MAVerick at Flat Iron

At the heart of Wicker Park is the Flat Iron Building, still containing live-work artist galleries. On Sunday afternoon, one of those galleries on the 2nd floor, around a corner of a corner in the byzantine network of hallways, was filled with an adventurous audience to see the MAVerick Ensemble.
The ensemble exists, essentially, at the impetus its founder, composer William Jason Raynovich (aka "Raynovich"), who started the ensemble before starting ensembles in Chicago was cool. Now, there's a Chicago "scene" that boasts half a dozen new classical music ensembles, and yet none infringe in any noticeable way on the niche carved out by MAVerick. This concert proved to define that niche: mostly experimental and modernist with a few examples of post-modernism.
The concert started with ~7 minutes of a single note: Swell No. 2 by James Tenney, written on a notecard. The performers passed the note around, adding their own particular timbre to the mix. With all the performers playing, underneath the stacks of overtones, there was a sine wave that seemed to fill the room and penetrate the mind. Thus, the phasing and beating of differences of intonation had an almost physical effect on brain waves. It's the kind of thing John Luther Adams tries to do with less success.
Italian experimental composer Salvatore Sciarrino titled his solo flute piece Morte Tamburo--death drum--as the flutist, Lisa Goethe-McGinn, played the flute like a drum, her diaphragm becoming the stick, in a reversal of roles, as it beat the column of air. Any pitches that emerged were shrouded by breathy mystery.
Raynovich's whirl was written for site-specific performance in the Marquette Building downtown. To recreate that affect, the performers played in a crossroads of hallways as the audience was invited to mill about around them. The piece culls together various found objects--such as Native American melodies and La Marseillaise--that create a tapestry that is at times quilted and at others woven.
Before the concluding piece, there were two duets by Nikola Resanovic and Alexander Shchetnysky and a piece for solo guitar by Maurice Ohana.
To conclude the concert, for Tomi Raisanen's Grus (meaning "crane", like the bird), Raynovich took to the cello and was joined by Milwaukee-based accordion player Stas Venglevski for an aggressive, ritualistic duet accompanied by vocal sounds, shushing, and pre-recorded percussion sounds. A little redundant at times, it was still viscerally intense and mentally captivating.
The past few MAVerick concerts have focused on miniatures like these, solos or duets that would be more apt in a dark living room with a few candles scattered around. On Sunday, there was a variety of libations, creating a sort of art-party atmosphere--without, of course, the illegal drugs and feigned pretentiousness. A different style of art altogether--art that lives in museums, not the kinds that sells itself in a gallery--will adorn the next concert at the Ukranian Institute of Modern Art on March 13 at 7pm, a program including Saariaho., Crumb, and Chen Yi.

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