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Posts by Richard An

WildUp and LACO explore the composer-curator model in a weekend of performances

Last Friday, I drove through a brisk Beverly Hills evening to get to TreePeople, an environmentalist center located deep in the Hollywood Hills. Later I would learn that TreePeople had existed for fifty years in Los Angeles, planting thousands of trees in fire-stricken areas in southern California, but it was my, and many others’ first time there. Not unlike WildUp’s previous co-productions with floating at the Audubon Center, this event placed a chamber-sized configuration of WildUp in an atypical concert setting; the audience set up chairs, blankets and yoga mats beneath trees surrounding a performance space, two chairs and a table staged against a now pitch black Los Angeles skyline. I claimed a spot on the dirt as Mattie Barbier and Ashley Walters began playing Barbier’s no dirt to call for prepared brass and cello. Alternating long tones from both instrumentalists dovetailed into one another, reveling in the delicate composite texture of hair-on-string and reed-on-brass; I hope I mentioned that Barbier outfitted their euphonium with (what looks like) a saxophone mouthpiece in place of the standard euphonium mouthpiece. Barbier’s score explored the limits of this construction, dancing on the razor’s edge of playability, each sound seemingly a Herculean task of balance as the two halves of the instrument, built without considering the other, were coerced to play together. Walters provided a dependable but equally considered counterpoint, an anchor for the more delicate brass tones to blend into. 

Mattie Barbier performed the other two pieces on the program solo: Ellen Arkbro’s Chords for brass and fixed media electronics, and a performance of Phil Niblock’s A Trombone Piece which was presented for solo trombone and pre-recorded trombone choir. The latter was offered as a tribute to the composer, as Niblock had passed earlier this month, and had had a large impact on Barbier’s music making from an early age. Both pieces were singular, loud, encompassing, and unrelenting; I (admiringly) use the word “indulgent” for this music, pieces which pick a compelling musical idea and insist on it for its entire duration. After the show a light rain started to fall, and I listened to its continuous thrum on the roof of my car as I drove home.

By Saturday, the drizzle had evolved into a downpour as I fought Long Beach traffic to get to the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) for CURRENT: [INTI]MATE, an evening of chamber music curated by inti figgis-vizueta, a composer whose recent music has Carnegie, Spoleto and REDCAT under the hands of the Attacca Quartet, American Composers Orchestra, and Andrew Yee. The program weaves together music from composers of the Latine diaspora, including arrangements of Violeta Parra’s Anticuecas, culminating in a new work from the curator herself. These were the highlights of the program; a clear love of melody is evident in the folkloric Anticuecas, and an equally strong affinity for texture and timbre are present in figgis-vizeuta, Negrón and Balter’s selections. The arrangements were clever, and the program’s structure (loosely alternating older and newer pieces) worked well. 

The presentation was marred by some other circumstances; the guitar was curiously unamplified, and the pieces with electronics were imaged oddly (they were played through small pre-installed speakers in the gallery drop ceiling). Half-concert and half-gala, quiet sections of music were interrupted by attendees getting up to get food and wine, rain-soaked shoes squeaking across the slick floor. These are perhaps the necessary growing pains of a new series foregrounding contemporary music in new curatorial models, in untraditional venues which eschew the admittedly sometimes-stifling, sometimes-confusing standard concert etiquette. Though I know I’m comparatively sensitive to extraneous noises, and some hiccups are bound to happen in any concert environment, it’s just a bit of a shame when they affect how the music is presented.

That said, both events are demonstrative of a curatorial model that I enjoy; an organization putting time and resources behind a young contemporary musician in untraditional ways. Other Los Angeles new music organizations like Synchromy and Monday Evening Concerts have done the same, to recent successes, and I hope others continue to follow suit. 

