Sunday, January 29, 2006

Concert Review: Elzweig/Perlmutter and Lower Case Curry

This is the third in a series of reviews on the LSG New Music concert
series, held at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco.

The concert was held on January 26, 2006 at 8:00 pm. Following the
standard format of this series, there were two groups performing.
8:00 pm Solos and Duos: Marc Elzweig (bass clarinet) and Michael
Perlmutter (Saxophones). With Liam Staskawicz (trombone) Star Holder
(french horn) and Jesse Olsen (trap set).

This performance comprised a number of short pieces, that were in fact
solos, duets, and a small group including all those above.

I seem incapable of walking into this series on time. As we walked up the
stairs to the gallery, Mr. Perlmutter bent over the railing and greeted
us with a long lunar note from his saxophone. As we made it to the
gallery we saw that the players were distributed around the periphery of
the gallery, playing to the surrounded audience, with all
instrumentalists eyes on Mr. Perlmutter for cues.

Following this introductory hug, Perlmutter and Elzweig played together a
short piece that was based on a Bulgarian folk song--somewhat loosened at
the seams, allowing the tune to move between rhythmic, melodic and almost
ambient delivery. Several of the pieces spanned this range.
The next piece was a solo by Elzweig, slowly presenting the sonic
fullness of the bass clarinet.

The pieces from Elzweig's solo through the end seemed to focus on
technical strategies to blowing and fingering the instruments that
generated sonic qualities unique to the instruments.

Perlmutter presented a song with the word "Birth" in the title that began
with a full breathiness through the sax, and over the course of a couple
of minutes, led through a growing presence and complexity to a final
pitched note. The gallery is a great place for this kind of piece, as it
is small enough and live enough for the subtleties of such an approach to
be heard well.

The next piece sounded to me to have Klezmer roots, but continued the
breathy blowing of the previous piece. This was followed by another sax
solo with Perlmutter tapping the valves open and closed without blowing,
creating a percussive effect not unlike the sound of a picked electric
bass. This was followed by another sax and bass clarinet duet, and a
final piece performed by all members of the group.

While this group's music was not electronically generated nor enhanced,
it shared a materialist focus on the product generated by a physical
instrument. Perlmutter stayed away from the more common squeals of an
excited sax and he and Elzweig instead gave highly-magnified views of
what are usually micro-moments: the attack sound of the valve covers
hitting the opening at the beginning of a note, and the usually brief
startup that bridges silence and pitched sound. These, together with the
rich granularity of an extended note's vibration, were for me the primary
subjects of this first set of the evening.

The second set (9:00 pm) was by a group with my favorite name: "Lower
Case Curry". Nary an Indian in the group, though. MaryClare Bryzwa on
electric flute and MAX (running on a Mac notebook), Mike Sopko on
electric guitar, and Noah Phillips on prepared electric guitar.

LCC performed twice for their set. There did not appear to be a great
deal of interplay among the musicians, although each undoubtedly was
listening to the overall sound, and deciding what to play as a result of
that consideration.

Sopko sat in the middle of the three and for the most part played as fast
as possible, playing scalar runs of notes of equal length and loudness,
with short pauses from time to time. His delivery seemed self-absorbed,
which I don't mean as a criticism, just an observation. Like Pollock
delivering paint he ploughed into his single-note riffs and runs,
delivering a consistant sonic texture that seemed to pause when the riff
ran out, as opposed to sonic cues from other members.

Phillips' sounds were texture- rather than scale-based. He achieved a
remarkable range of timbres and textures using a variety of mechanical
materials (including I believe steel wool, a small egg-beater, and
various rubbing, tapping and bowing tools), as well as maybe a dozen
analog effects pedals.

Bryzwa started the set on flute, singing through it and delivering
breath-long notes, while also generating and modulating tones using MAX.
Her sounds mixed with Phillips' to create an atmosphere that wrapped
around Sopko's muted but furious 32nd notes.

No comments: