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Music Reviews : West Coast Premieres of 2 Thome Compositions

February 11, 1988|GREGG WAGER

The latest Monday Evening Concert at Bing Theater, County Museum of Art, presented two West Coast premieres by composer Joel Thome, performed by his Pittsburgh-based quartet, World Sound. A passive audience attended the evening of music, dance and lengthy introductions by Thome that promised influences from Third World traditions, especially the music and philosophies of India.

As the evening progressed, Thome's music displayed elements of mysticism, improvisation and a contemplation of the universe that explored simple harmonic motion and circular shapes. The two pieces together, including an intermission, ran just over 90 minutes.

A unique aspect of Thome's creations, his notation, found the performers reading music symbols from multicolored mandalas. Still, Thome's music did not have the ring of authenticity, and his efforts to create a "global music" fell short and even patronized the listeners, implying that Westerners haven't learned to appreciate classical Indian music or Oriental philosophy.

Dressed in white and sitting on the stage floor, the players attempted soul-searching, amplified improvisation, similar to Stockhausen's music of the 1960s. What emerged, however, was less sophisticated and at times even amateurish.

"The Book of Beginnings, Canto II" explored the harmonics produced when singing "ee-oo-ee-oo. . . ." In addition to chanting, David Wilson huffed and puffed on a didjeridu and saxophone, Adrian Valosin pounded an array of tuned roto-toms and blew into homemade clay flutes, and Thome banged on a percussion setup of small found objects, including two bedpans.

Meanwhile, Albanela Malave noodled an accompaniment on the Yamaha DX-7 synthesizer and Toshi Makihara sustained a drone on the accordion. Makihara added a banal, martial arts-influenced dance at the end and, along with Thome, also played synthesizers.

Fascinating metallic sound sculptures by Harry Bertoia almost saved the first piece on the program, "Modular Star Forms," but cliched use of digital delay and the old superball-mallet-rubbed-against-the-gong effect marred the work. Flutist Marielena Arizpe was the featured soloist on flutes and ocarinas, but rarely, if ever, delivered a promised virtuosity.

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