by Joseph E. Morgan
Photography by Thiago Prado Neri
On Thursday, March 10, at The Bistro, Nashville’s alt-classical ensemble, Chatterbird, presented “Bird Goes Pop,” an irreverent, participatory, and fun concert of works that played in the boundaries of classical and popular music. The concert opened rather spontaneously with Dennis DeSantis’ energetic and jazzy +8, a duet for alto saxophone and drum set built on shifting meters and sophisticated runs against a repetitive riff. Paula Van Goes’ warm interpretation brought what could have been a rather robotic piece to life.
Next was John Fonville’s essay on extended flute techniques, Music for Sarah, played by the ensemble’s Artistic Director Celine Thackston sitting barefoot on the floor. The piece, in Thackston’s virtuosic hands, emphasized the flute’s chameleon-like ability in timbre, shifting from the quietest whisper of a distant shakuhachi to Dopplerian elegy.
Next, the charismatic singer Dacia Bridges took the stage for the first of a pair of pieces by Eve Beglarian which re-contextualize 14th-century melodies of Guillaume de Machaut into 20th-century popular genres. The first half of the concert concluded with Frederic Rzewski’s Les Moutons de Panurge for chamber ensemble and audience (toy instruments were distributed at the door). The piece combined John Cage’s ideal for the aleatory (scoring the formal organization but leaving the details up to chance) with Terry Riley’s procedural minimalism. At first the audience seemed uncomfortable with their role in the piece, but soon everyone joined in to lead it to a raucous ending.
After intermission, two of the remaining compositions had a significant electronic component. Bryan Clark’s Say it! Heaven Is stood out for its deft combination of sampled videogame soundtracks, speak-and-spell verbalizations, and ensemble. Clark’s piece innovatively “flipped the script” by attaching the piece’s nostalgia to the electronics and the commenting present to his traditional instruments. The evening ended with Jon-Paul Frappier’s exciting arrangement of the Tune-yards’ “Water Fountain” in which Bridges returned to the stage with the “Chatterettes” (Van Goes and Thackston).
Chatterbird’s next appearance is slated for June, when they will perform Halldór Smárason‘s 1972 – II. Game 13, for amplified chess set, chamber ensemble, and electronics, as a part of Tony Youngblood’s Modular Art Pods installation at OZ Arts Nashville. For more info, see www.chatterbird.org