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MUSIC REVIEWS

Fresh Approach From CalArts Group

March 19, 1997|JOSEF WOODARD

Leave it to a CalArts contingent to shore up new ideas and rattle complacency, as it did Monday at the Japan America Theatre. In its annual visit downtown, as part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Green Umbrella series, the CalArts New Century Players, in varying ensembles, reminded us of the vitality bubbling up in Valencia.

If there was a general connecting theme to the works, it had to do with blending styles and reworking "isms" into new forms and textures. An intrinsic air of suspense--harmonically and stylistically--marked Karl Kohn's compelling "Set of Three," which exists in a seductive nether world between romantic and abstract instincts, sharply rendered by five of the players.

Anne Lebaron's "Telluris Theoria Sacra" (the one West Coast premiere among world premieres Monday night) has her own blend in mind, in which order and chaos in the physical world are conveyed through musical language. Conductor David Rosenboom offered exacting guidance through the eclectic half-hour suite.

For composer-performer David Myska, the challenge lies in bridging the gap implied by the hyphen in electro-acoustic. For his take on "Psalm 10," with the text sung boldly by mezzo-soprano Kimball Wheeler, Myska conducted from behind his sampling keyboard, a symbolic placement.

To close, noted jazz trumpeter, composer and CalArts teacher Ismail Wadada Leo Smith offered his latest attempt to make the classical chamber safe for improvisation. The protagonist in "NUR: Luminous: Light Upon Light" was the formidable double bassist Bertram Turetzky, who persuasively coaxed tones by an array of means, both conventional and otherwise, and played off a scattered tapestry of ensemble gestures.

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