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MUSIC REVIEWS : SCREAM Festival at Schoenberg Hall

November 10, 1987|GREGG WAGER

In recent years, the advent of the Synclavier, the MIDI system and other high-tech equipment has upgraded the field of electronic music substantially. Naturally, composers are eager to try it all.

To satisfy this need, SCREAM (Southern California Resource for Electro-Acoustic Music), a consortium of six teachers from local colleges and universities, has created an annual festival with the intention of promoting new electronic music. Saturday, the second annual SCREAM Festival took place at Schoenberg Hall, UCLA.

Of the 19 pieces presented in three concerts, few emerged as thought-provoking or actually new--the oldest piece went back to 1976. Most of the works are for tape or tape with instrument and make use of electronic-music cliches.

Standing out from the crowd, Carla Scaletti's "sunSurgeAutomata," a simple, effective tape piece, uses a series of clickings and clackings bound together into a barrage of rat-tat-tating that accelerates until its mathematically derived rhythm is beyond recognition. The total effect is wacky, but with an integrity and newness that defies stylistic classification.

Barry Schrader's "Triptych" also stands out--as an electronic transformation of timbres in three distinct sections. Seven dancers punctuate the reflective tonal music with simple limb extentions and routines executed together, separately and in pairs.

Another bright point was Carl Stone's "Hop Ken," which uses a tape recorder, digital delay and other gizmos to transform Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" into a lighthearted cacophony. "Time Auscultations," by composer William Alves and robot choreographer Margo Apostolos, brought to the festival the most innovative concept, with a robot arm that is manipulated gracefully to Alves' gentle, repetitive patterns tuned to just intonation.

Mark Waldrep's "Music for Computer & Four Musicians," scored for rock instruments controlled by an ambitious setup of computers and MIDI systems, never escapes sounding academic and unsophisticated. Also disappointing, "OjackieO," by Roger Bourland and John Hall, proves unintentionally comic as narrator Hall delivers monologues, musical numbers and flippant sexual remarks about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, accompanied by an electronic score of Stephen Sondheim-like music and a chorus line of nuns and American citizens.

Other pieces worth noting were Robert Ceely's dodecaphonic "Synoecy," aptly performed by clarinetist David Ocker against electronic sounds; Frederick Lesemann's "Metakinetic Inventions I and IV," a carefully composed set of numerically transmuted tunes, and Rodney Oakes' "Homage to Pan Tadeusz," an electronic transformation of a child's voice, reminiscent of Stockhausen.

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