Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Music Review

Art Song Recital Ranges From Lyrical to Zany

April 14, 2001|RICHARD S. GINELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Baritone Thomas Buckner and pianist Joseph Kubera--in league with two flanking loudspeakers, mixing boards, a laptop computer and other components at CalArts' Roy O. Disney Music Hall Thursday night--seemed determined to show that the art song genre is more wildly unpredictable than the term implies.

CalArts faculty member Wadada Leo Smith's "Spirit Catcher" (also his name for the title track on a 1980 jazz album) evolved slowly and peacefully as Buckner triggered various percussion effects and applied extended vocal techniques to a spiritual text. In David Wessel's "Situations I," the composer manipulated touchplates that triggered dramatic, attractive explosions of plucked sounds (dominated by a sitar) from the computer.

Following a less-stimulating series of sustained vocalises and scatting effects that made up Ushio Torikai's "Voiced. One," the excerpts from William Hawley's "Shelley Songs" came as a shock--three honest-to-goodness, lyrical, Romantic, arpeggio-filled, straight-forward settings of Percy Shelley poems.

Finally, there was avant-garde opera composer Robert Ashley's zany "Yes, But Is It Edible?"--first heard in New York last month--in which Buckner spent 23 minutes reciting a musical manifesto in a hip, rapid, hit-and-run manner, with brief deadpan clusters from the piano as punctuation marks. At first, it sounded like a George Carlin comedy routine on new music, but eventually you give up trying to make sense of the barrage of ranting sentences jumping from one topic to another. At this length, it overloads your mental hard drive and you have to settle for simply going with the flow of words as abstract sounds.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|