April 29, 2014
Curated by David Lang, Carnegie Hall’s 2013-2014 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair, the Collected Stories series at Zankel Hall brings in an array of composers and musical acts, each evening providing a strange juxtaposition of genre and form. This was no different on Thursday April 28 – which featured rapper Aesop Rock with indie pop’s Kimya Dawson, the drones of Iarla Ó Lionáird, Brad Lubman conducting Ensemble Signal in a piece by Julia Wolfe, and a trio of longtime collaborators in composer and pianist Nico Muhly, violist Nadia Sirota, and folk musician Sam Amidon.
Aesop Rock and Dawson (who record together as The Uncluded) opened the show with their heart-on-sleeve, cutesy hybrid of indie folk and “alternative” hip-hop. In accordance with Lang’s maniacal programming, they proved no introduction to Iarla Ó Lionáird’s somber, Sean-nós singing style – an impassioned performance of the traditional Celtic piece “Cruel Sister”. The song follows the story of two sisters who fall in love with the same man, which leads to one sister drowning the other in a lake. The next two composers on the bill would provide their own takes on this morbid tale.
Unfortunately, Julia Wolfe’s offering proved a brooding work but for all its attempts to conjure menace only ever felt incidental, in that it felt more of a film score than a concert piece. For all the Ensemble’s precision, Wolfe’s Cruel Sister never really manages to draw one in, but feels like a grim façade to something else that could have provided substance.
Lang however saved best for last, with Sirota, and Amidon accompanying Muhly in his genre-bending, captivating “The Only Tune”. In this hectic, furious piece, Muhly split time between the piano and serving as the group’s Brian Eno, as he manipulated loops and noise throughout. Amidon should be destined for great things – a powerful, sincere singer who also is something of a ‘stylist’ and mimic in his delivery, deftly alternating different tones and personas.
The program on the night was dubbed Love/Loss – works that “that musically examine the emotional impact and intensity of intoxicating love, envy, betrayal, and devastating loss.” Despite its hits and misses, the stirring contributions by Ó Lionáird and Muhly (with friends) made it all worth the while.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Geoffrey Lokke