 2013, they released their most recent album with percussionist William Winant called Music for String Quartet and Percussion, featuring the music of Frederic Rzewski, James Tenney, and Zeena Parkins. There's a nice review of it on NewMusicBox.

Tuesdays@Monk Space is a great ongoing series in Koreatown featuring contemporary music by local musicians. Past concerts have featured Grammy nominees Vicki Ray and Aaron Kallay, composer Veronika Krausas (whose bass quartet the LA Phil just played on Tuesday), and the Lyris Quartet. The upcoming concert on January 21 will feature The Southland Ensemble playing the music of Alvin Lucier.

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