Tuesday night at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, the Minnesota new-music group Zeitgeist (not to be confused with the popular punk-rock ensemble of the same name) performed music by Frederic Rzewski, Peter Otto and others, the earliest work written in 1980. A moderate-size but appreciative audience attended this part of the Innova Music Series, part of a larger series, TCXTRAS.
Zeitgeist, named after the German word for "time spirit," is a quartet of two percussionists, Jay Johnson and Joe Holmquist, a pianist/keyboardist, Greg Theison, and a woodwind player, Bob Samarotto, who was substituted at this performance by clarinetists Marty Krystall and Theresa Tunnicliff. Caught in the current mallet-instrument craze in certain types of minimalist and new-age music, the group plays with freshness and imagination in or out of its field of specialization.
"Precision Bearings" by Otto explores the frontier of live performance manipulated by computer. Beginning with a limited, almost austere, vocabulary of sound events from the musicians on stage--various tone clusters, clangs, claps and sung tones that are fed via microphone into a computer that analyzes these events--new sounds are created and played over loudspeakers.
Otto's style uses tiny bits of dry information that combine into a satisfying, multifarious mosaic. Long virtuosic solos, including an inventive one for computer-generated percussion practice pads, demonstrate another favorable side to Otto's music.