Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Monday, November 01, 2004


Will I get the present I want, or something much worse than a lump of coal? Here’s hoping.

Worked on writing some songs this evening, a few beginnings. A pleasure, though I’m not sure how I’ll feel about them tomorrow. Course, I’m not sure how I’ll feel about anything tomorrow.

An e-mail from my friend Jay Sherman-Godfrey, who took his 5-year-old son and one-and-a-half-year-old daughter to a concert of mostly 20th century music:

“Saturday, I took Mac and Lil to a concert at a local church. The group is called the Astoria Music Society, and I had seen fliers around and had been intrigued. This night was billed as Kreepy Kids Koncert, so I thought this would be a good first live thing for the kids. The group advsertises new music concerts once a month -- modern classical and/or commissioned works. It all seems to be the labor or love of the conductor, one Silas Huff, who looked mid thirtiesh. Looking at the calender, he has arrangements or pieces in almost each show. They also do standard repertory. They work out of two local churches. Tix were $10, kids always free.

Sat, they played a mix of stuff, most new to me. It began w/ a Henry Cowell piece, The Banshee, which two “pianists” played inside the piano. Dense arpeggios, string scratching, and three instances of the same three-note pattern, repeated about a minute or so removed from each other. Sounded great. Mac's fave. Really nice accostics in the church. And the painists were dressed as bllod-sucking witches,

Next was a Debussy solo flute piece, Syrinx, which the group spokesman (the trombonist) announced was based on the familiar Greek myth of Pan. Very nice. Once again the flute really sang in the room.

Next was a George Crumb piece based on the Debussy (quotations of the main theme) for flute and 3 percussionists. The percussionist were placed far stage left, center behind and above the flute, and far stage right. Really cool -- the right/left percs essentially acting as each others echo, the center maintaining a barely audible bass drum roll, and then burst of fff unisons. [Ed.’s note: “fff” means fortissimo, “most loud.”] The flutist also spoke lines across the hole to eerie effect.

Next, a very satisfying Night on Bald Mountain arranged (by the conductor) for eight: Piano, Double Bass, Violin, Flute, Clarinet, Trombone, Trumpet, Percussion. The really worked the dynamics to get the most out of the small ensemble.

Next a Meridith Monk vocal piece. I can't recall the name, but it was a round sung by two altos, the same phrase slowly repeated with one voice or the other peeling off into quarter tone above the other. Lilly sang along. Malcolm asked "What does it mean?"

Last were a suite of traditional cowboy songs arranged by the conductor for bass voice and the octet. We had to leave just as this started, as Malcolm began to melt.

The ensemble was good, self described as "pre-professional" though there were, to my ear, some pros among. It was a treat to see a live performance, and the quasi-amateur setting was perfect for the kids. I like it that way too. When we came in, they were still warming up and trying over some hard bits of the Mussorgsky -- a tricky entrance (which they blew in he program as well, but to no detriment). All the classical musicians I've known have a goofy streak, and the Halloween program brought it out. No tuxes to cover it up Saturday, and in the way back basment of the church, the alternate Korean congregation's Christian rock combo was rehearsing. You could hear them ever so faintly, and a basketball game in the gym, with the loudest sneaker-squeaks audible when someone went out to the bathroom or for a smoke. And at the intermssion, the local PTA offered refreshments for a dollar.

Oh, the Crumb piece had a great title:

An Idyll for the Misbegotten.”

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