A real winner emerged among the contemporary compositions at the Other Minds Festival March 4, more than I had bargained for in an otherwise indifferent program.
The world premiere of David A. Jaffe’s “The Space Between Us” was a felicitous linkage of acoustic/instrumental music with electronic sounds, the most successful we’ve encountered all this season. Like a rising tide, it lifted up the entire festival, which was littered with an array of indifferent pieces and improvisations ranging from predictable to ludicrous.
“The Space between Us” was spatial music, with a phalanx of string players ringing the audience, countering the electronic sound on stage coming from electro-percussionist Andrew Schloss, who made the piano play---look, no hands!---just by waving a wand over a sensor across the stage.
Watching a disclavier piano play by itself, without keyboardist, is disconcerting, to say the least. If there was a ghost in the house, it was that of the late Henry Brant, the spatial composer par excellence, to whose memory the work was dedicated. In the spatial mode, a chamber orchestra’s worth of string players was scattered all about the audience at Kanbar Hall, often performing a string chorale, with the audience fairly drowning in rich harmonic sound. Jaffe relishes restless themes in a diatonic way, spreading this feast out over 25 minutes, with equally rich applause at the end from a healthy crowd.
The remainder of the program featured a jazz-ensemble jam session in fushion-Balinese manner, headed by I Wayan Balayan with his blazing-fast two-necked electric guitar and two virtuosic Balinese cohorts keeping up on metallophones; and an experimental solo-vocal set by the Polish soprano Agata Zubel. Then came improv drummer Han Bennink, about whom one listener remarked, “I feel sorry for the people in the front row, it’s usually so loud. And once he started a fire as well.” I fled shortly after, before the splitting of either eardrums or atoms by the ferocious player, going all out like a man possessed. There were happily no fire brigades, either. This was the 16th year of the San Francisco-based Other Minds Festival of new sounds.
A PIANO THAT PLAYS ITSELF
And Other Wonders in Electro-Acoustic Cocktails
By Paul Hertelendy
artssf.com, the independent observer of San Francisco Bay Area music and dance