Attended the third and final concert in the Crossing's Month of Moderns series at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian. The choir sang works by Lansing McLoskey, Frank Havroy, Paul Fowler, Thomas Jennefelt, David Shapiro and Kile Smith. Nice stuff, all of it, but it all kind of ran together for me. Maybe the heat has been making me stupid, but I couldn't tell much differnce between one piece and the next, with the exception of Jennefelt's Villarosa Sarialdi, an exercise in Reichian minimalism for voices written in 1997. There wasn't much to it, but it stood out from the pack by virtue of a few jaunty rhythms that at least got me nodding my head.
Throughout the evening, I found myself longing for a bitonal dissonance, a clash of meters, anything to pierce the reverent, sleepy-time atmosphere. I kept thinking what a great job these singers could do with something gritty, like Ives's psalm settings or the Harvest Home Chorales. The Crossing specializes in brand-new music, and Ives would be too old for its program director, I guess, but compared to some of the young composers I've heard on Crossing programs, he's a Turk. Too much new music seems to me timid and backward-looking compared to what was being written a century go - or even two centuries ago. I got more of a charge from a performance of the B Minor Mass a couple of months ago.
As I was typiing this, I was inpired to put on the SWR Vokalensemble's CD of Ives' psalm settings. Hair-raising, fiendishly stuff that and at the same time so wonderfully alive. I do believe I'm waking up.