Sunday, May 24, 2015

First Review: More Mouvements fur Lachenmann

Music critic David Patrick Stearns on music made visible.

First Review: More Mouvements fur Lachenmann


By David Patrick Stearns

Art purposely built from mundane materials is easily dismissed as something less than it is. More Mouvments fur Lachenmann, a dance/music work that opened at the Live Arts Festival on Friday at the Arts Bank, almost invited that reaction. Pre-existing music from composer Helmut Lachenmann's "Musique concrète" period had some industrial popping and scratching sounds played on string instruments from guitar to cello. Xavier Le Roy's stylized movement (you can't call it choreography) was fashioned for the performing musicians, mostly from the shoulders up, with arm and finger movements that echoed the music with chops to the forearm or wiggling fingers.

Yet by the end, these mundane elements had a serious, cumulative effect on one's subconscious mind. When movement wasn't accompanied by music, you could almost hear the absent sounds. The impact of movement on  music was heightened: Pieces that normally sound merely abrasive, such the opening section titled "Pression," made more sense when you saw how the sounds were made. And when the spotlight on cellist Andreas Lindenbaum faded into complete darkness, your began imagining how the sounds looked.

“Salut für Caudwell,” the second part, had a pair of guitarists hidden behind black screens while two visible musicians performed movement that often suggested the physicality of playing -- and then some. In a sense, the hidden musicians had outsourced their physical presence to the others. Then one of the visible musicians, who had been chanting German words, outsourced his voice to previously-made recordings heard on overhead speakers.

Relationships between sight and sound were further scrambled in part three, “Gran Torso.” At one point, a stage full of visible musicians simply stopped and stared at the audience for a good long time. Other forms of silence were explored when the musicians seemed to be intently reading a score that prompted no sound at all.

Le Roy is really a conceptual artist here, creating the sort of journey you maybe didn't know you made, so unassuming were the components. Though I didn't love the piece while it was happening, I was glad to have been there, and grateful to Bowerbird for presenting something you'd normally not see outside of Vienna or Berlin (where Le Roy is based). The accomplished musicians of Klangforum Wien certainly made it possible: When not exploring silence, the players tossed off incredibly difficult music without seeming to break a sweat.

$25-$30. 8 p.m. 9/17. The Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad St.  


About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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