A Powerful Weekend of Music ~ Double Review

From L-R: Todd Reynolds and Cornelius Dufallo (Photo courtesy of Glenn Cornett)neilandtodd

Cornelius Dufallo presents
Journaling, Part Five
Cornelius Dufallo, violin/electronics; also emcee
Also appearing: Todd Reynolds, violin/electronics
Guy Barash, electronics
Kinan Azmeh, clarinet
Spectrum, NYC
Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Even though Cornelius Dufallo’s show this past Saturday at Spectrum was a bit shorter than the previous Journaling gig I reviewed last year, its length didn’t keep the fifth live installment from being a memorable and intense set of new music for the violin.

His own music programmed with the works of other living composers proves to be a fluid and varied lineup, and he even sometimes works with the other composers onstage. For this show, he did just that, with fellow artist/composers Todd Reynolds, Kinan Azmeh and Guy Barash.

Barash’s “Talkback II”, the second of a series of works he’d written for acoustic instrument and electronics was the kickoff of this set and had Barash himself handling the laptop throughout. Another fascinating example of the dynamics of electro-acoustic with effective use of reverb, loops, and intense tremelo and staccato.

Clarinietist-composer Kinan Azmeh joined Dufallo for 2 of his works: The 6-part “Shattered Sketchbook”, with some wonderful counterpoint between the two musicians,  and “We Are All Optimistic”, which, having been written last year and included in a film, was being given its US premiere in a revised version, and featured some interesting sampled spoken-word.  Dufallo also played Azmeh’s solo violin piece “How Many Will It Take?”, which was accompanied throughout by laptop and ended effectively with the solo violin.

Dufallo’s own “sans memoire, sans desir” was also a collaboration of sorts. Composer John King created a chance-determined electronic structure that was originally written for a piece called “Prima Volta”–Dufallo used and played against it, making it another new thought. Possibly one of the more avant-garde pieces in this program, Dufallo wonderfully displayed the example of a composer’s dream state.

The piece de resistance, to end all piece de resistances, was Todd Reynolds joining Dufallo onstage for the world premiere of “The Complexity of a Chair”.  We, the audience, even added hand-claps to the looping effect–it was as if we were all controlling the piece. The two ex-Ethel violinist-composers were giving us their best, most hard-hitting work simultaneously, and I was quite blown away! We can only hope the piece makes its way onto either a future Dufallo or Reynolds CD, but I’m very happy to have seen the premiere.


Composers Collaborative, Inc’s
Serial Underground
The Life I’m Leading, Music of Daniel Felsenfeld
Daniel Felsenfeld,
featuring performances by Meerenai Shim, Jessica Schmitz, Stephanie Griffin, Sarah Carrier,
Steve Beck, Rose Bellini, Marcy Richardson and Mila Henry
Cornelia Street Cafe, NYC
Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Although Cornelia Street Cafe is much more a patron-based nightclub-style venue than Spectrum, the elongated room is very similar in size. This was where a series concert (part of Serial Underground, with Jed Distler as “acting producing director” of the series) with Daniel Felsenfeld’s music is the entire program, and if you have not heard Felsenfeld’s music, you should–his is some of the most challenging in the new music genre.

Hosted by Felsenfeld himself, The Life I’m Leading, Music of Daniel Felsenfeld was vibrant, fun and fascinating throughout. Violist Stephanie Griffin started things off with a piece Danny wrote called “Hooked To The Silver Screen”. If that title sounds familiar, it’s a line from David Bowie’s “Life On Mars?”, in fact the piece is based on that song, in tradition with Felsenfeld’s penchant for paraphrasing rock songs (the cool stuff, not overplayed classic rock like Lynyrd Skynyrd), and you can clearly hear the phrasings of the original interwoven in the composition. Stephanie’s rendering was so nice that Danny asked her to play it a second time later on in the set.

The NY premiere of his To Committee (a self-parody) went incredibly well, as flutist Meerenai Shim rendered an impressive performance of the work she commissioned from Felsenfeld a few years earlier on Kickstarter. Great to see Rose Bellini for the first time live on cello, and it was equally impressive to see (especially with that tremolo part) Steve Beck on piano substituting for Blair McMillen, and it’s astounding to know he learned the piece in a week’s time.

marcyatfelsenfeldgigAnother flutist, Sarah Carrier, performed with Beck remaining on piano. “O I Like The Life I’m Leading” (which inspired the title of the program) was a nice, brisk flurry that sounded almost like an appendage/extra movement to “To Committee”, or like it would make a great encore following it in concert. This was followed by another duet for soprano and piano titled “The Light”, which had Mila Henry taking over the piano and Marcy Richardson performing the soprano vocal.

The proceedings were somewhat slowed down by metafiction writer Robert Coover reading from his work The Adventures of Lucky Pierre, but if only for the pacing of spoken-word. The words themselves were a big jolt for some of us, and the broadness of the double entendres took a lot of people by surprise. But it was actually a treat because the book inspired what was to follow in the program, and it seemed to set this up well: a nearly-completed work titled Raw Footage, for soprano, narrator, harpsichord, flute and cello. The work as a concert piece sounds like a cacophony of the 20th century, and with the baroque harpsichord thrown in (which was actually a digital keyboard played by Mila Henry–Jessica Schmitz of Asphalt Orchestra took over on flute, and Bellini and Richardson were back as well), it was a like a 20-minute modern operatic kaleidoscope. Probably the best way to wind-up the evening.


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