For more information about these events:

this may be the most ethically compromised review you’ll ever read: Yarn/Wire at FRANKIE presented by Monday Evening Concerts

courtesy of Yarn/Wire

Yarn/Wire is a quartet composed of two percussionists (Sae Hashimoto and Russell Greenberg) and two pianists (Laura Barger and Julia Den Boer). They presented two beautiful concerts earlier this month in large warehouse space FRANKIE in the Arts District, presented by Jonathan Hepfer and Monday Evening Concerts. 

Yarn/Wire is also my favorite chamber ensemble. I have attended their summer Institute twice. I have my own 2pno/2perc ensemble based largely on the work they’ve done, taking advantage of their large commissioned body of work. I have another mostly-piano ensemble in which ALL of the members have attended the Institute. They have played my music, and I have played theirs.

I also work (as Associate Producer) for Monday Evening Concerts, the longest running new music ensemble in Los Angeles, about to enter its 85th year, and helped produce these programs (and run live sound). I’ve known Jonathan Hepfer from our overlapping stays at CalArts, since 2017.

Though I’ve never made any claims otherwise, I feel like it’s only right that I tell you that this may be the most ethically compromised review you’ll ever read. I tend to get involved with lots of new music orgs here in Los Angeles, so to find a concert that I’m completely agnostic to is a bit of a challenge. But even so, it’s almost funny to find myself this intertwined in a production.

So, in order to ease any (assuredly mostly self-directed) claims of unfair bias, the format of this review will need to change. Instead of offering an opinion, I’ll take you through a bit of my day as I work through the two concerts.

The audience were seated in a round, surrounding the ensemble, with speakers at the perimeter of the room facing inward, and around the ensemble facing outward. The first concert began with a work by Tyondai Braxton in which (in its recorded version) it is difficult to discern who is playing what, when, and where. Its title gives you hints (“music for ensemble and pitch shifter/delay”) and when seen live (here in a rare performance and its West Coast premiere), you can see how much the electronics are playing with the ensemble – not under, or against. The program notes (which hilariously are written by me) note how the live processing fills in the gaps horizontally (hocketing against the instrumentalists) and vertically (filling in registers, especially low ones, that the musicians themselves are not playing). I love the ambiguity of what is “played” and what is processed in the recorded version of this piece, and my goal as the live sound engineer in presenting it was to try to replicate that experience for the audience that would most likely be hearing it for the first time.

After a moment for applause, the piano lids were closed with small microphones placed inside; Sarah Davachi’s “Feedback Studies for Percussion” relies on the performers’ ability to manually balance their own sounds constructed by overtone reinforcement and acoustic feedback, aided secondarily by the microphones at each instrument. The closed piano lids create an acoustic chamber, in which certain resonant frequencies are encouraged to gather by the size and shape of the open space in the pianos. This, combined with the ringing metals played by the percussionists, creates a composite mass of sound that, at its best, is just on the edge of spilling over into “too much.” The performance functions on multiple parameters of this feeling of “spilling over”; I was told, as the live sound engineer, to push the sound as loud as I could before feeding back. The performers are doing this ‘manually’ as well, using their ears and pacing sensibilities to keep the machine whirring without letting the built up energy expire or crest too quickly. There is even a physical analogue to this in the ringing metals; gongs and some other large metal idiophones have a kinetic actuation point; you hit it a little too hard, and overtones spill out of the instrument and the quality of the sound changes drastically. There is a feeling of control, balance and sustain, coupled somehow non-paradoxically with a sense of “leaning forward” through its roughly 20-minute run time.

Andrew McIntosh’s “Little Jimmy” closes the program, a delicately constructed piece obituarizing the trees in and around the Little Jimmy campsite in the Angeles National Forest on Mt. Islip. The field recordings used in the piece are part of the collective memory of Little Jimmy which burned in the 2020 Bobcat Fire; the psithurism here is one of few ways left to experience the trees (that word is “the sound of the wind through leaves”, a word I must have picked up from from McIntosh himself). “Little Jimmy” loves high metals and scraped stones, pairing them alternatingly with a marching 16th note piano statement, and bowed metals. The piece exists in a mirror form, at the heart of which sits a slowly-unfolding hum of bowed piano which grows over ten minutes into a roar, with Yarn/Wire wailing on bell plates and the lowest notes on the piano. After the dust settles, we think we hear birds and the wind through the trees again. The field recordings exist sometimes at the edge of audibility; before the concert, I asked McIntosh how I should balance the field recordings to the quartet, to which he said “like it’s a quintet” and walked away.

