Reflections from MCTS 2012

From May 11th through the 13th, I was fortunate enough to participate in what I hope will become the first of a regular academic gig at Cornell University. Music: Cognition, Technology, Society (see my full conference report here) brought together a host of composers, musicians, musicologists, and cutting-edge theorists for three days of intense dialogue, demonstration, and performance. Of the latter, I have written up a diary of impressions regarding two exciting programs of music from, with the exception of Tod Machover, the latest generation of composition students from around the world.

In my ongoing attempts to stay true to the moment, I present the following to you unedited.

Argento Ensemble
May 11, 2012
Barnes Hall, Cornell University
8:30 pm

Clara Lyon violin
Andrew Borkowski cello
Laura Barger piano
Fiona Kelly flute
Vasko Dukovski clarinet
Matt Gold percussion
Wendy Richman viola
Nicholas Walker double bass
John Lathwell oboe
Andrew Zhou electronic keyboard

Sean Friar: Scale 9
Flutter and pause. Fragmented, crystalline flower wilting and reforming itself in a hundred lifetimes. Bristling with the energy of myriad hopes. The clarinet a voice thrown into the cello’s bodily pool, violin droplets kissing the edges of a shimmering veil. Mostly urban, with shades of nocturnal countryside, feet navigating their own obligations amid a playful tangle of traffic and crossed emotional wires, all heading toward a gusty close.

Bryan Christian: Walk
A murky inkswirl of whispers and broken songs, clatter of misted gates. Ring of insect on leaf, the stamping of moonlit intentions carving paths in the deforested wasteland of interaction where wanders the hope of yesterday in the clothing of tomorrow. Memories shriek with banshee-like presence, just long enough to curl their fingernails around the edges of our ears and plant in them seeds plucked from the stamen of infirmity. Visceral percussiveness from bass clarinet keys, breathy augmentations to woodblocks and bells.

Juraj Kojs: Re-route
Bass clarinet’s thrumming burnt ochre—a didgeridoo in the pincers of an oscillating beetle—of bass haunts a scrubbing of electronic flickers. Tearing sheets from a ream imprinted by graphite handsteps.

Eric Lindsay: Town’s Gonna Talk
Throw some Stephen Hartke and Thomas Larcher in a pot, add a dash of backyard gab, and you get this delightful foray into sandy fields and heavily tracked neighborhoods throughout which the baby rattle of progress bleats its weary song amid pointillist loveliness between violin and cello. Peaks in a glorious hoedown of epic proportions. Change rattling in cup, whistling.

Amit Gilutz: Miscellaneous Romance No. 1
Scraping and computer voices (reading missed connections in Ithaca) lead toward an audible map of localized desperation. Perhaps laughter can be recreated, but only shame comes from flesh.

Christopher Chandler: the resonance after…
Gorgeous veils of sound drawn from metallically infused hits. A Gavin Bryars dream stretched to brightest distance. Electronics seamless. Highlight of the concert.

Tod Machover: Another Life
Tangled, diffusion of instrumental favoritism, banded by an alternative electronic flow. Wind writing enhanced by pre-echoed afterlife. A pixilated pastoral for the 21st century.

Electroacoustic Music Concert
May 12, 20120
Barnes Hall, Cornell University
8:00 pm

Andrew Zhou piano
Peter Van Zandt Lane bassoon
Eliot Bates oud, electronics
Taylan Cihan electronics, speaker elements

Nicholas Cline: Homage to La Monte Young
This bowed metallic dronescape is populated by Giacometti figures wandering in slow motion in search of dawn, finding instead only semblances of moonlight. These they hang around their necks from strings of marrowed intentions, where the body speaks—not in skeletal language but rather with the syntax of time. This feels like stepping into a room filled with Bertoia rods and finding in their whispers a script for human evolution.

Nathan Davis: Ecology No. 8
Wave field, field of waves—hand, ocean, emotion. Correspondence found in the scalar plane: a fish exploded, decoded, and processed into trailing lights, shards of perfect(ed) fluted glasses, each a trail of hyperspace in foreshortened tears. A hundred hypodermics poised at black hole’s edge, waiting to drop their spores into the cytosphere. A lighthouse sweeping its own demise.

Nicola Monopoli: The Rite of Judgment
A police light’s heart, sounded from within every luminescent rectangle. Speaks in tongues wet with static, salivating at the corners with an air of self-disinterest. A butterfly kiss gone gorgeously awry, vault of glottal windows vying for attention where only a blank screen wins.

Christopher Stark: Two-Handed Storytelling
(Birds sing outside the window, curling feathered tongues around the pianistic fist.) Twisted shadow hidden in its fleshy cage. Breath funnels back into itself, embracing the echo like a mouth around food and swallows a wash of crystalline highs. A conversation not for two hands, but for two heartbeats. Stop. Curtain. Draw. Spotlight. Exhale.

Peter Van Zandt Lane: Hydromancer
A flick, a thunk, and a puff of briny stew, trudged in the reverberant spaces of untold dreams. A gate opened at dawn, amphibious yet yearning for human contact. Metronome of water falls down the tarnished stairs of our collective home. The cats in the yard plying us with curiosity, their legs and tails dew-kissed with curiosity. Ping-ponged signal shuffles itself into an intrinsic deck just bursting with the teeth-clenching desire to say hello.

Stelios Manousakis: Megas Diakosmos
Tearing into a bag of microchips, these sonic teeth feed with an overwhelming gesture of disclosure. This beats us with the fallacy of silence, even as it caresses us with a signal’s dying wish. It traces a tonal center where there can be no footprints. A vortex spread flat and rolled into children’s telescopes, bringing us no closer to the reality it refuses to map. The atmosphere weeps sulfur, speaks fire, and draws its fantasies in acid rain. Subterranean bungalows shake themselves free of the inhibitions once slumbering in their cradles. Finish your ash, says the mountain, and you can have some magma to wash it down. It whispers with a force so proximate that it lifts inside us the blindness of a hush. Oh, how nostalgia can taste like noise!

Eliot Bates/Taylan Cihan: Zey-glitch
Testing. Wait and see what lives in the branches of the fig tree. Skipping. Wait and see what dies in the arms of the unborn angel. There are no wings, only nails. Cartilage, calcium deposits, and bone. Double string and single lyre, bleeding faith and healing fire. Hold the gristle of unremembered days and know the feeling of reduction on the palate. I hear the thief, for the thief hears everything I do not.

(All photos by Evan Cortens)

2 thoughts on “Reflections from MCTS 2012

  1. Good to hear from you again. I so enjoy your way with words, delightfully full of metaphors and analogies, particularly the landscape references. A wonderful tribute to the talent of these students too.

    1. Thank you so much, Diana. This was an incredibly hectic semester for me, leaving me with so little time for reviewing. Hope to be back on schedule soon!

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