St. Louis Bound
Northside Festival: These United States at Knitting Factory

This Is Just To Say at Symphonyspace

by Angela Sutton

This is Just to Say 6-16-12

Saturday night's program at Symphonyspace brought a series of multimedia works composed on (or curated around) William Carlos Williams' poem "This Is Just To Say." In keeping with the poem's brevity and simplicity, with hints of deep relationships, the works on the program singlemindedly pursued drama with deliberately limited means.

The evening started with the only purely musical work—Judith Ring's Mouthpiece, a prerecorded work for female voices. Although strongly recalling Gyorgy Ligeti's Lux aeterna, featured prominently in 2001: A Space Odyssey, it was quite lighthearted, playing some of its vocal swoops and dives for smiles.

Nomi Epstein's piano and soprano followed, accompanying abstract video by Naho Taruishi. Its alternation between dissonant piano chords and single-note vocalizations quickly became tiring, and its episodic nature seemed to be at odds with the continuous flow of the video. Its refusal to develop was one reduction of means too many.

The second half began with Sonia Megias' ready for, a surrealist scene accompanied by percussion. It appeared to be set around a scene of a woman getting ready for bed, but only if that involved smearing lipstick on the forehead or inflating balloons. Although percussionist Chris Graham gamely accompanied this scene, he made a much more convincing musical appearance in the next work, James Tenney's Having Never Written A Note For Percussion. A single elongated crescendo and diminuendo on a gong, this work took the musical material to near-zero while providing continuous drama.

Each half closed with one section of composer Inhyun Kim and choreographer Coco Karol's two-part This Is Just To Say suite, which received its premiered on this program. The dance sections, reminiscent of Butoh, showcased Karol (all in white down to hair powder and body makeup), and, later, Luke Gutgsell working their way about the stage with tightly controlled, slow-motion gymnastics. A setting of the eponymous poem for soprano and bass accompanied the dancers in the second section. In this second part, the musicians and dancers each formed a pair, exploring the implied relationship between the poet and his source of plums—bass egging on soprano, and the dancers enfolding and supporting each other in a summation of the evening's performances.