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Posts by Kevin Good

“Clouds” emerge and dissipate throughout Monkspace 

credit: Tyler Eschendal (video still)

On October 10th 2023, I found myself at Monk Space attending my first concert presented by People Inside Electronics (PIE). The concert was the premiere of a new fifty minute piano piece “Songs and Clouds” written by Matt Sargent and performed by Andrew Anderson. While this was my first experience at a PIE event, this is far from my first time hearing Matt’s music performed. I first met Matt during my undergraduate studies at The Hartt School in Connecticut. I took a few electronic music classes with him and soon after we developed a professional relationship performing and recording each others music.

One of the pieces I’ve worked on with Matt is his piece “Third Illumination” which was recorded and premiered by my percussion duo with Katie Eikam, desoduo. “Third Illumination” is part of Matt’s “Illumination Series” a series which uses a generative score that creates materials for the performer to read in real time. This generative score creates a unique performance and allows a variance to exist in each performance. The generative score is also the basis for “Songs and Clouds;” in the moments most closely resembling music from the Illumination series, a lush bed of sustained harmonic material from the electronics underlines the piano, in which it gently sits and emerges through small melodies and additive patterns.

However, as the materials present themselves and disperse over the course of the performance
it becomes clear these processes are unique to “Songs and Clouds;” this is a different harmonic one, one which deserves its own moniker, rather than sharing a name with the aforementioend Illumination Series. Several years ago I saw Matt’s piece “Separation Songs.” also at Monk Space, as part of Cold Blue Music’s release of Matt’s album of the same name. “Separation Songs” uses musical material from the New England composer William Billings’ Songbook. The use of the Billings material, though most heavily utilized in to “Separation Songs,” is subtly present here in “Songs, Clouds.” The result of employing these songs as melodic material in this generative process is a harmonic landscape that, emotionally, borders on sentimental, but has an underlying complex process that unfolds melodies which keeps the listener present.

In addition to being a composer, Matt Sargent is also a performer. This week I’ve had the chance to see him perform several times on pedal steel guitar. I couldn’t help but notice that Andrew and Matt have very similar presences as performers. Both of them, but especially Andrew, present information matter-of-factly. In Andrew’s performance of “Songs and Clouds” there are no extra performative movements or gestures beyond what is needed to showcase the material, in the most efficient manner possible. The music and the material speaks for itself through Andrew’s mastery as a performer. Andrew’s touch is subtle and delicate. His control over the dynamic possibilities of the piano allows him to glide freely
from section to section. His execution in differentiating the rising melodic lines while delicately playing chordal clouds at a softer dynamic are paramount to the success of the piece.

This was the season opener for People Inside Electronics and if so this was an incredibly strong start. If this is the direction PIE continues to go in, then this will certainly be far from my last PIE concert. I eagerly look forward to whatever they plan on offering to the concert goer next, as well as seeing what will come next from Andrew and Matt.

Shaker Loops and Pergolesi make for an interesting yet arresting combination, especially when sung by mold-breaking talent Samuel Mariño.

Camerata Pacifica – May 16, 2023 (Timothy Norris)

Camerata Pacifica wrapped up their 2023 season on May 16th, 2023 with a wonderful concert featuring the music of Adams, Bach and Pergolesi. The concert opened with John Adams’ Shaker Loops; I first heard Shaker Loops during the first year of my undergraduate studies and fell in love with it instantly. My career as a musician began as a percussionist, and Shaker Loops was my introduction to string ensemble music outside of a string quartet, and I hadn’t had the chance to hear it live until now. The septet of three violins, viola, two celli and double bass creates an enormous sound that is rhythmically driving from beginning to end. Immediately the technical and musical abilities of each performer were on display as they played sixteenth notes in rhythmic unison, edging ever so slightly towards a sound that could unravel at any moment – but never does. A gradual system brings us into the slower middle movements which display a beautiful array of harmonics; the faster notes return and we arrive at the final sections of the piece, once again revealing the impressive speed of the ensemble in its entirety. It was an incredible way to open a concert and while it is both the newest and the longest piece on the program it certainly succeeded in setting the stage of what was to come next.

The next two pieces, Cantata, “non sa che sia Dolores” by Johann Sebastian Bach and “Salve Regina in C Minor” by Giovanni Pergolesi used a larger ensemble of twelve musicians. I was eagerly awaiting the conductor’s entrance but was pleasantly surprised when it became clear the ensemble would perform without a conductor. The orchestra’s ability to communicate and listen freely without a conductor was clear right away. There was the sense that an overall stronger cohesion of time and interpretation was present because they didn’t have to use a conductor. Normally, a conductor is used to help guide the orchestra through their own interpretation but when a large ensemble doesn’t have a conductor they need to use their ears and communicate to one another. I believe this results in a more fluid and group oriented interpretation that rises above any individual. This group collective consciousness was on full display with these musicians. 

Lastly, I would be remiss not to mention the extremely captivating performance of the soloist Samuel Mariño. Samuel commanded the audience’s respect and admiration the moment he walked on stage dressed in red pants and fingerless gloves with silver painted nails; the audience was both curious and immediately drawn in. As soon as the male soprano sang his first note, the audience was on the edge of their seats. Mariño had the audience screaming and standing by the end of the performance for an encore – a request he granted, with “Quella fiamma, che il petto m’accende” from Handel’s opera Arminio. The Handel allowed Mariño an extended cadenza in which he showed not only his impressive vocal range, speed, and projection, but also his ability to entertain; he had the audience laughing along when he wiped the sweat from his brow to prepare himself for an incredibly high note out of nowhere. He had them gasping in shock when he mimicked an oboe line (from oboist Nicholas Daniel) that was dauntingly fast and high for an oboe, let alone a vocalist. Samuel is certainly a figure in modern music to keep an eye on. This concert was part of his first tour in the United States and you will certainly want to keep note of his next appearance.

‘Camerata Pacifica’ at The Huntington

Camerata Pacific closes their ’22-’23 season with a performance of John Adams’ Shaker Loops , J.S. Bach’s Non sa che sia dolore, BWV 209 and Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s Salve Regina in C Minor, with soprano soloist Samuel Mariño.

7:30pm. Tuesday May 16, 2023