Sounds in Chicago - I


I just can’t help it. I love any unconventional way of doing things. Whenever possible, I try to go by new route, even if it is an old destination.
So we have heard about the 20th century modern music. So we have heard they are quite different from the 19th century master pieces. These days I got more chances to go to modern performances and I start to realize something is missing there. The Instrument. Yes, despite the very unconventional musical language, the instruments via which this language is spoken, externalized, remain largely the same. Or maybe I should not exaggerate. Have I forgotten Russolo, Antheil and Varèse? Did not Thereminvox and Ondes Martenot play strong roles even in Hollywood compositions? There does exist a corner that stubbornly refuses any change. That is how traditional instruments are meant to be played. And now it came to my knowledge that indeed innovations exist even here.
Last night I attended a performance by this Chicago-born, Europe-residing cellist Frances-Marie Uitti. As a newspaper article says, "for starters, she plays with two bows." This, I understand, is her invention. During the performance, she demonstrated twice how this technique can be used. The first time is a composition by Jonathan Harvey (who sent her this little “gem” a whole year after seeing her performance) and the second time her own. The polyphony, especially in the second piece, is quite striking, despite the fact that I definitely lack the proper terminology to describe it. I know absolutely nothing about string instruments. But I would imagine this kind of effect is not duplicable on two cellos—hence contrary to some reviews, this technique is not aiming at a one-woman-quartet. It is rather aimed at—something she said herself—“the need for explicit rather than implied harmony”.

The solo performance last night was also meant to showcase her new invention—an electronic cello with no strings. But we were told this piece of magic prop is still in Berkley. It was snowing when I came out the Bond Chapel.

Here is more info on her (you can read a poem by Paul Griffith)


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