As zero hour approaches for c)i's concert tonight at the Tenri Cultural Institute, I've been gathering my excitement, and gathering my thoughts about the concert. It's terribly varied program, measured aesthetically both from piece to piece, and within a composers output; Yehudi Wyner just said of the piece of his being rehearsed right now that "I'd never try the things I was trying in this piece again; I didn't have so much as a change of heart as a heart transplant!"
I'm also looking forward for the brief conversation with the composers that we have planned just after intermission. The program present several aporia that beg for further discussion. Two that leap out at me are the question of the American in music, and the tension between vocality and instrumentality in this concert of instrumental chamber music. The concert bears the title 'American Explorations,' per the design of the Washington Square Contemporary Music Society's Lou Karchin. To me American culture seems to have a particular interest in rewriting either history, or it's particular position within that history. This tendency has been observable for some time, appearing in discussions of the American identity from de Tocqueville's 'Democracy in America' to Cornel West's 'The American Evasion of Philosophy'; More recently, and more specifically musical is Ross's 'The Rest is Noise,' which resituates the bulk of American concert music as a specific matrix of interaction between a tradition of European Art Music and American Popular Music. This seems to resonate strongly with Ricouer's notion of history, in which memory, imagination and forgetting interact to bring forth expressive acts and works that are both contingent upon historical frames while also reinforcing or creating particular historical framings. Any notion of the American would seem to me to have to account for both the diversity of these practices and stances, and in the persistent practice of starting over, for every composer and often for every piece.
<p dir=ltr>The question of vocality and instrumentality presented itself to me when reconnecting with Yehudi Wyner's 'Romances' for piano quartet being performed tonight. Yehudi speaks so elequently about the connection between songfulness and writing for instruments in his work. (A brief interview where it comes up can be read here: http://www.bruceduffie.com/wyner.html). Lou has just finished a multi-year opera project, and Kyle has been studying voice now for several years, performing with c)i last year on her own work 'mothers. And yet all the works are strongly rooted in the physicality of instrumental performance. 'Spell' in particular highlights the the body in performance at the moment when the instrumentality of performance dissolves into noise and gesture. Many thanks to all the composers and performers and WSCMS for contributing so such a dynamic program, and for contributing to conversations like this, in words and in music. You all still have an hour to get over to 6th Ave and 13th; hope to see you there!