CalArts in Valencia was one of the more seriously quake-stricken institutions in the area, and the damage forced the curtailing of many scheduled events. But the school's music department showed a hale and healthy face when the CalArts New Century Players, led by David Rosenboom, came downtown Monday.
The concert at the Japan America Theater, part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's "Green Umbrella" series, was nothing if not varied. Between the post-minimalism, post-serialism, post-modern percussion and jazz-orchestral cross hatching, the program painted a fittingly diverse portrait of the pluralistic aesthetic at CalArts. To boot, it also made for an illuminating evening of new music.
Dutch composer Louis Andriessen has enjoyed renewed interest of late, and pieces such as his energetic minimalesque "Hout" (1991) justifies the fuss. Rather than the usual lockstep synchronization of minimalism past, Andriessen staggers the phrases to create raggedy ripples atop restless chord changes.
For William Brooks' more aridly atonal "Vier Alten Lieder," settings of Rilke poems, soprano Jacqueline Bobak produced alternately rich tones, an odd quivery tremolo, and coarse timbres imitative of the musicians flanking her, violinist Claudia Watson and violist Michael McClelland.
CalArts-based percussionist-composer-teacher John Bergamo conducted a quartet of unusually equipped percussionists for his work "On the Edge." A meditative work, more textural than rhythmically driven, traditional percussion sonorities blended with experimental techniques for producing sustaining tones.
Noted avant-garde jazz trumpeter Leo Smith, a new arrival to the CalArts faculty, presented his "Ngoma Agor," in which he improvised over a deliberately loose-knit score for chamber orchestra, conducted, sparsely, by Stephen Mosko. True to the heart of CalArts, Smith cut a neat swath between the blues, jazz and the "serious" musical universe, searching for depth in the cracks.