MusicNOW: the dawning of a new era - Part II

[this is a continuation of my review of MusicNOW.  Part I is here.]

Vision Mantra
After the Chapela was a piece for string trio, Vision Mantra, by local composer Marcos Balter--local in that he lives in Chicago and teaches at Columbia College.  The piece was repetitive, rhythmic, and slow to change: minimalist.  But it was minimalist in a different way.  Instead of trance-inducingly constant, it was broken up into short phrases, each of which being either a perfect copy or a slight modification.  The pauses between each phrase allowed the audience to clearly hear each phrase with no distractive connective tissue.  But after awhile, it got old.  Instead of inducing a meditative calm with a heightened sensitivity to subtle changes, I started to get irritated by the regularity: each phrase was the same perceptual length.
It was during this piece that my attention was drawn to the amplification: each piece was amplified, and while for the pieces involving a tape part, this was absolutely necessary (and perfectly mixed), for the acoustic pieces it was less necessary.  In this piece, the amplification caused the grating of the bow on the strings to be more prominent than if it were unamplified.  And thus the subtle beauty of the piece was further disturbed.
Within the whole of the concert, the piece acted as a nice sorbet to the electronic-laden pieces around it.  But on its own, it was a one-timer: (4.5 / 10)

steelworks
The Wednesday of the 5-piece concert was Anna Clyne's steelworks, which was the popular favorite.  The piece was about the steel industry and was accompanied by a video by Luke DuBois.  There were only three performers, but with the tape part and video, it was an all-encompassing experience.  The trick, Clyne was clever enough to realize, was to keep the components simple to let the complexity build up.  Her writing for each member of the trio--percussion (mostly marimba and bass drum), bass clarinet, and flute--was fairly simple with only brief moments of "look-at-me" attention-grabbing--tasteful and subdued.  And the tape part cradled the instruments nicely, turning a mere trio into something that felt more chamber symphony.  Clyne seems to succeed in the big picture even when working with somewhat mundane details.  Worth another listen/viewing.  (7.5 / 10)
[stay tuned for the exciting conclusion]

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