The second concert began two hours after the sunlight had left the room; the large globe lights above the audience were dimmed, the centre lights completely shut off, with four paper lanterns added surrounding the ensemble to provide local light. The atmosphere seemed to pull the audience in closer to listen to the first piece of the second program, Klaus Lang’s “Molten Trees.” This is a favorite Yarn/Wire commission of mine; superballed bass drums punctuated by antiphonal claves is just somehow a perfect sound. It begins the piece, which then gives way to a forest of triangles, then a continual exploration of sustained sounds. The warbling of a vibraphone motor, the hum of an e-bow on piano string, the hammering chords on a piano all work to create a cloth of different textures; the sections of “Molten Trees” change slowly enough to draw your attention into the details, how the rhythm of one sustain is just barely faster than the other. How the chime attacks blend together smoothly while the drier piano material continues to run on top. Somehow, in glacially moving chunks of sound, each interaction between instrumentalists creates a vibrant composite inner rhythm. Then, click, claves return. It is an unbelievably effective marker of a recapitulation; it is a little baffling at how much like “home” that material feels after listening to sound masses of different densities and textures for twenty minutes.

Sarah Hennies’ “Primers” closes both the program, and Yarn/Wire’s residency in Los Angeles. The program note, which, again, sorry, was written by me, explains: “Primers, like much of Sarah Hennies’ music of this time, is constructed in clean, discrete durational blocks which intersect, overlap, interrupt and dovetail. A hocketing musical gesture in one half of the ensemble persists, unchangingly, yet somehow still feels vibrant when the other half interrupts three minutes later. Frankly a masterwork in pacing and structure, Primers is simultaneously placid and rapid, slow and frenetic, unchanging yet continuously evolving. Primers invites both detailed listening and zoning out, and delivers a musical line which simultaneously intrigues, perplexes and captivates the listener.“ Yet another West Coast premiere (the fourth of the night), this piece was foundational to the programming of the evening since the very beginning of the production cycle; other pieces were added and stricken from the list, but Hennies was included since day one, months ago. My program note gives away some of my incredulity at the effective simplicity of the material, the piece works remarkably well; perhaps because of its simple construction, not in spite of it. The same musical material persists unchangingly for minutes at a time, giving you just enough time to wonder what’s coming next, yet still shock when it does. 

I heard a few concert-goers expound afterwards, with the recurring thought that putting Hennies and Lang on the same program may have been a programming error, and may have taxed the audience with its similarities. To me, this pairing was brilliant; both pieces share an affection for long stretches of material, registral extremes, and love of dry, percussive events. However, its shared characteristics may cloud each piece’s strong individual identities; where one stays on a single sound for minutes at a time, the other constantly morphs through added layers. Where one revels in continuous gridded rhythm, the other explores motion through dovetailing lines of music. The friction in this juxtaposition shows you how different two pieces with the same ingredients could be; the push of two opposing magnets that you know should belong together, I mean they look the same, don’t they?

pc: Jonathan Hefper


​DECEMBER 9, 2023 | 4PM and 8PM

An interview with Aperture Duo (Adrianne Pope and Linnea Powell)

Ahead of their August 22 concert at Monk Space, premiering pieces by Jessie Marino and Thomas Kotcheff, I asked Pope and Powell a few “why” questions about the music, themselves, and what it means to play everything but your instrument.

Richard: Why Jessie Marino?

One of the most enjoyable performances I’ve seen in the last couple of years is your performance of ‘Rot Blau’ by Jessie Marino, which I can’t imagine many people have performed besides Marino’s own ‘On Structure’ duo with Natacha Diels. You’ve performed this piece several times, and notably, you don’t play any instruments in it. There is something captivating enough about this piece that compels you two to eschew your traditional instrumental practice, and to pick up red and blue wigs instead. 

