Concert Review of "A Night of New Music With Christian Wolff"

In many of the pieces played during the concert entitled, “A Night of New Music with Christian Wolff,” a large amount of small sounds were used to make up the overall experience, similar to a live version of granular synthesis. For example, in the piece entitled “Stones” the musicians used stones to make small noises, which when added to each other created a large sound scape. The piece, “Play,” was similar to “Stones” in this aspect in that many different mediums were used to create layers and texture in the music.

A fair number of the pieces were also similar in that traditional instruments were used in nontraditional ways. For example, the musician playing the vibraphone in the piece “For Morty” hit notes using the wood sides of the instrument in addition to playing the normal conventional sounds the instrument makes. In “Play,” traditional and unconventional instruments were used usual and unusual ways. For example, the bow from a wind instrument was strung through its cords in order to create a different sound when the strings were plucked. An example of an unconventional medium used was a spinning top, which was started at a certain point, but was left to move on its own. This use of conventional and unconventional mediums is reminiscent of music concrete in that the music was not limited to sounds made by traditional music instruments and voices.

Indeterminacy, which was used in Jonathan Zorn’s piece “Bass and Electronics 2” and some of John Cage’s pieces, runs throughout some of the works presented in the concert. “Stones” by Christian Wolff incorporates much indeterminacy strictly due to the medium that is being used. Some of the mediums used in “Play,” such as the spinning top, also produce indeterminacy due to their nature. Even though these pieces have some amount of indeterminacy, the musicians still remain coordinated and thus maintain a rhythm throughout the piece.

Although there were some similarities between the pieces in the concert, there were some drastic differences between them. The mediums used did vary between the pieces. In some of the pieces, strictly seemingly natural sounds were used, whereas a mix of natural and synthesized sounds was used in others. There was also a wide variation in the density of the sound that was in the sound space during each of the pieces. Some had a large amount of overlapping sounds, whereas others contained a rather sparse amount of notes.

Additionally, the presentation of each of the pieces to the audience varied. In many of the pieces the instruments could be seen by all of the audience, but in others some of the mediums being used could only be seen by select sections of the audience due to the position in which the musicians were playing. For example, in “Play” audience members sitting on either side of the stage could not see the exact methods by which all of the musicians were producing the sounds heard.

This, added to the fact that many of the sounds were very quiet in this piece, cause audience’s experience of this piece to not be purely auditory. Therefore, an audience member has to not only listen with their ears, but also with their eyes. Many of the similarities and differences between the pieces detailed in this review contribute to overall music making in that traditional modes of music production were manipulated in traditional and nontraditional means in order to create interesting and complex music.

Source by Katie Schretter

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