I took a break from the litany of holiday music last weekend with a pair of concerts that offered two very different visions of where classical music is at the end of the first decade of the third millennium - and where it might be going. At Galapagos on Friday night, New Amsterdam Records hosted an evening bookended by electronic music artists Lesley Flanigan and Tristan Perich, who've just come off a six week tour that took them to all corners of the country. (I last saw them in performance back at April's Bent Festival.) Lesley's Amplifications was quiet and ethereal, mixing sounds from her own hand-constructed instruments with multiple voices (including her own) and projections by Luke DuBois.
Tristan's Dual Synthesis took a more minimalist route, using a harpsichord to play extended, repetitive themes with 4-channel audio, all comprised of 1-bit electronics. At times, Tristan would let the electronics play by themselves, like a soloist pausing to let the orchestra take over; at others, he would battle against it as if he were playing Crystal Castles. With his wild, tousled hair, Tristan looked a bit like Beethoven, without the piles of scores.
NOW Ensemble, which took the middle slot, is noone's idea of an ideal setup: flute, piano, double bass, electric guitar, and saxophone (among other reed instruments). As a result, they've had to resort to commissioning composers to write music for them, similar to other new music ensembles such as Eighth Blackbird and Alarm Will Sound. None of the new works they performed - all NY Premieres - particularly grabbed me, save for Judd Greenstein's Change, which was full of toe-tapping goodness, as bright and enjoyable as it was tightly constructed. Judd says he had in mind Gandhi's saying: "Be the change you want to see in the world," and Change reflects his conflicting feelings of optimism and skepticism as he looks back over the events of the past year. Whatever the inspiration, it was one of the best new pieces I've heard all year. (More pics below.)