Indoctrinate the reader into the Church of Marino!

Aperture Duo: (on Rot Blau and taking risks) 

We’re so glad you enjoyed it! Some of our favorite memories on stage have been during Rot Blau performances. It’s a feat to learn the piece, and so unbelievably fun to perform it. 

We decided to learn Rot Blau at a time when we were in between commissions and looking to find pre-existing repertoire for our upcoming season. But there was (and still is!) only a limited amount of rep for the violin and viola duo ensemble, and we were ready to think outside the box. We were no strangers to pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones –  we regularly perform new works that utilize tons of extended techniques – so we were excited to take the leap and learn a piece that was completely off of our instruments. Not only does Rot Blau utilize props, lights, wigs, and gloves, it is written in an entirely new musical notation for body percussion and choreography. 

And through learning Rot Blau, we became better chamber musicians. Back on our instruments everything from cueing, to our internal pulse, to body communication, to rehearsal techniques was all incredibly strengthened. It’s amazing what happens when you strip away the instrument that you’ve played for 25ish years! 

AD: (on Jessie Marino, Murder Ballads, and commissioning new works) 

What we love about Jessie as a composer is not only her creative musical language, but the way she throws herself fully into her conceptual ideas. So it was a no-brainer to ask her if she’d like to write us a piece. We had no idea that she’d write anything like Murder Ballads – you really never know what you’re going to get with a commission, the mystery is part of the fun! 

Murder Ballads is a song cycle that combines experimental soundscapes, traditional Sacred Harp hymns, and Appalachian folk ballads. It’s by far the most singing while playing that we’ve ever done. And in a way, Murder Ballads feels like a perfect evolution from Rot Blau. Where Rot Blau requires perfection for its choreography and timing, Murder Ballads is written to be imperfect. We are not trained singers, as Jessie knows, and singing while playing is not a perfect science. So, just the way the piece is written requires us to trust each other, to listen like we’ve never listened before, to be vulnerable, and to catch each other in performance. To us, these are the epitome of chamber music skills. 

AD: (on Thomas Kotcheff) 

Interestingly, when we commissioned Thomas Kotcheff to write us a piece for this concert we specifically asked for an off-instrument piece. Thomas writes fantastic percussion music, so we thought this would be a fun fit. As it turned out, Thomas had something entirely else in mind for us that he was excited to dig into. The piece that he wrote us is not like anything we could have imagined. Not only is it specifically for our instruments, it also has playback, amplification, and has us playing around (literally!) with a few pop culture themes that everyone will know. It’s nostalgic, dreamy, weird, and wild, and we can’t wait to premiere it. 

R: Why a duo? Why this duo?

There’s something about playing with exactly one other person that is special; there’s a simplicity of social hierarchy, a direct communication of ideas, and a clear intimacy and immediacy that is lost even when you add even, simply, a third person. In seemingly every aspect of performance, planning, collaborating and rehearsing, I’ve always noticed that you just get shit done as a duo. 

Can you describe if and how the dynamic of a “duo” shapes the way you make art together as Aperture? 


We always say that a duo is a conversation. Every moment playing together is an opportunity for listening, reacting, agreeing, disagreeing, questioning, or supporting each other. It’s like having a conversation with your closest friend, and it’s unbelievably rewarding! Performing in a duo requires being present in a way that we haven’t experienced in other chamber ensemble configurations. We each have to bring 50% to the table at all times. 

This accountability also spreads to every other aspect of the ensemble, from rehearsal strategies, to concert preparations, programming logistics, and all the nitty gritty details that go into running a chamber group. We each have different strengths – both in performance and on the administrative side – which compliment each other really well. Utilizing our strengths and different skills allows us to divide and conquer in a very compatible way that makes our ensemble sustainable. 

