Last Night at ACT: Kurt, Gustav. Gustav, Kurt.

Since classical musicians already have well over a millennium of accessible repertory to deal with (the term "classical" can plausibly encompass church chant c. 750 AD up to the piece I worked on this morning), it makes sense that we're the most likely to engage music outside our usual spheres, our tastes being broader to begin with. An excellent example of this--a concert with a program so eclectic I really had no idea what would pop up next--was Jayce Ogren's show in ACT's Bullitt Cabaret (a space that really should host music oftener) on Friday night.

It opened with "Come As You Are," ended with Piazzolla's "Libertango," and along the way made room for Ani DiFranco, Louis Andriessen, Mahler, a work of Ogren's own, and one by a friend of his. Ogren, a Hoquiam-raised musician who just finished a three-year stint as assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, recruited a seven-piece ensemble (violin, cello, bass, guitar, keyboard, accordion, percussion), and handled vocal (and presumably arranging) duties himself.

The Mahler in particular--the song "Urlicht" from his Des Knaben Wunderhorn cycle--was magical, with guitar, accordion, and vibes all adding a glowing sonic halo. The group's realization of Andriessen's 1975 Workers Union--a score which indicates rhythms (fast and jagged) only, not pitch or instrumentation--was fairly ponderous, a lot of mid-range scrubbing. My guess is that Andriessen intended (and I've heard performances that provided) much more textural, registral, and timbral variety, and thus more kinetic excitement.

Ogren's own "Night Alone" was an imaginative dreamscape--or nightmare-scape--of sharp-edged sound effects, like a sort of goth George Crumb. Jenna Lyle's Three Miniatures From "Sunset" was in a way the evening's furthest-reaching programming choice, a piece in the straight-up contemporary-music-ensemble tradition--a style that's generally the first to be tossed overboard when new-music players decide to go pop. Two things I particularly admired about her work: her leave-'em-wanting-more approach, offering music whose brevity and surface uncomplicatedness enhanced its ear-grabbing ability; and her unself-conscious use of drum set and electric guitar purely for their sonic possibilities and not as signifiers of hipness.

The Eli Rosenblatt Quartet--guitar, violin, bass clarinet, and tar, or Persian lute--opened with a set that, naturally enough, mixed European and Middle Eastern influences. They had their cuteness knob turned up to, oh, 8 1/2, though, which, since my ears were set for Mahler and Cobain, was a little hard to settle into. Well, frankly, it was up to 9 for a quirky Kimya-Dawson-visits-the-shtetl number that involved whistling.

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