Playing a stringed instrument while singing is a bit like trying to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time. Only harder. But, twice this week, I saw a pair of extraordinary musicians who managed to pull off that double feat with grace and skill.
On Monday, I saw the solo violinist Monica Germino at Le Poisson Rouge, performing a program of works for electric and acoustic violin, most never before heard in New York. Germino, an American who has lived in Amsterdam for the past decade, has been a muse for a number of European composers, among them Heiner Goebbels, Louis Andriessen, and Jacob TV, all of whom have written works for her. Throughout her set, she employed a series of pedals and processors that made her acoustic squeal like a Fender (Goebbels' Bagatellen) and her electric roar like heavy machinery (Michael Gordon's Industry.) But, it was when her voice kicked in on top that her astonishing range was revealed. At times, she would sing and play a repeating theme (Mark Williams' HELL), while at others (Andriessen's "Song" from Xenia), her voice and playing followed along completely different paths.
Wednesday night, I stopped by the Players Theatre in the Village to hear Fire In July, part of the new Music on MacDougal series. Led by cellist/composer Jody Redhage (and including familiar downtown musicians clarinetist Ken Thomson, drummer Fred Kennedy, and trombone player Alan Ferber), the music flirted between baroque and jazz, with Redhage's soft soprano keeping time with her plucked rhythms. While I couldn't put my finger on exactly what she was up to, it stuck in my head for hours afterward. (More pics below.)