Having recently gotten married, I’ve fallen a little behind on writing about the concert experiences I’ve had lately. But I want to bring your attention to a show I went to on June 9th. Equilibrium presented local composers Gleb Kanasevich and Marti Epstein on a split-bill at Third Life Studio in Somerville.
Kanasevich, a clarinetist, has appeared as a soloist with various orchestras and ensembles and has been a resident/visiting artist with many institutions and festivals. He is currently working towards a PhD in Composition at Brandeis University. His set began with the world premiere of Penetrations (2016), a piece by Rahilia Hasanova. Performed on bass clarinet, it vacillated between a strained, tortuous sound and a mellifluous melody, forming a dichotomy that felt oddly comforting. Mysterious low to middle range tones that sounded bouncy and jazzy at times, mixed with higher notes peppered with Aeolian frills and flutter tongue.
Next, we heard the U.S. premiere of swathe (2015)—a piece by Ian Power, who was in attendance. Armed with his clarinet, Kanasevich performed what felt like a sound experiment: the piece began by repeating the same note over and over, the performer extending the note seemingly as long as his breath would allow. Different repeated notes would follow in the same form, and this went on for at least half an hour, elapsing through the middle and high range of the instrument, creating a hallucinogenic effect wherein one grew hypnotized by the exhaustive and at times, even abrasive repetition. Sustained high notes produced with the performer’s full lung capacity at first induced a level of aural discomfort that was just at the threshold of being plainly uncomfortable. Yet, the ears grew accustomed to the intensity, and before long, fell under its uncanny influence. The performer seemed to be pushing against the tones with his air, mixing Aeolian sounds with notes, and reaching the high range where a sudden shift in pitch done on the same breath induced a surreal sonic effect—like hearing sound underwater. When the tones slowly diminished at a point, one felt a sense of incompleteness, a feeling of not wanting this to end. A sudden return to extended lower register tones completed this profoundly meditative experience.
Another piece by Rahilia Hasanova, Agog (1994), ended Kanasevich’s idiosyncratic set. Siren-like crescendos engulfed a wild assortment of rapidly spun notation. The virtuosic atonal piece for clarinet leapt around the instrument’s range at high speed, making one wonder where and when the performer breathed. As described in the program notes, the agog “is the representation of the psychological condition of people who live in a state of extreme excitement and anticipation…suddenly becoming independent, they desire eagerly about opportunities that…they think, they didn’t have before…Expecting…assuming…wondering…dreaming…they spend their lives in the agog.” Hasanova grew up in Azerbaijan, a post-Soviet republic, and became one of the most progressive composers of her time. She currently lives in the United States.
After intermission Boston-based composer Marti Epstein took the stage. Her music has been performed by various orchestras and ensembles, and she has been commissioned by the Fromm Foundation, Guerilla Opera, and Longy School of Music, among many others. She is a Professor of Composition at both Berklee and the Boston Conservatory. Her set began with François Couperin’s three-minute 6éme Ordre de clavecin: “Les Barricades Mysterieusus” (1717). We the audience learned that Epstein would play this pleasant baroque piece as a “warm up” for Paul Fake’s starkly contrasting 45-minute Piano Sonata, whose world premiere she performed immediately after. According to the program notes, Fake’s piece explores the use of “inharmonic spectral tones, or tones played so quietly above a louder fundamental that they are heard as part of the timbre of the low note rather than as independent tones.” Indeed, like countless rain drops, the many rapid notes along, with their intensity, seemed to appear and fade away like an echo. From where did they come? Where were they going? Soon enough, another wave of notes would materialize out of the remnants of the last upsurge.
Fake's notes state that another theme explored “is that of harmonic spectral exploration realized through sympathetic resonance.” Undoubtedly, the piece lacked a typical arching flow. Its many micro gaps and forte stops woven within its structure emphasized the spectral tones more than a continuous line of forward momentum, making it a truly unconventional sonata. Its overall effect was contemplative, even with occasional chapters of intense low range, thunder-like grumbling. Epstein received an enthusiastic ovation.
Equilibrium, founded in 2011, aims to showcase the work of local performers and composers, “bringing new, unheard, and underrepresented music” to the region. The show at Third Life Studio aptly complemented its mission, giving its audience an unusual, highly stimulating evening of uncommonly heard music performed by local composers.