2/25/08

Hyphens and New Music!

How to make modern music user friendly

Once again, someone’s style sheet forbids capitalization in titles. Why? Also, “user-friendly” should likely be hyphenated. (See previous post….)

However, this is exciting! We’re going to learn to do what the title promises, I hope. If not, I will be disappointed. And probably sarcastic.

The promising yet still-nascent state of Miami's modern-music scene is evident by the fact that many of its most adventurous events are presented by universities and their affiliates.

Minor points in re: hyphens: “Modern-music”? I think you mean “modern music”? “Still-nascent” is…fine. But it sounds like “stillborn”. Which is creepy.

A worthy example is Sara Laimon's compelling piano recital Thursday night at the Wolfsonian-FIU in Miami Beach, which offered a trio of contemporary works spanning three generations of composers.

By “is” I think you mean “was”, because “offered” is past tense. Also considering that the concert took place [last] Thursday. Nitpicking. But still excited? How are we going to make modern-music user friendly? Or modern music user-friendly? Whichever.

A founder and co-artistic director of the New York-based experimental music group Sequitur, Laimon is an extraordinary musician with a prodigious technique allied to a communicative precision well suited to this music and evident in her user-friendly spoken introductions.

“Well-suited” should also have a hyphen, I think. But now we’ve got our “user-friendly” hyphen. At least you’re not consistent!

Are the “user-friendly” spoken introductions how we’re going to make modern music user-friendly? I can’t wait to find out!

Cast in seven sections, Brian Cherney's In the Stillness of the Seventh Autumn is loosely inspired by words of Debussy and T. S. Eliot, with music meant to evoke an open-ended mystery. Cherney fuses Impressionist elements with 21st century edge, as with isolated ''thudded'' notes, in which Laimon manually mutes the piano strings. There are aggressive outbursts, but a peaceful, limpid atmosphere predominates. The Canadian composer's work utilizes the entire keyboard, and Laimon made all the turbulence, subtle hues and stark effects register incisively with extraordinary focus.

You should meet my friend Empiricus. He loves adjective-laden phrases. I, on the other hand, love correct hyphen usage!

Harold Meltzer's Piano Sonata is likely the first work written in 2008 to be heard on the local music scene. The Brooklyn-born Meltzer is co-artistic director of Sequitur with Laimon, for whom this work was written. His Sonata was inspired by Cezanne's use of light and shade and effectively mines three-part sonata form with a graceful merging of tradition and contemporary style.

“Three-part” = well done! Still waiting for the explanation about the user-friendly thing, though.

There's a motoric, Prokofiev-like driving energy but also a distinctly American feel. Meltzer's sonata suggests early Copland in its spiky, acerbic writing, yet there's a compelling individuality in its quickly shifting meters, jazz-flavored syncopations and hushed coda. Meltzer, who was in attendance Thursday, will have his Piano Concerto premiered next month by Ursula Oppens with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

I see a Mad Lib in your future! What about the…

At 83, Ezra Laderman was the most veteran composer represented. Written in 2002, his Piano Sonata No. 3 is an epic work, spanning about 50 minutes in three movements, with a middle part of 10 shorter sections.

…user-friendly…

The opening Fantasia switches expressive gears, going from violent outbursts to an uneasy, pensive calm. The final movement is a set of variations that grows increasingly agitated with moments of hard-won solace, closing with a quiet air of resigned transcendence.

...you were saying that we can make modern music…

Laderman withdrew the sonata's subtitle The Circus of My Mind, yet it's hard to avoid the feeling that this vast, varied central movement amounts in large part to a bracing self-portrait, given such descriptive titles as ''Mercurial,'' ''Forceful, Brusque,'' and ''Driven and Impetuous.'' Laimon showed complete mastery of this sprawling music in a tour-de-force performance that was alive to its brooding reflection as well as forcefully articulating in the bravura pages.

…user-friendly. Did you forget? Surely not. Surely your final paragraph will clear everything up!

Kathleen Wilson, FIU's new director of music, is a committed contemporary-music advocate, and perhaps such one-off events as Thursday's could be expanded into a mini-series of modern piano and chamber music at the Wolfsonian, with its intimate venue offering the perfect setting.

Is…is it the perfect setting that makes modern music user-friendly? Or the spoken introductions? One-off? Mini-series? Contemporary-music? Really? Ugh.

Oh, I get it. It’s hyphens. Sigh.

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