Fort Worth — On May 16, Sounds Modern again demonstrated how enjoyable a concert of newer music can be. In conjunction with the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth’s exhibition of photographs and videos, Framing Desire, the performance drew upon the idea that an image can depict more introspective content than mere documentary elements. The works performed represented much more than their relatively straightforward idioms would suggest; they embodied the longing for a place or a person, real or imaginary, which only exists in the subjectivity of the maker’s lens.
The entire concert was framed by pieces of Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla performed by string trio (Andrew May, violin; Kourtney Newton, cello; Steven Harlos, piano). The Primavera Porteña and Verano Porteño are typical of Piazzolla’s Tango Nuevo style. It can be difficult to listen to his music at the surface; although not unpleasant, its repetitive and predictable content can dissuade someone looking for a sublime or involved musical experience. Placed in the context of this performance, however, the fleeting visions of Buenos Aires fill the ear. The listener is transported at the mere suggestion of humidity and heat which the performers did admirably. These “pictures” were a welcome introduction and close.
Andrew May’s Tender Intervals (2003), performed at the center of the concert, utilized again the piano trio. The most obvious elements of this work are its rhythmic complexity and conservation of material. In the program notes, the composer writes that he was influenced by Franco Donatoni and Amiya Dasgupta. Donatoni’s sparse and almost floating style was easily identified in piece’s constant spinning-out of small bits of melody-like material. With just enough earth to give a sense of harmonic progression, the work gave the illusion of cinematic movement more than the others.
Between each appearance of the May/Newton/Harlos trio, a different trio (Elizabeth McNutt, flute; Daphne Gerling, viola; Jaymee Haefner, harp) took the stage performing Garden of Joy and Sorrow (1980/93) by Sofia Gubaidulina and Toru Takemitsu’s and then I knew ‘twas wind (1992). Alternating between these more introspective works and the Piazzolla/May compositions accentuated the contrast in stance and purpose. These two pieces could be heard as a series of photos on the same subject. As every new element is introduced, the listener is given ample time to contemplate and absorb. The quality of the performance was top-notch, never getting in the way of the music and never apologetic. This is exactly the type of playing this music desires.
The way the music worked with The Modern’s exhibit is remarkable. For those who perused the display before the performance, the sounds became a natural continuation of the experience. While none of the works performed gave the impression of great depth, they reflected well the brevity with which we pass from one photo to the next in a gallery or album, giving each an initial reaction, reflection, then closure as we move on.