I've been coming down to SXSW off and on for the past dozen years or so, and have seen everything from pop to punk, indie to Indian music, Delta blues to DJs - and everything in between. But, before yesterday's Nonclassical showcase at the Hilton Garden Inn, I'd never heard new/classical music down here. The showcase, which was held in a conference room well-insulated from the teeming hordes on nearby 6th Street - was a collaboration with Fast Forward Austin: the exciting new music group started in 2010 by local composers Ian Dicke, Steve Snowden and Robert Honstein (whose recent visit to NYC we covered.) In a town known worldwide as the Live Music Capital of the World, the only mystery is why it took Austin so develop a new music co-op, which we've had in NYC for years.
I spent long enough at the Hilton to catch the Aiana String Quartet: an young group in residence at UT, where they're being working with the excellent Miró Quartet. Clearly, Miro's influence has rubbed off on them, as they rocked through readings of Piazolla's "Four, For Tango" and Nonclaassical founder Gabriel Prokofiev's 1st String Quartet. But, the last thing I ever expected to hear on a SXSW showcase was Bartók'd 3rd quartet, which Aiana first violinist Roseminna Watson, said: "We love so much." They gave it a ride, playing the compact, no-break piece with fire and precision. It was like a jolt of adrenaline, no less effective than an indie band ripping through a set at Emo's. And, given that they didn't start playing until 12:30am, much needed.
If you're still in town and are looking for a similar break from the indie rock wail, head back to the Hilton Garden tonight for new music label Innova's showcase, featuring Sxip Shirey, Todd Reynolds, Haitian electronic music composer/percussionist Val-Inc, and more. And, it's free.