An outstanding performance from Yarn/Wire at the TIME:SPANS new music festival

United StatesUnited States TIME:SPANS Festival 2022: Yarn/Wire (Laura Barger & Julia Den Boer [piano], Russell Greenberg & Sae Hashimoto [percussion]). DiMenna Center for Classical Music, New York, 24.8.2022. (DS)

living to fall by Igor Santos © Thomas Fichter

Enno Poppe, Wolfgang Heiniger – Tonband
Igor Santosliving to fall (world premiere)
Misato MochizukiLe monde des ronds et des carrés

Some ensembles showcase pieces to simply play those works, but others pair compositions that actually blend together, like the best of wine and cheese. And even if one work may not appeal fully to one’s palette, the discerning person must admit its excellent accentuation of the other, leaving a more memorable experience overall.

This was well demonstrated at the recent performance by Yarn/Wire for TIME:SPANS, an annual, late-summer festival of new music. Three percussion pieces of complex form and vast dimension created memorable bridges of sound between one another – the one insisting on reflection of the other and vice versa. Without an intermission, this interplay became even more pronounced.

First, there was Tonband, a collaboration between Enno Poppe and Wolfgang Heiniger. Two of Germany’s foremost composers, they used the moment to create a kind of absent duet, the Yarn/Wire ensemble enacting their voices. Within the compositional time frame, the sounds of grainy wood or metallic shimmer were juxtaposed. Later, a juggle of chimes eventually led to a symbiosis of rhythm, while along the way different sections interjected humorously ironic sounds next to sweeping gestures of a majestic sonar field.

Percussionists Russell Greenberg and Sae Hashimoto worked with enduring persistence to keep up with the seemingly infinite demands of material sounds from a myriad of instruments (including an air-raid siren). A heroic effort was put forth by pianists Julia Den Boer and Laura Barger to filter these captured sounds and replay them without missing an opportunity to release them accurately. Sweat must have trickled down their brows as the musicians conquered the challenge and revealed the mastery behind Tonband.

The second work, living to fall, was by a comparatively younger composer, Igor Santos, part of a trilogy based on themes of water (we didn’t have the pleasure of hearing parts one or two). Santos was inspired by his time living and working alongside visual artists in Rome while walking daily past the iconic fountains. Far from, though quixotically reminiscent of, the sounds of Respighi, the music combined with Santos’s own video art of collaged imagery: falling rain, thunder, metaphors mimetic of rain (as in the water-like images of breaking glass), classical works based on rain and Brazilian songs.

Rather than a dialogue with a second composer as in Tonband, living to fall is a dialogue from within the composer. The outcome was a beautifully matched composition to a visual exploration of emotion, reaction, stream of consciousness, Sturm und Drang, his own training as a pianist, the visceral, the healing and the destructive – all from the starting point of rain. The most successful aspect of this work was his use of the twentieth-century regard for exploring repetition.

Santos digitally separated moments from disturbing car-window smashing videos to force us into the space of questioning what we see and how we process each moment that passes in our unfocused, digital lives. It is a theme always worth returning to, and Santos’ exploration of the breaking down of repetition is musically fresh if not yet fully fleshed out. Where he goes next will be compelling to see.

Yarn/Wire concluded with Misato Mochizuki’s The World of Circles and Squares (Le monde des ronds et des carrés), which took much of its internal dialogue between space and sound. While the two pianists remained fixed, percussionists Greenberg and Hashimoto walked into, between and around the formal performance space. Perhaps a bird’s eye view would have revealed geometric patterns in this choreography.

The program notes explained Mochizuki’s contemplation of World War II. Rather than hook into bombastic sounds of trauma and violence, the subtle quality of timbres and nearly melodic structure created a holistic, healing sound that produced a ritual-like setting, just as one might feel in a temple or church. Mochizuki’s work highlighted the power of interstitial sounds with a delicate and exquisite use of chimes. And the power of the drum that he harnessed didn’t frighten or attack the ears but instead evoked a beautiful effect of releasing sound in controlled and mindfully powerful waves. The work ended with pianist and percussionists all closely huddled together in the middle – at the midpoint of square, circle and experience.

Yarn/Wire has solidified its membership in the influential landscape of twenty-first-century music. Not only in technique and musicality do they deliver polished results, but their choice of repertoire and growing rapport with a broad spectrum of composers has offered audiences superb programming that leaves one hearing – and seeing – the world differently.

Daniele Sahr

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