R: Why this duo? (violin/viola)

Essentially every chamber ensemble has to reckon with “the past,” a body of work that will always loom over your decision-making in programming, commissioning, the ensembles of your type that exist. This is most true for string quartets, which now has three hundred years of repertoire to reckon with, but this exists even for newer configurations; a group like Yarn/Wire (two pianists and two percussionists), which has a repertoire list almost entirely commissioned and created by themselves, still has Berio, Bartok and Crumb as part of its early canon.

How has the history of violin + viola music affected the way that Aperture operates?

AD: (on Mozart and the duo universe he created) 

At first glance, a violin and viola duo seems like it would have a very homogenous sound. The instruments themselves are very similar, so how interesting can a violin and viola duo really be?  

When we first began to make music together, we read through the Mozart violin and viola duos. The pieces are well known and well loved, but we didn’t expect them to be so inspiring. As two new music string players who also love traditional repertoire, we thought it would just be a fun experience to read them together. But what we learned is that inside of each of the Mozart duos is an entire string quartet, written for just two people! Nothing is missing, it’s like a compositional magic trick. 

Working on the Mozart duos made us realize that anything is possible for two instruments, and made us excited to commission and expand the repertoire for the ensemble. Nine years later we’ve commissioned over fifteen new works that do exactly just that. Not only are they new works for violin and viola, but all of the pieces expand the expectations of what a violin and viola duo can be. Sometimes that means sounding like one instrument, sometimes two, and sometimes four (especially when including our voices!) It’s been a very fun ride and we can’t wait for more new sounds. 

Join Aperture Duo (Adrianne Pope, violin and Linnea Powell, viola) in an evening of boundary-pushing new music featuring world premieres by Berlin-based composer Jessie Marino and LA-based composer/pianist Thomas Kotcheff. Join LA’s own Aperture Duo as they explore the shiny, surreal, and sometimes scary depths of chamber music for violin and viola.

7:00pm. Tuesday Aug 22, 2023 at Monk Space (4414 W 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90004)

On Maura Tuffy and singers’ “Path of Miracles” by Joby Talbot: “This is about as tight as a non-static choral group of this size could possibly be, performing a work of this size and complexity”

(photo: Richard An)

On May 26, 2023, Maura Tuffy led a choir of 17 singers in a full performance of Joby Talbot’s Path of Miracles at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills. 

Joby Talbot’s musical output is eccentric; scores for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Sing adorn his resume, right next to a large number of music for dance, arrangements for pop stars Paul McCartney and Charlotte Gainsbourg, as well as purely ‘concert’ works such as Path of Miracles. Visiting his website, his landing page simply reads “Joby Talbot is a composer of music for concert, stage and screen,” the brevity of which seems to belie the depth at which he is involved with all three.

A single, low, unison note begins in the tenors and basses – who are the only singers seen on stage – its resonance shifting through changes in vowel shape. Another pitch coming from below, then rising through it, begins a pattern that will become clear in just a moment; Talbot is evoking a Shepard tone, an auditory illusion which seems to continually rise without ever ending. From the BBC’s Bang Goes the Theory, “it’s like a barber’s pole of sound.”

The sopranos and altos proclaim from the balcony behind the audience. The crotales, performed by Yuri Inoo, signal the higher voices to join the lower. They walk through the aisles, flanking left and right, until they find their marks. This (and all future) transitions are tightly choreographed; the ensemble occasionally loosens their rigid lines to flex into a slightly different configuration. Without cues, singers depart from the group to form solo quartets, and, at the very end, the singers flank left and right once again, beginning the piece as it started.

On the way, Path of Miracles visits Roncesvalles, Burgos, León and Santiago along the Camino de Santiago, an (in)famous pilgrimage route in the Roman Catholic tradition; some members of the choir and the audience, in a brief pre-concert talk, raised their hands when asked who had  made the trek themselves. In some moments, parallel whole tone and octatonic scales evoke Debussy; in others, you can hear a “Dies Irae” melody snuck in.

