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MUSIC REVIEW

SONOR Offers Colorful, Contemporary Program

February 07, 1996|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

UC San Diego's respectable new music ensemble SONOR is known for its serious commitment to things contemporary, a reputation confirmed Monday night in its Green Umbrella concert at the Japan America Theater. There were no appetizers and no tarts. Only meat, with marginal amounts of fat.

A solid and uncompromising dose of new music, the program was neatly dispersed between music by certifiable 20th century heroes--Mario Davidovsky, Luciano Berio and Iannis Xenakis--and three lesser-known composers.

Andrew May's "The Twittering Machine," named after a Klee painting, is a performer-specific work, triggered by and with samples of the commanding flutist Elizabeth McNutt. Cambodian-born composer Chinary Ung's music has been oft-heard lately, and gratefully so. His "Spiral VI," for a quartet, typifies his colorful style, marked more by a sense of flow than architecture.

In Arun Bharali's coy yet arid "Regan," musicians meandered between two sides of a stage divided, guided by dual conductors Rand Steiger and Harvey Sollberger. A little dada goes a long way.

The electroacoustic muse paid a friendly, dryly dissonant visit courtesy of Davidovsky's 1964 work "Synchronism No. 2." Berio's "Sequenza IV"--played here with a strong notion and a cool hand by pianist Aleck Karis--is one of the more elegant of the composer's virtuosic "Sequenza" series, with its soft parade of cluster chords and coloristic splashes.

Closing the program with an artful clangor, six percussionists realized the quixotic splendor of Xenakis' "Pleides," geared around shifting degrees of unity between the players. For the movement titled "Metaux," they played the 19-note custom vibraphone called the "sixxen" (six plus Xenakis), built by SONOR's Brett Reed. The plangent, metallic tone of the instrument, like a wind chime made of tiny I-beams, evoked sonorities both industrial and Javanese.

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