Venerable Church Hosts Extraterrestrial Sounds

United StatesUnited States Peter Evans, David Brynjar Franzson, Eric Wubbels, Sam Pluta: Wet Ink Ensemble, Yarn | Wire, Mivos Quartet. St. Peter’s Church, New York City, 1.10.2013 (DS)

Peter Evans: Returns
David Brynjar Franzson: On Repetition and Reappearances
Eric Wubbels: Alphabeta
Sam Pluta: Chain Reactions / Five Events (US Premiere)

Set in Chelsea’s elaborate but tastefully aging St. Peter’s Episcopal church, the Wet Ink Ensemble collaborated with groups Yarn | Wire and Mivos Quartet in an electronics-heavy evening. Yet the music was far from churchlike, except in its worshipful dedication to sound and the possibilities lingering behind some of its most basic components.


Peter Evans’ Returns considered the short cycles that often structure the development of improvisational works. The piece (itself fully composed) was broken into two parts, both with electronics—the first featuring cornet trumpet, and the second, percussion with four-hand piano. As is often the case with post sonata-form, we cannot hear the structure that drives the composer. Rather, I was aware of the unusual sonic creations, like those reminiscent of early modernist factory mechanisms and one passage that sounded like a cut-up collage of Satie works.


In Eric Wubbel’s Alphabeta. the composer takes a fascinating compositional idea—developing an alphabet of 25 percussive sounds—to build this tri-partite work. However, as a listener, one’s focus is buried in a growing interrelation between the piano’s percussive character and the timbres of a standard percussion set.


Mivos Quartet was featured in two works, with and without electronics. David Brynjar Franzson’s On Repetition and Reappearances was written for quartet only and explored the basic premise of chamber music—that of passing sounds back and forth. Rather quiet, the sounds ranged from a bit of bowed scratchiness to lyrical smooth resonances. The result was a beautifully meditative, hovering ten minutes with an overlay of the woody quality sometimes forgotten about in stringed instruments.


For electronics (via laptop) and quartet, the performance of Chain Reactions/Five Events by Sam Pluta was the US premiere of this 2013 Luzern Festival commission. Blending notational work and improvisation, Pluta used motifs of instruments tuning around a pitch, horizontally stacking drones, and a build-up of tempi. The quartet embraced the density of the work with a kind of demonic concentration, allowing the piece to possess them. The end was fantastic, sounding as if it were at a normal tempo being played in “fast forward mode” (that is, not just at a high speed) with all possible interstitial space filled by laptop sounds. And rather than simply quieting down at the end, it seemed to drift off into the distance, bringing to mind the disappearance of an extra-terrestrial vehicle into the vast unknown blackness of space.


Daniele Sahr