I must praise Maura Tuffy’s conducting here; full disclosure, Maura and I met in the choral department at USC, and are friends. In a few words, choral conducting is difficult; you need to show clear beats and gestures while making sure singers don’t disengage their breath support, an issue which is usually not present conducting instrumentalists; choral conductors often don’t use batons, seemingly to prioritize the nuance of the hands at the expense of visibility and the “resolution” of beat that the pointed tip of a baton can provide. Compound that with the fact that Maura is often cueing singers she can’t see, behind her head (in the balcony, or flanking the sides of the sanctuary), and you can get an idea of the immensity of the achievement.

In speaking with the singers after the performance, I found that this group put together the nearly-70 minute work in just four rehearsals. This is about as tight as a non-static choral group of this size could possibly be, performing a work of this size and complexity. Maura’s work with the singers is monumental, and readers should look forward to when this group will perform this work next.

Maura Tuffy and Kiyono McDaniel met last year while working together for the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus. With Maura’s affinity for choral conducting, and Kiyono’s ambition for arts development, they have combined their skills to make this performance possible. From fundraising and marketing, to recruiting and rehearsing, Maura and Kiyono have self produced this performance to highlight the beauty that is Path of Miracles.

7:30pm. Friday May 26, 2023

A Sitar concerto, a premiere by Marc Lowenstein, and a surprisingly enjoyable early work by Bizet packs Royce Hall

LACO 7: Shankar Plays Shankar at Royce Hall (Brian Feinzimer)

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra performed a program featuring a sitar concerto by Ravi Shankar (performed by Anoushka Shankar), a new Sound Investment commission from composer Marc Lowenstein, and a (seemingly) old staple from Georges Bizet.

Marc Lowenstein and I have interacted quite a few times – informally as ships in the night in the hallways at CalArts, where Marc is officially on faculty in the Experimental Pop department – then formally, with Marc as music director/conductor in The Industry’s Sweet Land. I was told of his talent as a tenor; composer Juan Pablo Contreras, who I knew through singing in the same tenor sections at USC, hearing of my admittance into CalArts’ MFA program, immediately told me to study voice with Marc, who had apparently had a “former life” as an operatic tenor with more than 25 roles under his belt. I’ve graded his students’ theory exams, with a joke-per-sentence rate so dense it was dizzying; the extra credit question had something to do with wallabies. 

And yet, through all this, I had never heard any of his own music; he was so involved in employing his talents to help sharpen the aural skills of CalArtians and direct operas with The Industry, that I had somehow missed yet another hat on his rack. On your Facebook profile, you only really have enough space to put a short description or role at the institution for which you work. Marc’s Facebook profile says “Shortstop/Second Base at CalArts.”

“HaZ’màn HaZèh הזמן הזה” begins with the sound of a singing bowl and a bed of plucked strings underneath an oboe melody. The music is immediately dynamic; searing string lines give way to an explosive, thick bed of low frequency activity. In an introductory video posted online, Marc describes the piece as mystical, fusing samba, Buddhist mysticism, Jewish klezmer and Balkan music, the last two of which becomes most obvious as a squealing clarinet dances atop an insistent groove in 7. A cello solo, shimmering trills in piano, and finally the piece ends in a devastatingly simple two note refrain, sung out over a lush string chorale, unchanging from its identity despite the twisting harmony around it. The vocalist is hidden, singing from within the ensemble rather than as a soloist. 

The work is enigmatic, a view into the influences and interests of an even more enigmatic musician; the cacophony of musics somehow blending together could have only come from someone as varied as Marc Lowenstein. The work deserves repeat listenings and I look forward to the life the piece will have beyond this concert; I can’t help but feel that Marc’s piece was buried in the curation of this concert; ‘Shankar plays Shankar,” makes it clear what the intended draw is, but Marc deserves equal billing.

I get the feeling that people attended this concert for one of two reasons, and the Bizet wasn’t necessarily one of them. Certainly, it’s not quite the draw that a new work or a sitar concerto is for most people, and yet, though this work isn’t necessarily in the focus of this publication, I would be remiss to neglect mentioning how much I enjoyed listening to Bizet’s Symphony no. 1 in C.

