MUSIC REVIEW : Ford's 'Summer Nights': Something for Everyone


Many different musics; many different audiences. Eclectic is the mode at the first "Summer Nights at the Ford" series at John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, overlooking Hollywood Freeway in Cahuenga Pass.

It seems to be a mode that works. This week, the Contemporary Art, Music and Performance Alliance (CAMPA) drew a large crowd to the 1,200-seat amphitheater for its Monday night presentation of new works by the Bifurcators (the composing team of Scott Fraser and Philip Perkins), Frederick Moore, Jonathan Sacks and Eliane Robert-George.

The first two pieces seemed to tread compositional water; the last two proved fitfully engaging. It was not an evening of discovery.

Such are the vicissitudes of attending new-music concerts. The bonuses here were fascinating basic concepts and apparently committed and adequately rehearsed performances.

Robert-George's "Gossamery Dreams," without its promised video components--technical problems, a spokesperson reported, eliminated those elements--combines a quartet of flute, violin, viola and percussion with electronics to accompany a pair of synchronized dancers who look like landlocked, synchronized swimmers performing in irritating tandem.

The sounds are intriguing, but the choreography, by Noga Chomut, achieves little engagement with the observer. The quarter-hour experience, which one suspects the composer envisioned as exciting, became only pleasant.

Similar inactivity, for a similar length of time, characterized Sacks' "5TH (S)EASON," an excerpt from a longer work. This score, however, in post-Messiaenic drones from twin pianos--splendidly played by Gloria Cheng and Vicky Ray--is handsome and seemingly tight in concept.

What two singers (Christine Avila and Elizabeth Alpert) in long, grandma-style nightgowns, reciting or singing sometimes inaudible non sequiturs, have to do with the narrative or the music, one can only guess. But one did watch with interest.

Moore's also-quarter-hour theater piece for two actor-singers (the composer and Cinthea Stahl), a saxophonist and recorded instruments, "The Observer and the Observed," also confused, but more completely. With inconsistent broadcast of the amplification of the protagonists, much of the content of the piece could not reach the audience, and thus make its points effectively.

There were more basic problems: a clarity of dramatic focus in script and score, and not-well-projected execution by the two actors. As far as they went, Stahl and Moore did well--but their performances did not seem to reach beyond the first few rows of the theater. Timothy K. Taylor produced the wonted alienation in atmospheric saxophone solos.

The slow and unpromising overture to this evening was the Bifurcators' "White Eagles," a static, three-part piece for "electronic guitars, computer and various audio devices," 15 long minutes of fantasy noodling.

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