10 December 2010

Listening to Frederic Rzewski

Tonight was the concert for the UB Contemporary Ensemble. And for tonight, they were showcasing the music of contemporary composer Frederic Rzewski.

So, I always enjoy watching to two ensembles here in UB: the UB Percussion Ensemble, where they did the John Cage concert a few days ago; and the UB Contemporary Ensemble. They always play music that I have never heard of before. And tonight was no exception.

So first of all, I haven't heard of Frederic Rzewski at all. Later on, I checked Wikipedia and apparently, he is not some obscure composer, but a real figure in contemporary classical music. The five pieces that they played tonight was quite interesting.

First, there was the Trio from 1956. This was composed of trumpet, flute, and piano. I had a hard time characterizing this piece, primarily because it was mostly rhythmic and no captivating melody stood out. This was followed by To The Earth, which is scored for one person, who played flowerpots in addition to singing, or rather, saying something, in a weird tone sequence. She was perhaps reciting a poem, which was rather bizarrely amusing. I haven't seen anything like that before, although perhaps it reminded me of Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev.

The last piece they played before the intermission was Les Moutons de Panurge, which consisted of several instruments, and there was this very arrthymic melody that was repeated over and over again by several instruments. It gradually changed as the music progressed. The fourth piece was The Fall of the Empire, and this was again scored for one female performer, playing seed pod rattle, vibraphone, drums, and chime, and she had to recite some interesting passages as well. Oh, and the radio was playing as well.

Finally, the piece Attica was performed, perhaps inspired by the Attica Prison Riots around the same time. There were performers on the stage, and performers within the audience, and a performer that was hidden from view. It was very contemporary. And I presume that if someone was used to the traditional idea of classical music, this would be very different and difficult to digest.

All in all, I loved the performance, and I love the fact that I get this opportunity to be introduced to music that I haven't heard before. I had a great time. And the best thing is that the concert was free!

(Rocky Maze, from my Pukapukara Series)


  1. I had to go back to your post of 7 Nov. to pick up your posts. I went on a trip and now am trying to get back to the 80+ blogs I read and they have many posts. Your post about PhD was interesting. My younger daughter was in a PhD program at Johns Hopkins U in Baltimore in malaria research. Her prof from UGA was the one to push her in this direction. She became very depressed because she was not used to the rigors of research and left after 2 years. She then went to Emory and got a Masters’ in public health then went on to the Medical College of Ga for an MD. Now after 4 years at OSU Hospital in Columbus, OH, as an intern she is at Vanderbilt U in Nashville on a fellowship. In the meantime she was married and had 2 boys but she is exhausted – has to work at least 80 hours a week. But she likes what she does.

  2. I bookmarked the Consider Humanism site you showed. I have many books by Robert Ingersoll who thought that in the future the US would not be in the grip of so much religion. He was wrong. I worked with many foreign trainees at work, for years, and when I asked them what surprised them the most about America, it was always about how religious the US was, and how intransigent. One reason I think is that many children are indoctrinated from a young age, and it is hard to shake off. Where I live in the south, if you don’t belong to a church, then you have no friends or very few. If you can believe it, at work, whenever we had a cake for someone’s birthday, someone would say an “invocation” and also “grace.” One colleague, Jewish, finally left as she found it oppressive. (I write several comments as it would be too long in just one.)

  3. I had to laugh at your post “pokerface” when you were fuming because you were patronized as English is not your first language. I have been in this country for decades and because of my French accent I still get patronized quite a lot. By the way when I came back from NYC I was picked up at the airport for “further scanning” which I thought would be done with a wand, no I got “massaged” pretty well, even under my bra! I read your traversing danger post. I also like to go to unusual places, like last summer going over the north cape to Kirkenes, but I also like to go to Paris because it is my home town. I did go to Guatemala about 3 weeks ago, that is why I did not read your posts. And now I should stop these comments as there are as long as a post.

  4. Vagabonde,

    Hey there! I appreciate such wonderful comments you gave, it's courtesy of the Internet 2.0 that people can comment back and forth in blogs like this. Anyway, no, I don't mind if you have voluminous comments.

    It is indeed crucial that one likes what one does. If one doesn't like what one is doing, then the motive to continue is not there. One will just burn out and then vanish. But if one does what one really wants, then it is less of a burden and more of an enjoyment.

    Oh, so you got gate-raped? I myself wonder what that would mean for me, and between the choice of a naked scanner and being fondled in public, I think I would opt for the latter. We'll see.

    I did read about your trip to Kirkenes; I was browsing some old entries you had, and that is also one such place I want to visit someday, just for the novelty of it, you know. And you went to Guatemala? Everyone is traveling nowadays. Zhu is in Australia, and you guys went to Central America. I can't wait to get my own vacation, which is coming soon...