Post image for Los Angeles Music Review: WILD UP: BROOKLYN | BRIDGE TO PALM (REDCAT)

by Jesse David Corti on April 21, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles


wild Up is an electric ensemble of twenty-two twenty-somethings who vigorously perform a maelstrom of eclectic musical works ranging from J.S. Bach to They Might Be Giants. Led by the dynamic and skittish Artistic Director-Conductor Christopher Rountree at REDCAT in Disney Hall last Wednesday, the zestful ensemble performs a bizarrely arranged program of potpourri selections with exquisite passion and ferocity.

Jesse David Corti's Stage and Cinema music review of wild Up at REDCATStruck by teal lights, an octet of woodwinds, brass, and contrabass began the program with Edgard Varése’s dark and dissonant Octandre. Though “octandre” means flower with eight stamens, the ensemble work sounded more like an octopus pursuing its prey with eight menacing tentacles. The tone clusters and organized sound here were waves of simultaneously arresting and hypnotic dynamic swells and rhythmic jolts. The next selection was the west coast premiere of David Longstreth’s mini suite: Instructional Video, Matt Damon, and Breakfast at J&M. The suite was arranged less like a classical ensemble and more like an indie rock band with the inclusion of electric guitar, marimba, piano, and bassoon. Instructional Video was jocular in tone and bounced along with a spry step, the shape-shifting and chromatically driven Matt Damon featured a beautiful passage that had William David Perryman’s bass and Derek Stein’s cello weaving in and around each other, occasionally playing in captivating harmony. Breakfast at J&M ended the suite with a propulsive, percussive, and stacatto flair; it was simultaneously charming and grating: Chris Kallmyer’s spidery guitar work was effective, but Archie Carey’s bassoon work lacked finesse.

Du Yun was in the audience to hear her adventurously dense and tone cluster-filled work Vicissitudes, which evokes a series of images: A beehive descending deep underwater; some kind of water torture happening in a far off cave; a violent, torrential storm; and a clear, moonlit sky. The many exciting sounds – a drumstick beating upon the strings of the Contrabass, piano strings being strummed by hand – give this piece punch and power; its best moment, however, is the exquisite and viciously rapid drum solo by Derek Tywoniuk.

The first clunker of the night came with violinist/guitarist Andrew Tholl’s slightly differentiated arrangement of They Might Be Giants’ Older. While it was intriguing to see Rountree pick up a drumstick and flatly strike the drum alongside other ensemble members, it was a bludgeon of baseness interrupting an evening of inspired complexity. I suppose one could argue that this was a base that required “covering” for a full spectrum of musical variety, however it stuck out like a sore thumb amongst its far more dexterous and adventurous fingers of pieces.

David T. Little gave a lengthy introduction of his piece Haunted Topography and discussed how this piece was written for veterans and played for veterans through programs like Vet to Vet. The inspiration came from a mother whose son was killed in Vietnam, but had never been shown exactly where. One day, she was allowed access to see where her son perished; seeing this map and this haunted topography allowed her to lose the weight she had been carrying for years. And the piece certainly carries the dense and mournful moods coupled with the hazy and surprising passages and shifts that one would experience in Vietnam. The bulging brass and sorrowful strings provide a flux of welling emotions that crescendo into a cacophonous climax that breaks into a peaceful stillness. For the mother: closure.

After intermission, Jacob Cooper’s (also in attendance) Black or White, a pre-recorded audiovisual piece, was projected onto REDCAT’s big screen. The slow reveal from the half-white, half-black screen to the stadium stage scene complete with an icon running to the front is intelligently illuminated with cluttered and muffled yet loud sounds of an audience cheering. Matt Marks provided solo voice for his torch song A Song for Wade he co-wrote with Royce Vavrek performed with the full ensemble. Here the evening dips its toes in uncomfortable and vainglorious cabaret; the song is about the unrequited love a homosexual teenage boy endures. Marks’ voice is grating and his ten-minute piece becomes a tedious exercise in shallow songwriting.

Jesse David Corti's Stage and Cinema music review of wild Up at REDCATJust when the evening feels like it has reached its nadir, they pull a John Cage and perform Andrew Norman’s Susanna: a solo viola piece. Andrew McIntosh seems to be exercising a great deal of control as he bows his viola like a human gaining the strength to walk after a blast knocked it unconscious. And then it continues to linger in this state…and then a little bit longer…and then a burst of notes rapturously spring forth before settling back into the slow twitch-like movements of the bow upon the strings…and more blips…and then it stops…and then it ends. For the members of the court who enjoy this sort wardrobe from the Emperor, by all means, this is for you. Thankfully, the full ensemble returned to perform the world premiere of Matt McBane’s Reveal. Starting slowly with viola and wind instruments, it gradually builds adding a sparse Rhodes piano, growing busier with xylophone and violins, and finally filling out with guitar and bass. The piece is like the bending of magnetic fields and full of primal, tribal ceremony sounding percussion. It shifts later into the hair-raising and eye-widening Shostakovich-inspired strings; polyphonic surprises spurt forth before growing into a cacophonous climax that settles into a muted and mellow coda.

The evening ended with J.S. Bach’s Concerto for 2 Violins in D Minor, arranged by Rountree. However, here the flaws of the ensemble were shown the most; the technical proficiency of Andrew Tholl and Caleb Burhans was lacking during this piece, which required the utmost musicianship; certain passages they played were slurred and weakly voiced, and they seemed to be fighting to keep in rhythm with the rest of the ensemble. It is bold to recall “true” classical (or in this instance, Baroque) style, however, it needed better execution from the whole ensemble to end the show on a popping exclamation point. It also didn’t help that the second half of the program was lackluster and less adventurous — yet still densely diverse.

Christopher Rountree’s wild Up provided an evening designed to challenge and broaden one’s musical perspective, and rattle one’s core in the process. The results are as varied and diverse as the selections themselves; the first half of the program was overall quite vibrant and accomplished, while the last half of the program was generally tedious and flat. On one hand, their daring ought to be praised; on the other hand, however, they ought to meld their effervescent energies into a program of music that is as intelligently constructed as the pieces they perform, and punctuate it with exceptional musicianship. Should they be able to do this, they will certainly be a formidable ensemble to experience. For now, it’s scattershot intellectual entertainment.

wild Up
Brooklyn | Bridge to Palm
REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater)
played on April 17, 2013
for more REDCAT info, visit http://www.redcat.org/

visit wild Up’s website at http://wildup.la

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