United States MATA Festival: Bandeira, Diels, Hernandez, Weiser, Chen: Soloists, The Kitchen, New York City. 17.4.2014 (DS)
Andre Damião Bandeira: em_Bruto (American premiere)
Natacha Diels: A is for Alphabet
Ruben Askenar Garcia Hernandez: El Puerperio (American premiere)
Alex Weiser: Rumbling Waves (World premiere)
Carolyn Chen: Relationships to Gravity (World premiere)
Natacha Diels, flute
Marina Kifferstein, violin
Vicky Chow, piano
Karl Larson, piano
Matt Evans, percussion
Carolyn Chen, guxin
This evening at the MATA Festival (my third year in a row) again outlined a convincing narrative with a well-curated program, which left a memorable taste unearthing memories from previous years and whetting the appetite for the next.
At Thursday night’s concert—titled That Which Remains—at the Kitchen in Chelsea’s gallery district, the collective experience of five composers’ contributions brought forth a synthesis of the musical balanced with the visual, electronic, and theatrical. MATA has a particular flair for making this edgy and creative. Curator Yotam Haber (in his final year as artistic director) knows just how to choose works that emerge gracefully, and support or highlight one another intriguingly. While not every piece would necessarily stand alone, as a group they retain an aura of adventurous, ebullient collage.
Alex Weiser’s Rumbling Waves, however, could make its way onto any program. This work for piano and percussion (already a most unusual pair) unfolded lovingly like an experimental form of lieder—the percussionist snugly in place where a Schubert-singing tenor or soprano might be standing otherwise. To make these two percussive instruments sing lyrically was enticing and alluring. Hints of post-minimalist texture trickled in a sense of “Glassworks” nostalgia that felt more than appropriate, given that this festival was started by Philip himself. And the Debussy-like impressions—or teasing Classical cadences—moved the work along like the easy prose of a wandering Nabokovian moment.
However, to stand out at MATA does not necessarily imply that the audience walks home whistling a tune. Instead, a memory of entertaining theater brought to life through carefully composed sounds stays with one just as readily. Natacha Diels’s duet, A is for Alphabet for flute and violin (connected to various electronica) is best described as a DADA-inspired quirky Bavarian Glockenspiel, stripped of artifice and nakedly exposed to the audience. Like two wooden characters, the players emitted vibrations, tunes, and plucking punctuations while amusingly engaging the audience with cocky head shakes, poetic verbal outbursts, and other bird-like explosions.
Three other works graced the stage and, in true collage form, blended well with one another without completely losing their own identities. Relationships with Gravity, a MATA commission by Carolyn Chen, interestingly used the scientific theme as its metaphor. It unfolded ingeniously to videos and images she had assembled, but like many a multi-media experience needed a bit more editing (though I’d say, leave in the part where select audience members threw popcorn into the air).
Ruben Askenar Garcia Hernandez’s El Puerperio released beautiful cave-like echoes by manipulating the strings inside the piano—by hand, metal strips, or conductor batons. And the opening work em _bruto—a short computer piece that displayed layered desktop dialogues visually, in tandem with the improvised composition—got things off to a clever start, giving the audience an unusually cathartic experience that seemed to represent the kind of frustrating technical breakdown to which everyone can relate.