2007: concerts of the year

Now, here’s an award I’m not qualified to give out, let me tell you. The Uvic School of Music puts on rather a lot of concerts, and most of them are free. Going to these was more than a bit of a culture shock, but I’ll talk about that in more detail later. For now, let’s talk about which ones were the best.

Terry RileyIn C (Sonic Lab Ensemble)

One of the things they don’t tell you in music history classes is that the minimalist movement (Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Phillip Glass, etc) is basically techno. Or, techno is basically minimalism – your choice. Regardless of which way you want to jump, In C is kind of a big deal. It is “composed” of 53 cells that the entire ensemble sloooowly moves through, going in and out of sync with each other over the course of the performance. This is anchored by someone playing straight eighth notes, an octave apart. If you think this would sound annoying, you should try listening to it for the better part of an hour.

But, in all seriousness, In C sounds fantastic and wonderful and deceptively simple, and it was, by far, the most fun concert of the year for me. Of coures, it wasn’t the most technically amazing, because that was…

James Tenney – Koan for String Quartet (Bozzini Quartet)

Tenney’s original Koan is pretty much just a mind-bogglingly slow glissando on a violin, and all the wonderful tonal trickery that doing that in an enclosed space entails. The version for a full quartet is even more of a headfuck. If you have perfect pitch, you may feel ill. If you’re a huge fan of electronic music in any form, you’ll be filled with glee to hear four strings basically pretend to be sine tone generators for fifteen minutes. Your head may also fall off when the cello falls cataracts down in pitch right at the end. Consider yourself warned.

Colin Tilney – Piano Sonata #14 (Ludwig van Beethoven)

You will notice that I inverted the composer and the performer for this one. You will also notice that the above picture is of two harpsichords. This is because Colin Tilney’s otherworldly, encore performance (Why don’t more people prepare encores? Surely it’s more fun than taking two curtain calls and smiling) on his fortepiano deserves all the credit here. Let’s just say that the low end of a modern piano really can’t do it justice, and leave it at that.