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On Sunday, I attended a concert as part of the 2010 Berkeley Festival Fringe, concurrent with the early music Berkeley Festival and Exhibition. Given my aesthetic preferences, I attended probably the more fringey of the fringe -- the Three Trapped Tigers Recorder Ensemble with their program:
My notes ascend into the airAlthough I was probably the only non-early-music person in the audience, I had a good time. In addition to music from the 14th and 17th centuries, they played music by Tom Bickley, John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, and Willem Wander Van Nieuwkerk.
pre-modern music for post-modern ears and vice versa
The center piece was by Cage; his Three for "three recorder players using sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor (player 1); sopranino, soprano, alto, basset, tenor, bass (player 2); and soprano, alto, basset, tenor, double bass (player 3)." Whew. The gimmick was that during some of the work, the players would play a note on one recorder and then switch to another instrument for the next. I found it ultimately annoying to watch so I closed my eyes to just listen. Fortunately, the music was austere and of course had much timbral variety.
It also had long moments of no playing. In this space, it was easy to become aware of the soft ambient Berkeley sounds -- distant traffic, an airplane etc. But then when the instruments resumed playing, it had the effect of sounding unnatural. And the next piece, more traditional polyphony by Francesco Landini, sounded even less in accord with nature. This was a good reminder of how the music of Cage can be so environmental...