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Solo Flute and Improv Jazz: "Voices" at the Flashpoint Gallery

This article was first published in the Washington Post (American Composers Forum, October 15).

The Washington, D.C., Chapter of the American Composers Forum presented "VOICES" in their 50-seat Mead Theatre Lab, a small black box at the back of the sparse and stylish white Flashpoint Gallery across from Zaytinya. Deducting performers, publishers, composers, critics, and their friends from the audience, attendance was about zero. The Theatre Lab was still decked out in election paraphernalia with flags, paper orbs, and bumper stickers from an improv show of a theater group that shares the space. Speakers stood on little stools, electronic equipment was in the corner, and percussion instruments were strewn across the stage.

The first piece of Robert Erickson, High Flyer, performed and introduced by the very able, articulate, and charming flutist Carrie Rose, conjured sounds that were reminiscent of Tan Dun's Ghost Opera. It, like Erickson's other piece for solo flute, Quoq, belongs to the category "interesting." The latter work, named after Joyce's Finnegans Wake is easily as comprehensible as the book.

Stephen Lilly presented his work for voice and spliced tape, Like staring at a word..., which was performed by Stacey Mastrian, for whom it was written. A comparison with Répons would be doing Pierre Boulez injustice, thought it's not entirely unlike it. Presented as it was, it is really more "performance art" and vulnerable to the accusation of being gratuitously difficult. It was the sort of thing you are very glad to have experienced without necessarily wanting to revisit it.

The improvisation session that followed, with Grace Chung (jazz vocals), John Kamman (guitar), Anubodh (bansuri, an Indian flute) and Flaco Woods (percussion), ranged from pointless to imaginative and highly entertaining. Woods, especially, stood out for his imaginative playing when the others let jazz-inspired pieces succumb to a mood of meditative ragas.

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