Redshift: Party Mix

Ken Bullock on November 28, 2011

“After our ‘Arctic Sounds’ show in late June,” said Jeffrey Anderle of the group he cofounded, Redshift Ensemble, and its most recent program, played at the Brick & Mortar Music Hall in San Francisco, consisting of new compositions coupled with sounds recorded in the Alaskan wild, “we wanted to give a concert that was really fun, which would give a lot more freedom to the composers — but not fluffy! Something where it shows they still have chops. ... But more like a party than something intellectual, rigid.”

Redshift Ensemble is composed of Rose Bellini, cello; Kate Campbell, piano and other keyboards; Andie Springer, violin; and Anderle, on clarinet and bass clarinet.

The group’s upcoming recital, Dec. 9, for the Old First Concert Series in San Francisco, will feature three premieres — pieces written for the group by up-and-coming composers N. Cameron Britt, Angélica Negrón, and Ian Dicke — alongside Bulb, by Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy, and pieces by Daniel Felsenfeld and Jonathan Russell.

“Dennehy’s probably the most established of the composers,” said Anderle. “His music’s minimalist, but in a beautiful, very haunting, emotional sense; very intense, resonant; complicated, but not in a math-y kind of way.”

Of the composers supplying new works, Anderle commented: “Britt’s a composer-percussionist interested in improvisation and electronic performance. He builds instruments, combines electronic and acoustic sounds. The piece he wrote for us has a Rhodes keyboard, not a piano.

“Negrón’s pretty cool; she’s on various lists — like Flavorpill’s — of ‘Female Composers Under 40 You Should Know.’ She also builds instruments, but whereas [Britt] builds from scratch, she likes found objects, like toy pianos, accordions, which she redesigns and combines with sound effects. ... Her piece also calls for electric keyboard instead of piano.” A sound more of dance halls and outdoor shows than of the concert hall — sounds like a party, indeed.

“Ian Dicke,” Anderle continued, “studied in San Francisco, got his master’s there at the Conservatory; he’s studying in Austin now. He’s interested in the place where rock and jazz meet new music, and plays with a group of composers in a band, Oogog — Jonathan Russell’s in that group — of graduates from the Conservatory.”

Remarking on the composers and the material specially composed and chosen for the concert, Anderle noted, “We like to catch people at the forefront of composing. As far as the mixture of genres, they were at the forefront five years ago. Now everybody’s doing it! Switchboard Music Festival [in San Francisco; also cofounded by Anderle], now in its fifth year, was created to give a venue for music of that general type, that mixture. At first, we didn’t know if we’d get enough groups; now, we get more than could possibly fit.”

Fun Started at Bang on a Can

Redshift was founded in 2009 at the Bang on a Can Summer Institute, where the four players met. “We had a ton of fun at the festival and said, ‘Let’s make a group, keep it going, with the people sitting right here in this room, the same instrumentation.’”

Besides quartet pieces, sometimes featuring a particular instrument, Redshift plays in “all the different duo [formats], trios, and solo pieces, to emphasize the variety of textures, timbres. ... We showcase, say, an amazing piano solo, then a duo followed by a trio.”

The quartet is based in both San Francisco and New York. “It’s part of the fun, having more than one shot at the music,” Anderle said. “It’s hard to leave a program you do only once. It also enables us to draw on composers from both coasts.” (The Dec. 9 show will be repeated on Dec. 15 in New York at the Gershwin Hotel, whose series he called “a hip downtown music series.”)

Speaking of the difference between New York and San Francisco audiences, Anderle said, “I can see a definite difference in the audience’s attitudes towards concerts. In New York, whether it’s a Tuesday or a Wednesday night we’re playing, there’s always another new-music group playing somewhere else. People there are more used to going to concerts and hearing much stranger things. In San Francisco, concertgoing seems more a special occasion. Audiences are eager to listen, learn, are open-minded. In New York, they’re continually being bombarded with new sounds, new groups starting up. But [there], there’re so many people that everybody specializes. In San Francisco, a composer will write a piece for a traditional choir, the next night play at Amnesia, then with his bluegrass band ... mix it all up.”

Anderle remarked of his group’s presenter, “We love Old First [Concerts]: one of my favorite places, as a San Francisco performer. A great venue with great acoustics — and about how much they do that’s adventurous. They’re great about letting up-and-coming groups play beside established local and out-of-town groups in the same series.”

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