January 2017

by Joseph E. Morgan

On December 1, the alternative chamber music ensemble Chatterbird presented Wood/Wire, an eclectic concert of electronic and acoustic music in the converted industrial space WELD.

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Artistic Director and flutist Celine Thackston; Photograph by Melissa Madison Fuller

The concert opened with Asheville, North Carolina, fingerstyle guitarist Shane Parish performing tracks from his new album Undertaker Please Drive Slow. The title, a quote from “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” is a befitting reflection of the angst and homage within Parish’s music. More than simple arrangements of traditional tunes, Parish’s works press beneath the surface to reveal an underlying abstract emotional content. The virtuosity is there, including a decent tremolo, but it is thankfully subservient to his bracing compositional voice.

This was followed by Thierry De Mey’s percussive and bright Table Music and Kate Soper’s Only the Words Themselves Mean What They Say, which featured soprano Rebekah Alexander and Celine Thackston on flute. Soper’s piece is reminiscent, oddly, of Milton Babbitt’s monodrama Philomel. The writing for voice is terrifyingly virtuosic, and Soper seemed to pull random notes straight from the air around her, couching them in a nuanced timbre matched, coerced, or escorted by Thackston’s extended techniques.

Intermission was followed by an ambient-influenced pair of electronic pieces, Daniel Wohl’s Kin and Eve Beglarian’s I Will Not Be Sad in This World, and a reprise of Smárason’s 1972, which the group previously performed in June at OZ Art Fest. The evening ended with Bryan Clark’s Incarnations, written for an ensemble featuring Wu Fei on the Chinese guzheng. The formal clarity and paced dialogue of Clark’s piece brought a welcome precision and warmth that created a nice frame with Parish’s opening. At the end of March, Chatterbird will return to WELD to perform Ted Hearne’s Katrina Ballads.

For more information, visit www.chatterbird.org.

 

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