Among the orchestras, new music ensembles and violinists all taking part in this final week of Mostly Mozart, there was percussionist Steve Schick, who I first encountered during his Miller Theatre residency in January. As I remarked then, Schick is much more than just a talented musician: he is deeply committed to his craft, imbuing his performances with a transcendent, almost spiritual dimension.
Schick was back in town on Wednesday to perform John Luther Adams' The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies (2002): an unwieldy title for a work said to represent the “choirs of inner voices" hidden within the toneless instruments of the percussion family. As in January, Schick performed the entire 75 minute work - which Adams wrote for him - from memory, moving between seven different stations of percussion instruments. Aided by dramatic lighting that ranged from vibrant colors to near-darkness, Schick's playing was layered with simultaneous electronics, adding a supernatural "aura" to the proceedings. A bass drum rumbled like a terrifying thunderstorm. A giant gong resonated with the sanctity of a Buddhist temple. A rack of triangles mixed with electronics to produce a shrill, almost deafening peal. An air siren on slow-mo sounded like a propeller plane circling at low altitude. A row of cymbals cracked like the breaking of an Alaskan ice field.
Adams, whose Sila: The Breath of the World opened this year's Mostly Mozart and who won the Pulitzer Prize earlier this year for Become Ocean, seems to be having his moment, which he can now enjoy from his new home here in NYC. Unfortunately, New Yorkers will need to content ourselves with only occasional visits from Schick, who is ensconced on the west coast as a teacher, performer, and music director. Which makes appearances like Wednesday's, before an audience of less than 200 at the Clark Studio Theater, feel all the more miraculous. Come back soon, Steve.