Thursday, March 15, 2012

Concert pulls columnist to his feet

By Alex Domine, A&E Columnist

When I was asked whether I was going to the PLU Wind Ensemble Concert, I had no idea that I would be engaging in a psychedelic experience. The PLU Wind Ensemble played the world premier of a mixed media piece by contemporary composer Scott McAllister on Tuesday in Lagerquist Concert Hall.

The PLU Wind Ensemble opened with “The Finish Line,” composed by PLU alumna Cindy McTee.

“Spheres” was the second piece on the program. It is a gorgeous setting by composer Oja Geilo. The piece was inspired by the idea of God looking upon the world granting graces to those who ask for it. The chords in “Spheres” were so full that I half expected the ground to quake.

“Spheres” was brilliant. However, both pieces became faded silhouettes because I was electrified by the subsequent programming later on in the show.

The finale of the first half of the program was a piece called “Asphalt Cocktail,” by John Mackey. This setting was inspired by the sensation of riding a skateboard and face planting on the pavement. The turbulence of the piece rivaled nuclear explosives.

It must have been quite the fall because “Asphalt Cocktail” was wrought with high octane. Watching the percussionists pivot on an axis to get to their instruments left me brethless.

The music was unstoppable. You would be lucky to hear a pitch held out for more than two seconds. There wasn’t a moment of rest throughout the piece. I felt like I was chained to a high-speed treadmill.

Most notable performance goes to sophomore Luke DeDominces on mallet percussion. At one point, he played with four mallets held between his fingers simultaneously. His performance was reminiscent of an Olympic track relay, only he passed the baton to himself. “Asphalt Cocktail” was my favorite piece on the program.

The entire second half was dedicated to one multi-movement, mixed-media piece. “Mercury On The Moon” featured PLU Chair of vocal studies professor Jim Brown. The piece included special effects unorthodox to a typical concert hall. Brown played an electric guitar and a megaphone. His microphone was rigged with voice filters and he spoke in tongues.

“Mercury On The Moon” was stunning. It was politically charged, avant-garde and controversial. It may have rubbed people the wrong way.

There were excerpts where a derogetory term commonly used to describe homosexuals was held out by Brown for multiple times. In addition, a recording of a voice screaming “Satan” was played multiple times during the piece. Mackey exceeds the role of a composer. He’s an intellectual visionary.

The amount of musicianship required for the entire program was colossal. Each note needed to be exquisitely timed for the concert to come together. Incorporating technology and audio recordings into a live concert is bold because of the heightened chance for malfunctions. However, the ensemble performed each piece with a musical precision that pulled me to my feet by the final note.