International Contemporary Ensemble with John Luther Adams | Museum of Contemporary Art | Classical | Chicago Reader
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International Contemporary Ensemble with John Luther Adams All Ages Critic's Choice Recommended The List (Music) Soundboard

When: Sat., Feb. 26, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. 2011
Price: $28, $22 members, $10 students
In a new International Contemporary Ensemble podcast, percussionist Steven Schick interviews Alaska-based composer John Luther Adams, who says he wants his music to take listeners "to a beautiful, expansive, sometimes frightening place" so that they can get "hopelessly lost in it." Adams is one of America's most important experimental composers, and if it seems like you've been hearing his name a lot lately, you have. Last fall the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed his piece Dark Waves, and in January Eighth Blackbird performed his The Light Within. He was awarded the 2010 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition at Northwestern University, and as part of his residency there he was interviewed by prominent classical critic Alex Ross in October. This weekend ICE presents two long-form Adams works. The masterpiece In the White Silence (1998), conducted here by Schick, is a luminous evocation of Alaska, a rolling, gorgeously meditative, Morton Feldman-esque epic built around the seven notes of the C major scale—the white keys on the piano, suggesting the whiteness of winter. Strings ripple and float behind melodies played mostly on richly reverberant bell-like instruments: celesta, vibraphone, harp, crotales, chimes. For the second part of the evening, which begins at 9:30 (tickets can be purchased separately), the music moves from the MCA stage to the second-floor gallery hosting Without You I'm Nothing: Art and Its Audience. Schick will perform the solo percussion piece The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies (2002), which Adams wrote for him. "All noise contains pure tone," the composer explains. "And the complex sonorities of percussion instruments conceal choirs of inner voices. In The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies my search is to find and reveal those voices." The composition calls for seven different instrumental setups for its eight movements—one uses four snare drums, another eight suspended cymbals, a third a single air-raid siren—and in Schick's recording of it for Cantaloupe Records, you can certainly hear multiple voices in sections like "Rumble" and "Roar," where the sounds are tonal, rippling, and almost spooky. Some parts are processed electronically, and others allow the listener to simply luxuriate in the natural acoustic resonance of struck, rubbed, and bowed percussion instruments. —Peter Margasak



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