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Music Review

EAR Unit Concert Full of Premieres

March 25, 2000|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Wednesday's California EAR Unit concert at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art confirmed new music expectations, being almost entirely composed of premieres. One work on the program, though, has achieved near repertory status.

Steven Mackey's enchanting "Indigenous Instruments," written in 1989 and performed several times in the Southland since then, has yet to wear out its welcome. Microtonal variances between instruments give off a loose-fitting character, and it plays like sophisticated, apocryphal folk music, seemingly indigenous to a non-western, and possibly extra-terrestrial culture.

On the premiere front, English composer Lawrence Ball's "Bright Elastic Echoes" is a cheerful plunge into content analysis, with simple musical materials reworked and re-formed via his system of "harmonic mathematics." Ernesto Diaz-Infante's "I/O," despite a computerese title, is an effectively meditative canvas of musical fragments evoking nature more than machinery.

Violinist Malcolm Goldstein, who performed a beguiling solo concert last year as part of the Faultlines series in Los Angeles, was the evening's guest soloist. In a way, he further broke up the premiere pattern. As he explained, his improvisatory "Soundings" is "always a premiere," freshly concocted every time out. But each performance also is a continuation of the fluid, signature Goldstein vocabulary that extends beyond violin tradition. Soft, breezy sounds abut harsher over-bowing, with craggy, overtone-jammed tones, to interesting ends.

The EAR Unit joined him on "The Seasons: Vermont/Winter," floating sounds and subtle gestures over a tape of ambient sounds that evoke the time and place of the title. There was something distinctly Cage-ian in their impressionistic atmosphere of distracted intensity, but also, one could say, Goldstein-ian, in an intuitive idiom of his own devising.

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