As Dan Deacon talked to John Schaefer Tuesday night at the Kaufman Center, he looked far more reserved than he did last Friday in Austin. This was right before Dan, the Calder Quartet and NOW Ensemble performed the premiere of An Opal Toad With Obsidian Eyes for electronics, disklavier, string quartet and ensemble. Sadly, no dance circles, but still a pretty trippy hour of music.
Opening the night was Mark Dancigers' pleasant - if prosaic - Cloudbank (2006), which he played on electric guitar as part of the NOW Ensemble, which also included flute, clarinet, bass, and piano. Far more engaging was Daniel Wohl's Glitch (2009) for string quartet and electronics. The Calder Quartet - who are based in L.A. - were startling, sawing away with all the intensity of the Kronos Quartet, albeit in black suits and pulled-down ties. The entire piece was thoughtful and provocative, but there was a moment of pure magic in the 3rd movement finale, when the strings begin to play a sublime, melodic figure, repeating over and over while building upon itself. It reminded me of a Shaker hymn, or possibly the opening to Wagner's Das Rheingold. Whatever it was, it was powerful. (You can listen to it yourself here; the magic starts at the 4:00 mark.)