Fortunately, the COVID fog has cleared for the 60th anniversary of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, alive and well again. This is an important event for this rich and important source of contemporary music in the West Coast, which organized its forces for two weeks of performances at the famous venue of the city of Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium .
Even when it comes to new episodes, most of them are West Coast (if not international) premieres, sounding bold but shy of being full and not stuck to their skin. — as seen in the Saturday and Sunday evening concerts during the first weekend of the festival — The progressive idea here is to inspire hope for the future and to open up the “now” of contemporary music.
Emphasis is placed on female composers and the work of women, and on Sunday, the spotlight turns to the recently formed a cappella group Roomful of Teeth.
Saturday’s music program, led by Music Director Cristian Măcelaru and titled “Let Me See the Sun,” for the piano concerto of the same name by Paola Prestini, created a song and social statement about the cracks and injustices of the American state . Puerto Rican-born, New York-based poet Ivan Enrique Rodriguez is the singer and questioner A Rebellion for Power takes its name from James Baldwin — but simplifies the effect by removing a word from the original word (“White is a metaphor for power”). In introducing the work, the composer explained that the idea is about the racist hierarchies he encountered when trying to establish himself in the white classical music world.
In musical terms, the score opens with a melody and is embedded in a matrix of overlapping techniques and functions. The chorus is running, like a spoof from “America the Beautiful,” but it’s laced with more angst than Charles Ives has ever given. Moments of clangorous conflict ease into fuzzy-edged heroism, closing with a broken piece of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” thrown in at the end with the utmost gusto. The overall language is much simpler, but the musical content is solid in its own language.
Prestini’s piece, written for pianist Lara Downes and given its virtual premiere a year ago, is about the new national consensus of the #MeToo and Black movements. Lives Matter. As the composer explained before the premiere, his aim was to introduce conflict and allow dialogue between the piano and the musician, while choosing a good idea by including a “we” in the work of cooperation. That important change is seen in his musical design, which oscillates between tensions, muscular pulses, and peaceful resolutions.
Stacy Garrop The Battle for the Vote It takes on the theme of the 19th Amendment and the fierce fight for the rights of women and black citizens to vote, complete with Valerie Joi’s citation of the texts by the terrifying speeches of a century ago gone The music itself has the feel of a soundtrack suitable for a documentary or feature film, cleverly crafted but seemingly out of place in the context of this festival.
John Harbison, the leading man in the program, came up with the strongest and most intense piece of the night, his 2007 The great gatsby Suite, taken from his 1999 opera. Here, the musician excels, armed with banjo and other instruments from the early jazz drum kit, driving the timepieces. different and evoking Stravinskian sounds from Harbison’s orchestral palette.
The combination of joy, abandonment and reckoning dissonant forces play out in the watery aspects of Fitzgerald’s Gatsby saga. In Harbison’s two-part song, the dark side of the American dream comes to the fore, a running theme throughout the evening’s program.
Sunday night, along with Roomful of Teeth, ended with a mix of show turf and heart, as expected from this stellar vocal group. A first half of songs from The Risea project by Wally Gunn with lyrics by Maria Zajkowski, which incorporated an interesting left-field art-pop style of music, an idea inspired by the driving style of drummer Andy Meyerson.
But in the second, a cappella part of the concert, the group struck its own unique style and found a deep voice in its ever-growing style, which has come a long way since its formation in 2009. creative ideas and creativity in vocal music in the clothes of RoT, as seen by few composers: the different directions of Missy Mazzoli. Vesper Sparrow (2012), a provocative soundtrack from composer Peter Shin fragments torn from words (2019), and more importantly — RoT member and new songstress Caroline Shaw’s The Island (2016), about Shakespeare The hurricane.
For a long time, the group called the first piece written for him, Judd Greenstein’s minimalism-fueled. LOANSwith an encore of Alev Lenz’s ethereal “Fall Into Me,” one of the concert’s many moments that cleverly channeled the power of the original songs.
Hearing these pieces combined in the classic context of mixed sounds and a beautiful and personal tribute sound. — in the Santa Cruz Civic Center — has inspired a bold sense of innovation. The music is back. The Cabrillo court is back.