MusicNow | Harris Theater | Classical | Chicago Reader
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Agata Zubel

Agata Zubel

Barbara Czartoryska

When: Mon., March 7, 7 p.m. 2016
Price: $26
Last year Sam Adams and Elizabeth Ogonek were named Mead Composers-in-Residence by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and part of that gig involves curating the “MusicNow” series at the Harris Theater. So far they’ve demonstrated a much greater sense of imagination and adventure than their predecessors Anna Clyne and Mason Bates—in addition to dispatching with the shitty ambient DJs following performances—and that’s no more evident than with tonight’s exciting program. All of the works feature the voice, and half of the program focuses on two remarkable singer-composers. A poem by Wislawa Szymborska finds a wonderfully jagged setting in Agata Zubel’s bracing “Labyrinth,” in which the Polish vocalist’s intonation of rapid-fire phrases provides intense rhythmic fire, usually in unison with a galloping pattern played on tenor saxophone or bass—while during other moments her hushed, breathy delivery words float like omens over the restrained ensemble. New Yorker Kate Soper will perform her three-movement work Only the Words Themselves Mean What They Say, which uses text by writer Lydia Davis. Her voice is accompanied by Erin Lesser, whose flute amplifies and shadows every syllable-stretching utterance—words become like putty, imbued with meaning and odd shapes. The singer also performs on Katachi, a knockout work of chaotic shape-shifting composed by Eric Wubbels, who along with Soper is a key member of the superb New York ensemble Wet Ink. The six-movement work includes Auto-Tuned violin, a pure 60-Hz electric hum, and melodies played with a sort of looseness that generates cognitive dissonance. It floors me every time I hear it. The program is rounded out by Ogonek’s “Falling Up,” which I haven’t heard but includes texts by Arthur Rimbaud and Shel Silverstein.
— Peter Margasak

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