Jonathan Russell is a professor of musicianship at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and music director at First Congregational Church in San Francisco. He is active in the Bay Area as a clarinetist, bass clarinetist, and composer.
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The Bay Area is fortunate to have a number of ensembles dedicated to new music, each with its own slightly different approach. The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble’s spin is to frequently include a couple of old works on their programs alongside the newer ones. When you think about it, this really is a unique approach. Plenty of groups play only new music, and plenty of groups play primarily old music, with a new piece or two thrown in for good measure. But to hear a concert where most music is new, and the old music is the exception, is quite a rare experience.
Tape music, and the technology behind it, has come a long way since composers first began using and manipulating recorded sounds in the 1940s. This year's annual San Francisco Tape Music Festival made clear just how far it has come, by juxtaposing classic tape pieces from 50 years ago with brand-new works. The festival ran for three nights, Friday through Sunday, at CELLspace in San Francisco.
At the ODC Dance Commons in San Francisco's Mission District, sfSoundSeries presented a Sunday concert centered on works composed for the San Francisco Tape Music Center. Founded in 1961 by composers Morton Subotnick and Ramón Sender, the Tape Music Center was at the heart of the city's musical counterculture in the 1960s. It was the premier venue not only for cutting-edge technologies involving tape loops and electronics, but also for other musical experiments, from early minimalist pieces such as Terry Riley's In C, to multimedia and performance art works.
Five of the Bay Area's many inventive musical experimentalists were on display last Friday at the Royce Gallery in San Francisco, in the initial installment of Pamela Z's summer chamber music series called "room." This first of four concerts, to be given every other Friday through July and August, was titled "Batterie!" and featured performers who all made use of percussion in some way.
On Sunday night, the ODC Dance Commons in San Francisco's Mission District was full of classical music's most coveted demographic — young people in their 20s and 30s. They had gathered to attend sfSoundSeries' latest installment of improvisation and new composition, including works by John Cage, Bruno Ruviaro, and Kaija Saariaho, with improvisations featuring guest saxophonist John Butcher.
Swedish trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger and British percussionist Colin Currie offered a virtuosic and highly polished performance last Tuesday at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. All the challenging compositions on the program, from a wide range of contemporary European composers, were technically proficient and effective, and made expert use of the colors that the trumpet offers, as well as a great variety of percussion sounds.
What do a Stalin-era Russian composer and a contemporary British rock band have in common? That was the intriguing question posed by Christopher O’Riley in a piano recital last Wednesday at Stanford’s Dinkelspiel Auditorium in Palo Alto. Part of the Stanford Lively Arts series, the program consisted solely of preludes and fugues from the Op. 87 cycle by Shostakovich, and O’Riley’s solo piano arrangements of songs by Radiohead.