The comparisons to Beethoven are easy to make – the piece was written in the span of about a month, shortly after Bizet turned 17, in 1855. At the time, Bizet was studying with Charles Gounod at the Paris Conservatoire, whose first two symphonies bear well-documented influences from Beethoven. Beethoven had already died by 1827, which would have granted ample time for his legacy to proliferate amongst his students and followers throughout Western Europe. Many of the early Romantic trademarks of Beethoven are there; a tendency to separate the strings from the winds and brass, assigning melodic or accompaniment roles to each half of the orchestra and only occasionally blending the two. The piece, a student work, was suppressed by Bizet to the point that he had never heard it performed in his lifetime; it is now one of his most frequently performed pieces, with some of its solos used as orchestral excerpts.

Music Director Jaime Martín conducts with an infectious, joyful exuberance. He invigorates, and when he’s not needed, he invites, then steps out. The connection between Martín and the orchestra is evident; cues are often given with the slightest opening of his fingers, a gesture that is perhaps an inch wide, yet marvelously clear in its intent. It’s not realistic to say this with any certainty, but his music-making hints at a warm demeanor, devoid of much ego.

A platform, draped with a thick red and black rug, was brought forward and placed in the concerto soloist’s position. A sitar was placed on top, prompting many excited families to walk up to the Royce Hall stage; doubtless many young beaming faces with Maestra Shankar’s sitar were posted online and sent to family that night.

Ravi Shankar’s work is most well known to the world outside of the Indian subcontinent through his collaboration with George Harrison of the Beatles, and is credited with introducing much of the western world to North Indian classical (Hindustani) music. Part of his work in bringing his music to the West also involved writing three concerti for Sitar and orchestra, the third of which was performed tonight.

The trademarks of a North Indian classical recital were immediately recognizable; not only in the solo instrument and the scales (ragas), transcribed and rebuilt for the orchestral instruments, but also in the structure of the composition. The first movement began with a short virtuosic phrase, completed by an ending cadence, played three times and timed precisely to line up with the beginning, beat 1, of the next section. If you’re familiar with this musical tradition, then those descriptions should be familiar; this was likely a mukhra (a short, one cycle composition often at the beginning of a solo recital) marked at the end with a characteristic tihai (a “cadential” figure marked by its [usually] verbatim repetition, three times, which [usually] precisely hits sam, or beat 1 of the next rhythmic cycle). Then came what I would label a peshkar section (a type of theme-and-variation composition which has a kind of lilt, differentiating it from the similar qaida), then, after some developmental material, closed with a chakradar – a longer composition which is characterized by repeating the entire thing three times, not just the tihai.

In a work that bridges two musical traditions together, attention must be paid to how the two musics are blended, and especially in how these ideas are to be communicated. How much can we expect a patron of western orchestral concerts in London or Los Angeles to know of the Hindustani classical tradition? How much should a LACO string player know of the tintaal theka, a 16 beat rhythmic cycle which makes up at least half of their 3rd movement? 

A well crafted piece and performer can communicate these ideas to an audience despite the differences in their assumed knowledge. A great one does so while entertaining its listeners. Shankar and Shankar, on Sunday night, wowed, by finding the aspects of a music that is common to both, if not all musical traditions. A solo is a solo in any language. Virtuosic fireworks communicate through all practices, and the collective musical output of LACO and Anoushka Shankar wowed, not in spite of, but thanks to the nexus of two musics coming together. 

‘Shankar plays Shankar’

LACO’s 2022/23 season concludes with a celebration of global and local traditions! GRAMMY-nominated sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar performs her father Ravi Shankar’s Third Sitar Concerto. The concert also features a world premiere by LA-based composer Marc Lowenstein, the final Sound Investment premiere of the season, and a brief excursion to France with Bizet’s Symphony No. 1 in C major.  

7:00pm. Sunday May 21, 2023