by Melanie Wong
Above: Cadillac Moon Ensemble; below: Circles and Lines
Friday evening at the Tenri Cultural Institute, Cadillac Moon Ensemble presented a program of music exclusively written by members the composer collective Circles and Lines. A unique quartet comprising flute, violin, cello, and percussion, Cadillac Moon Ensemble has commissioned over 50 new works for their instrumentation, including four of the five pieces on the evening’s program.
On the first half of the program, violinist Patti Kilroy and cellist Meaghan Burke demonstrated their duo skills in Noam Faingold’s Knife in the Water (named for Roman Polanski’s first feature film). A series of disconnected sonic outbursts and melodies ranging from sparse pizzicato sections to chaotic rhythmic chases created a chilling effect throughout; that is, until its comical ending, complete with an audience fake-out, where the performers were instructed to wait for applause before proceeding to the forceful and abrupt ending.
With just two composers left to complete the set, Cadillac Moon performed Eric Lemmon's unfinished version of Canis Major, a celestial saga that combined a broad range of extended techniques and complex rhythms to create both a creepy and beautifully ethereal nebulousness of sound. Flutist Roberta Michel performed her atmospheric effects particularly well (such as circular breathing, whistletones, and slap-tonguing), greatly heightening the piece’s effectiveness.
The final composer, Conrad Winslow, presented his “pageant to simple sound waves,” Abiding Shapes. Winslow explored the realm of shapes (such as sine, square, and sawtooth) through dynamics and sound, and—though a bit peculiar—the work engaged the mind and moved outside the box. Throughout the evening, Cadillac Moon was a dynamic and cohesive unit capable of portraying a wide variety of sounds, effects, and moods.
As discussed in FoM’s previous interview with Circles and Lines, the five composers do not believe themselves to be united through a specific aesthetic; however, there was a distinct similarity among their pieces in both rhythmic usage and in their incorporation of tonal elements. Despite contemporary classical music sometimes having a reputation for being inaccessible or unlistenable, Circles and Lines’ works inevitably formed a program that was equally enjoyable, understandable, and intellectually stimulating.