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Melding Philosophies

Trumpeter will unveil an ambitious multimedia presentation in Ventura City Hall.

April 23, 1999|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Ventura's music scene in the last decade of the century would have been a much duller place without Jeff Kaiser, its heroic iconoclast and envelope-pusher. Kaiser--trumpeter, composer and all-around new music scene maker--has been pretty faithful to his stated agenda of producing an ambitious new work every year.

This year's model, to he unveiled tonight at the Third Floor Gallery of Ventura City Hall with a multimedia presentation and a live performance by Kaiser's trio, promises to stretch some artistic boundaries, with help from collaborators in other media.

"Ganz Andere" is many things in one, making the avoidance of hyphens in any description next to impossible. For one, it is a stand-alone electro-acoustic CD project, the first on Kaiser's own new pfMENTUM label. The material draws on Kaiser's skill in blending sampling and synthesis in an electronic setting, stirred in with the real-time sound of his own improvisational trumpet voice and woodwinds by noted Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist Vinnie Golia.

The CD itself is another important entry in the annals of Kaiser's music. darkly mysterious, laced with humor and fundamentally experimental in structure and texture. This electronics dives deep, resists the easy seduction of rhythmic pulse and keeps the issue of real versus canned sound sources a matter of surrealistic guesswork.

The path to the project began with Kaiser's exploration of a subject for a chamber opera last year. Inspired by Mircea Eliade's "The Sacred and the Profane," he began concocting a piece exploring different philosophies regarding time. Into the creative loop came composer /video artist Clay Chaplin, who has developed a multiscreen video installation. Local poet Phil Taggart provided text and design ideas, and visual artist Paul Benavidez contributed an installation artwork, all in the site-specific, funky splendor of fee Third Floor Gallery a former jail with a view to die for.

Officially, the complete multimedia work will be presented numerous times over the next week, leading up to the Ventura Art Walk on May 1, when it will be presented six times. Tonight's show is also a CD release party and will include a live performance featuring Kaiser, guitarist Woody Aplanap and Clay Chaplin on an instrument dubbed "stupid thing," a glove that triggers computer-generated sounds.

"Ganz Andere" has the makings of Ventura's fringe cultural event of the season.

DETAILS

Opening night of "Ganz Andere," a video / music installation by Jeff Kaiser, Clay Chaplin and Phil Taggart, with additional art installation by Paul Benavidez, 8 tonight at the Third Floor Gallery in Ventura City Hall, 500 Poli St. Tickets are $6; 676-9660, or http://www.jetlink.net/pfmentum. Presentations continue at 7 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, at 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, at 7 and 8:30 p.m. April 30 and at 1, 2:30, 4, 5:30, 7 and 8:30 p.m. May 1 as part I of the Ventura Art Walk.

Some Romantic Evening: To say that last weekend's New West Symphony program was the least splashy or sexy of the season is not necessarily a dismissive criticism. The program they celled "Romantics" was, in the end, a quiet little marvel of a show, even if attendance was down and there was nothing more than a rousing treatment of Brahms' Fourth Symphony to seize special attention.

That was enough of a hook, in a respectable, understated program in the life of a symphony orchestra. Bells and whistles aren't always required. In fact, the most unusual piece of the evening proved less than thrilling. After the concert-opening overture to Die Freischutz of Carl Maria von Weber, we heard Korngold's Violin Concerto in D minor, a minor work played dashingly by visiting young Canadian violinist James Ehnes.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold is an early paradigm of the cliched composer-gone-Hollywood, a promising young classical composer from Vienna who fled the Nazis and wound up a respected, Oscar-winning film composer. But by the time he got around to this late-late romantic piece in 1945, his link to concert music was tenuous.

What we heard was a concerto that gave the soloist and orchestra plenty to do but had little to say beyond melodies dripping in pat emotions, the kind of themes best deployed as the sonic coating for love scenes.

Ehnes, however, impressed again on an encore, making fireworks with feeling on Paganini's "Caprice."

After intermission, maestro Boris Brott spoke of the romantic lineage in the program and then diplomatically advised the audience not to applaud between the movements of the Brahms.

And bully for him: One of the most inspiring sounds in Western culture is that of silence in a theater between movements. That's especially true when the music is played with the kind of bold, no-nonsense reading given by the New West to Brahms' last symphony, one of those sweeping yet focused works that gives Romanticism a good name.

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