May Day! May Day! has come and gone. Thanks to everyone who attended. But I’d also like to thank the musicians who made it possible. The whole day a quote from Robert Spano was ringing through my head “there is no ghetto for new music.” By taking Seattle’s vibrant new music scene and putting it in a venue like Town Hall for 12 hours, I believe we helped the cause of new music. But I also think the performances helped too the cause too.
If you think new music is only noisy and unapproachable then this was the festival for you. It would have definitely changed your view of what constitutes new music in our city.
In my sets, there was the Odeonquartet’s performance of Nat Evans’ Candy Cigarettes. You can hear the piece, as performed on Saturday .
The composer says about the piece:
“One idea I keep coming back to is one particular may day event when I was in elementary school. every year on may day the whole school went out to the front lawn and had lunch, then went to the big field in the back for various events and games. everyone always looked forward to this day because it was a day away from class, and after may 1 you could wear shorts to school! anyway, one particular year, in first grade, Victor Merril — the class bully and general rabble rouser — was overjoyed and ecstatic to discover that he had candy cigarettes in his lunch! I was entranced by them and wanted one, as did everyone else. victor wouldn’t share…but then, just as the whole class was running in a rush out to the field after lunch victor (who was wearing cowboy boots, cut off jeans shorts and had a mohawk) secretly gave me one! I was overjoyed at this sudden act of generosity, and as I went around to the different may day stations out on the field I felt great knowing i’d been acknowledged by the class bully and gotten a candy cigarette.”
There was also a inspired performance of two movements of Steve Reich’s Tehillim by Julia Tai and friends. I recorded the performance on my camcorder. The video is bellow. The camera work is a little erratic because I wasn’t expecting so many musicians. If only I had read a bit about the piece before hand I would have known it probably isn’t the piece piece to try to record for posting later. I shifted between wide shots and close ups. There is some shaking due to a stiff tripod that made it harder to swing the camera back and forth. My bad camera work aside, the performance is still fun to see/hear again.
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Later in the day Byron Au Yong’s Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas got my mind racing through the possibilities of performance without a performance space. Here is one of the “bottled operas” he and his fellow musicians played on Saturday.
(thank you Byron for making it so easy to share your work!)
Michael Nicolella’s performance was also a welcome surprise. The guitar has never been a favorite of mine, but the way Nicolella plays went a long way to changing my mind. I liked Laurence Crane’s elongated minimalism in his piece Bobby J. Nicolella finished his set with his own arrangement of Jimi Hendrix’s song Little Wing.
The Pacific Rims Percussion Quartet gave the ultimate John Cage performance of the day with Living Room Music. Lamps, chairs, books, and pipes turned into musical instruments in their hands. What’s not to love? Here is a performance of the quartet performing Henry Cowell’s Pulse.
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There was also Wayne Horvitz playing his own s In fewer than ten minutes, Horvitz and his wife Robin Holcomb poignantly underscored the struggles and contributions of the men and women of organized labor.
Mara Gearman’s performances of two works by Alexander Bishop were crowd favorites.
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The violin and viola duo of Michael Lim and Melia Watras were excellent in the three, short violin and viola duos they played.
Who will forget the ; Christina Valdes and her all female pick up ensemble playing Louis Andriessen’s Workers Union (what a great May Day piece and way to celebrate Andriessen’s 70th birthday);
(here’s Bang on a Can doing the same piece)
Henry Cowell’s String Quartet No. 4 “United;” Sean Osborn’s performance of Abyss of te Birds from the Quartet for the End of Time; trombone Stuart Dempster’s moving tribute to his friend and colleague Matthew Sperry; and of course Korndorff’s Get Out!!! played by the Seattle Chamber Players.