By Joseph E. Morgan
On Thursday, December 7, Chatterbird began its residency at Vanderbilt University in Ingram Hall with an excellent concert titled Eclipse and inspired by this summer’s astronomical highlight. As is typical for a Chatterbird concert, there was quite an eclectic mix of compositional styles and processes, but in the end the expressive virtuosity, founded on various extended techniques, made the evening.
The concert began and ended with an improvisation on the guzheng by Wu Fei, Chatterbird’s composer in residence. This was followed by her composition for voice (soprano) and piano, South of the River. It was performed admirably by Maeve Brophy (piano) and Rebekah Alexander (soprano). Alexander, with her crystalline intonation and amazing diction, is becoming one of the highlights of the Nashville contemporary music scene. After Michael Slayton’s Mirórs, 1. Birth of the World, the ensemble performed Eve Beglarian’s Island of the Sirens. Beglarian’s piece is somewhat aleatory—the performers are given soundtracks that they listened to in earbuds in order to inspire the music they play. As a kind of group improvisation the result was rather moving.
After intermission Robbie Lynn Hunsinger’s Eclipse was performed. Hunsinger’s work “draws on traditions of free improvisation, Appalachian fiddle techniques, and contemporary classical influences” to create a programmatic collage accompanied by visualizations projected on the screen behind. From the strange instrumentation (music box piano, Tibetan singing bowls) to eerie electronics, the performance was mesmerizing. After Eclipse, Brophy remained on stage to perform a remarkably intimate Trajectories for electronics and prepared piano by Anna Thorvaldsdottir. Finally, the concert was framed by another improvisation by Wu Fei, this one based on harmonics. Chatterbird returns on January 30 at 8 p.m. to Turner Hall, Vanderbilt University with a concert featuring the Wu-Force.
For more information, visit www.chatterbird.org.