Fact: it's way easier to get me out to a concert in Wicker Park or Logan Square. Fact: you should consider this when you plan concerts.
Right on the strip, or above it, Heaven Gallery hosts a wide variety of avant-garde concerts, both Classical and Jazz. And some not so avant-garde. Anaphora's concert Wednesday night was a little of both.
The main draw for much of the crowd was János Négyesy, about whom I was theretofore completely ignorant. The venerable violinist has origins in Hungary but now lives in Southern California, where he has been on the faculty of UCSD since 1979. As a solo performer, he has made it a point to champion contemporary music, such as the ones heard Wednesday.
Négyesy opened the concert with about 45 minutes of solo violin, imbued with dissonance, ranging from guttural scrapes to squealing high notes.
The first piece, by Nicolas Vérin, was his first instrumental piece, having worked primarily with electronics and musique concrète with Pierre Schaeffer and a stint at IRCAM. Knowing this, I was braced for the concatenation of noises coming out of Négyesy's violin. Fortunately, brevity is the soul of wit, and the piece ended before becoming redundant.
John Cage is one of the more witty composers, and yet his tome of études was neither brief nor witty. Composed with starcharts and the iChing, the Freeman Etudes were deemed unplayable for nearly a decade but are now merely virtuosic. Unfortunately, as hard as they must be, they don't sound that difficult to the audience.
I could appreciate one or two such pieces, but one after another for what seemed like an hour was too much. The randomness of the notes combined with the intense precision of the performance made me appreciate the futility of all human endeavors.
Following the barrage of disparate notes, Négyesy was joined by a supporting cast of 13 additional players for the world première of Marita Bolles Cities and the Sky. Bolles, a local composer teaching at DePaul, was inspired by Calvino's Invisible Cities, in which Marco Polo describes various sky-cities to Kublai Kahn. Each movement depicts that city and its character.
Not knowing the cities or their respective metaphysical issues, I can't judge how well each movement expressed them. It's also difficult to judge in general; not only was my mind's ear already beaten down, but the chamber orchestra overwhelmed the space, making me feel bombarded by omnidirectional sound: more 14 individual players, less soloist plus orchestra.
Then duets. Négyesy was joined by Päivikki Nykter for two works: a series of short, noise-infused works called Short Circuits, and Négyesy's Gallery, with more musical sounds written to accompany vivid computer paintings made by Négyesy. The former, by Igor Korneitchouk, was as cute and fun as such a work could be; the latter, by Drake Mabry, combined engaging music with fascinating images in such a way that they seemed unrelated.
The concert left me with a lingering sense of the futility of existence. Much of the music seemed outdated and academic. Granted, that is the style de rigueur in Europe; less so in America. In particular, I found the Cage piece much less interesting than his works for ensemble in which more happy accidents can happen.
Anaphora continues to present a vast diversity of concerts - from Jazz to Old Classical to New and avant-garde - both well-rehearsed and professional.