Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Composer's Voice: Hear and See Tomorrow, Today


PUBLIQuartet provides live accompaniment for contemporary composers and choreographers at the Composer's Voice concert. Photo by Ryan Scherb.

There are lots of cool events happening in New York City. Here’s one you should go see. The Composer’s Voice Concert Series—a collaboration between Vox Novus, Remarkable Theatre Brigade, and Jan Hus Church—dedicates itself to producing short chamber performances featuring an eclectic range of contemporary composers performed by devoted musicians.  In this season’s opener, Composer’s Voice, now in its twelfth year, teams up with Vision of Sound, a cooperative effort between music-makers and dance-makers, and PUBLIQuartet, a groovy strings foursome, to create a lively afternoon devoted to contemporary music and movement.

The first work pairs Mark Olivieri’s Move, an enchanting two-part composition, with a solo performance by choreographer and dancer Melanie Aceto. Aceto—a whisper thin female clad in a black, cropped jumpsuit—crafts swirling, circling wheels that reel around the shabbily beautiful Jan Hus Church. She’s an octopus improvising at the altar of dance. During the second section, Aceto intensifies her speed, spinning in endless twirls like a bewitched Dervish whirling. While not choreographically complex, Aceto’s instinctive approach captures the timeless ecstasy of moving one’s body to music.

Next, composer Doug Opel presents a diverting opus, Rite of an Appalachian Bolero….from Mars, played with élan by PUBLIQuartet. Opel draws from varied influences such as industrial metal to Ravel and Stravinsky. Joe Celej, with performers Liz Beres and Lauren Garson, choreographs an intriguing exploration of the ways body weight helps and hinders others' actions. This threesome captures your attention immediately; their starting position depicts a dancer in a determined crouch, hoisted high in the air by her two colleagues. The dancers pass, share, grapple, and succumb to the burden of one, sometimes two bodies, regarding and disregarding each other. The piece ends nearly the way it starts; in a different corner, one dancer stooped and supported by the others, indicating the cycle commences anew.

Can you love a mess? You bet! Hannah Seidel, a new choreographic voice with a well-considered movement vocabulary, wields Robert Paterson’s intricate and unsettling String Quartet No. 1 to forge a compelling trio between Courtney Drasner, Brigid Gillis, and herself. Seidel begins strongly; the three women start upstage, curled into fetal positions. They roll, kick, and slide always returning to their coiled comfort; this threesome cooperates in conflict. Although Seidel boasts some absorbing notions, many of them founder due to her choice of a trio.  This arrangement only allows for a few configurations: one against two, unison, and asynchronous. Paterson’s score is long and your eye tires of watching the same formations materialize and dissolve.  The piece may be a tedious jumble at times, but Seidel’s choreography worms its way into your memory.

Forget the old guard and their well-worn standards. Composer’s Voice presents the music of tomorrow, today.  While only some performances include dance; concerts are free, and you will only relish spending an hour listening to innovative works by contemporary composers. See you in two weeks.

This review refers to the performance seen on Sunday, August 26th at 1PM.

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