Was it really only two years ago that I was whining in these very pages about the dearth of classical music at Bumbershoot? This year, the fledgling ClassicalStage offers a healthy lineup of local musicians in a vast range of styles.
For this we can largely thank the University of Washington School of Music, which is staging what amounts to a little music festival of its own. For one thing, the work of three faculty members and three students from the flourishing composition department (music cultivated mostly at CARTAH, its Center for Advanced Research Technology in the Arts and Humanities) comes together under the title "Music to Launch the New Millennium" (Classical Stage, Sat at 5). Two electronic pieces on the program draw on sound sources both man-made (music of earlier periods) and natural. Bret Battey's Writing on the Surface uses Renaissance polyphonic choral music and percussive effects from sampled metal-shop sounds to make dense textures. Linda Antas' A River from the Walls combines water sounds and monks chanting in a tape that accompanies her own flute playing.
CARTAH director Richard Karpen's Sotto/Sopra also combines a live performer, violinist Eric Rynes, with technology—in this case real-time computer processing (the violin sounds are expanded, altered, and played back on the spot via computer). Diane Thome describes her tape piece UnfoldEntwine as "a mysterious, slowly unfolding journey with an astonishing, even magical, destination." Lucas Robatto will perform Jo묭Francois Durand's Au-dela, Cinq Etudes pour Piccolo, and Ming Tsu will play Eric Flesher's Composition B.
Right after this (Classical Stage, Sat at 7), Rynes, a violinist for the Seattle Creative Orchestra and the Contemporary Chamber Composers and Players (as well as an entering master's student at UW this fall), will present his own recital of three pieces. Shulamit Ran's uncompromising Inscriptions is a virtuoso showpiece of color and brutality. "A rustic, foot-stompin' atonal fiddle tune" is how Rynes describes Theo Loevendie's Dance for violin and ankle-strapped sleighbells. And Salvatore Martirano's Sampler: Everything Goes When the Whistle Blows features violin surrounded by a bubbling tape accompaniment, orchestral in the way it frames, cradles, and occasionally intimidates the soloist. The first half is slightly reminiscent of a psychedelic version of, say, Ravel's Tzigane; the second half goes into jazz fusion.
Seattle's new-music scene is heavily improv-oriented, and its 魩nence-not-so-grise is UW professor emeritus Stuart Dempster. His main instrument is trombone, but he's added didjeridu, conch shell, and garden hose to his collaborations; he's best known for his work with Pauline Oliveros and the Deep Listening Band and his recorded performances in the abandoned cistern at Fort Worden, near Port Townsend, with its astonishing 45-second reverberation time.
What makes Dempster's the most rewarding improvisations around is their lack of aggression. Simply put, it's not about him, it's about the sound, which opens the door to wit, joy, serenity, and magic—and a true feeling of collaboration, an almost tangible sense of intelligent listening and responding to his co-creators in the improvisation process. His current project, with dancers/choreographers Sheri Cohen, John Dixon, and Tonya Lockyer, is a "sound and movement collective" dubbed ROOMINATION (Classical Stage, Sat at 3, Sun at 6).
The School of Music shows off in two more presentations. "Catch a Rising Star" (Classical Stage, Mon at 2) is a mixed bag of trumpet (jazz and classical pieces by Judson Jay Scott) and piano (Dadang Sunarga playing Liszt and Asta and Dainius Vaicekonis playing four-hand favorites by Bizet, Brahms, Dvor(breve) and Faur驮 For "Diva's Delight" (Classical Stage, Sun at 3:30), opera director Claudia Zahn has put together solos and ensembles for women: stride-to-the-footlights, chew-the-scenery, belt-it-to-the-balcony star turns from opera and music theater.
Check out our Classical Picks for Bumbershoot.