The Corcoran Gallery of Art hosts a couple of interesting series of concerts, and Ionarts is particularly fond of the one presented by the gallery's resident ensemble, the Contemporary Music Forum. So, on Sunday at the first concert of this group, which presents examples of new music four times per year, Ionarts was there in the front row. When I plugged this concert in my weekly column at DCist, it was largely out of interest in hearing a piece by George Perle, who is 90 years old this year. Critical Moments, from 1996, is a set of six movements for piano, violin, cello, flute (doubling on piccolo), clarinet (doubling on E-flat clarinet), and percussion. Due to a shortage of copies of the program, we had very interesting verbal introductions from the performers before each piece. No sooner had violinist Lina Bahn told us that the players had decided that the movements were humorous that a baby in the audience started crying. "That's mine," Ms. Bahn let us know.
Tim Page, Contemporary Music Forum, Squeezing Plenty In (Washington Post, September 20)
We are the hollow menThe violin creates all sort of high rat-like sounds, while the pianist strikes the keyboard with flat palm or even the entire arm. Duct tape applied over the piano's upper strings created a hollow, percussive sound that was eerily appropriate. The most impressive performance was of Derek Bermel's Turning, a marvelous set of variations on an invented Protestant-style hymn tune, which bears an uncanny likeness to "Jesus loves me, this I know" (as pianist Lura Johnson explained before her spot-on performance). Lastly, something special happens when a composer creates a piece of music especially for a specific performer. In this case, that was Jeffrey Mumford, who wrote an expanding distance of multiple voices, based on the perfect fifths of the violin's open strings, for the group's excellent violinist, Lina Bahn. (Both are shown in the photograph above.) All in all, it was an entertaining afternoon of new music at the Corcoran.
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.