Last night Composers Inc. hosted its first concert of 2006 in the Green Room on the second floor of the Veterans' Building, across the street from San Francisco City Hall. Paul and I went and we had a bite to eat at Delessio's beforehand, and even had the last piece of their chocolate cake with the lemon buttercream frosting, which I'm sure kept me even more alert than usual through the evening.
While not quite green (hardly any green rooms are), this Green Room is kind of turquoise. It has high ceilings, huge chandeliers, and beautiful decor. It's a great place to hear new chamber music. I'm actually used to hearing new music in more gritty surroundings with metal folding chairs instead of cushioned ones, no name tags on the presenters, no refreshments, and less reliable climate control so this was pretty upscale.
A good crowd had turned out to hear the show, which featured the Los Angeles Flute Quartet. There was six pieces on the program by living American composers. All of them were different from each other, and all of them were fairly short. They said what they had to say, and then they were finished -- my favorite quality in a piece of new music.
It was my first experience with the Los Angeles Flute Quartet and they are extremely fine players. They all switched off on flute, piccolo, alto flute, and bass flute depending on what the piece called for. They played three pieces -- "Up in the Air" by Jeffrey Miller, "Chovihano (Gypsy Healer)" by Christopher Caliendo, and "Bioplasm" by Alex Shapiro.
Sarah Cahill played one of the pieces, "Self" by Daniel David Feinsmith, which was made for piano and spoken word. I do a lot of spoken word and I'd never thought of piano and spoken word together before. I'm not entirely sure it worked, but I always like being taken to a new conceptual place.
The California Quartet played "Dances and Nocturnes" by Stephen Gryc. The piece was made for violin, viola, cello, and piano and it was really beautiful. I talked to the composer at intermission and he was wearing a pin on his shirt that was a replica of the number 7 that's painted on the number 7 subway in NYC.
"Sleepless Night" by Martin Rokeach was for flute, violin, cello, and guitar. Kay Stern, the violinist from the California Quartet, played in this piece as well. She was a rock star. Her playing was fabulous in both the Gryc piece and this one.
The best piece by far of the whole night was "Bioplasm" by Alex Shapiro. I love hearing flutists other than myself play extended techniques, and I'm lucky if I hear one other person do them, but hearing FOUR people play them at once, and play them well, was a wonderful treat. Key percussion, air-timbre effects, and singing and playing were all integral to Alex's piece. I had never heard four people sing and play at the same time before, making eight-part harmony. It was really great to hear. The piece got a great audience response which was even better. It means new music's "polite society" can handle it.
I got to talk to Alex a little bit after the show. She is the chapter director of the ACF in Los Angeles. I got to talk to Lisa-Maree and Peter from the LAFQ and I enjoyed that very much also. Peter has one of those Kotato bass flutes everyone has been raving about and which are $10,000. He says the low register is really really responsive, among other fabulous qualities. He says the mechanism *does* go out of adjustment a little bit though when he does all the key percussion that Alex's piece demands.
So a great evening all around.