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MUSIC AND DANCE REVIEWS

A Resonant Tribute for Lesemann's 60th

May 12, 1997|JOHN HENKEN

In music, technological energies of late have been largely invested in linking electronic effects and live performance. So the belated 60th birthday concert for Frederick Lesemann, presented by the Southwest Chamber Music Society Saturday evening at the Armory Center for the Arts, proved an uncommon celebration, consisting as it did of seven of Lesemann's prerecorded electronic pieces unmediated by human performers.

Lesemann does not compose only via electronics. He was for many years the director of the Electronic Music Studio at USC, where all of the works on the program were created between 1975 and 1992, and his technological expertise is unquestioned. He can parse a lone coyote howl into a fiercely chattering ballet mecanique as he does in "Shotsona (Trickster's Dance)," and he can transmute a broad broken synthesized chord into a stairway to heaven as in "Angels' Flight."

For the joy of pure pulse power there was "Hammer Phase," a completely synthetic exercise in monomania. "Ordnal's Frenzy" is a more varied character piece, sort of amiable computer parlor music, while "Mesita Dreams" layers synthesized counterpoint over a recording of natural sounds from a New Mexico countryside. The prosaic first of Lesemann's "Paradiso XXI (Five Visions From Dante)" is less successful artistically than the magical third; both involve deconstructing recorded spoken passages.

Many of these soundscapes resonate in interesting ways with works in the Armory's "Romanticism and Contemporary Landscape" exhibition, and the audience was encouraged to walk around the gallery while the music was played. The experience proved at once both more intense and more isolating, as everyone in the audience created their own interactive multimedia performance.

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