A defining narrative of the past eighteen months has been that of leveling the playing field, whether by referring to the universal fallout from the pandemic, accommodating economic disparities, or once again confronting the troubled history of inequality. racialism of the nation.
Such themes couldn’t be more timely for the Ear Taxi Festival, which in its second iteration renewed its commitment to illuminating the widest possible variety of new music endemic to Chicago.
After two weeks of off-site performances, the festival made a respectable demonstration of this mission in the first of five marathon events that make up the festival’s Mainstage series, which took place Thursday at the Kehrein Center for the Arts in the Austin neighborhood of the city.
The afternoon programming, watched live, opened with colorful programs by Picosa and pianist Clare Longendyke, followed by Fonema Consort, whose defense of works by composers of Latin American origin often gives interesting results.
Two of these stars surfaced in Fonema’s schedule on Thursday afternoon. that of Mathew Arrellin Shadow II presents a sound cloud of whistles conjured by an ensemble of guitar, flute, soprano and percussions which move like a miasma. Arrellin’s work succeeded on the merit of its rhythm, as did Luis Fernando Amaya’s sixth movement. Studies for Bestiario, who completed the program.
Fonema’s opener, Eyes on by Kelley Sheehan, was stronger conceptually than in execution. Performed by a trio of woodwinds, electric guitar and electronics, the work deploys a vocabulary of static and amplified key clicks and returns woven in a strange and original texture. Fonema’s approach to work, however, appeared to be rather cautious, and the performance took on a sinuous quality. Careful camera work in the room helped clarify the provenance of these musical gestures and added a layer of interest to the live broadcast experience beyond what would have been visible to a viewer in person.
The program continued with flautist Lisa Goethe-McGinn, who delivered a uniformly strong performance in a collection of solo works by female composers including Augusta Read Thomas, Janice Misurell-Mitchell, and Goethe-McGinn herself. The flautist particularly excelled in Kyong Mee Choi A slight uncertainty is very attractive, a searing work reinforced by a breathtaking electronic accompaniment which superimposes the flute, the strings of the piano and sounds in a swirling maelstrom. Goethe-McGinn closed the set with Regina Harris Baoicchi Autumn night, a blues ballad for alto flute that delivered with all the melancholy and elegance of a late night street musician.
The afternoon’s most intriguing repertoire came from the always excellent Quince Ensemble. Ordinarily a vocal quartet that excels in large-scale works for the medium, Quince was only represented at this date by two of its members, Kayleigh Butcher and Liz Pearse, who offered a truncated program including works by Chicagoans LJ White and David Reminick.
The program of solos and vocal duets favored works in miniature, a welcome departure from the usual rate for the ensemble, but met with varying degrees of success. Meara O’Reilly’s selections Hiccups showcased the wonderful contrast between Pearse’s glassy soprano and Butcher’s burnished mezzo, not to mention serving as a vehicle for the duo’s finely tuned interaction.
In contrast, Adrián Montúfar To touch for solo voice – a short triptych that examined a range of percussive and largely vowel-free vocal sounds – had a study-like quality that gave the impression of lack of precision despite Butcher’s precise and thoughtful performance .
his disappearance, a work for two voices by Bethany Younge and Butcher, fares better thanks to its modus operandi: each musician whistles, whispers and sings in a five-foot PVC pipe, which both amplifies and distorts the vocalizations of the singers . At its most ethereal, the singers’ voices activated the natural resonance of the tubes, enveloping their howling trills in a ghostly timbre like a brass instrument from another world.
The most complete of these works, the solo by Kari Watson Intonations I – heard here at its world premiere – also provided the biggest revelation of Quince’s offerings, in which Pearse was utterly at home in the glissandi, microtonal modulations and extended techniques perfectly integrated into the piece.
The Blue Violet Duo closed the afternoon set with that of Amos Gillespie Spin off, a work well put together in the vein of the “American classic” whose four movements suggest a range of idioms ranging from folk music to jazz. Violinist Kate Carter relished the piece’s flourishes and violin bows, Copland’s lines, while Louise Chan provided impeccable rhythmic conduct and sensitive keyboard support throughout.
The Ear Taxi festival continues every day until Monday. Eartaxifestival.com
Posted in Shows