Ziniu Chen | Staff PhotographerPulp
Future classic: Chamber music performance group Dinosaur Annex brings modern, surreal sound to Setnor Music Hall
The cello pulsed in low, haunting waves while the jumpy piano echoed the high woodwinds. The piano, cello, clarinet and flute sounded in a perpetual crescendo before slowly fading away, expressing what composer Daniel Godfrey called “a mix of beauty and melancholy.”
“I was happy with the performance,” said Godfrey, Setnor School of Music composer-in-residence.
Godfrey worked with Neva Pilgrim, director of the Society for New Music, to bring Dinosaur Annex to Syracuse. The Tuesday evening concert, before an audience of roughly 60 community members and a few Syracuse University students, was Boston-based Dinosaur Annex’s second stop on its current tour.
All five pieces that renowned chamber ensemble Dinosaur Annex performed contained a mix of melancholy and beautiful.
The group – seven musicians and conductor Jeffrey Means – bills themselves as “creating the future of contemporary music,” and their traditional cellos, pianos, woodwinds and drums produced a fittingly futuristic sound.
One piece, Annie Gosfield’s “The Harmony of the Body-Machine,” gleaned its title from a chapter in H.G. Wells’ science textbook, and accompanied the sweeping cello performance of guest artist Rafi Popper-Keizer with recordings of metallic scraping, clanking and droning.
The eerie, mechanical additions bolstered rather than distracted from Popper-Keizer’s rich cello part, and when the last wistful notes died away, the applause of the audiencerequired him to return for a second bow.
Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon’s “Jacaras,” inspired by popular Mexican ballads, sounded similarly surreal. The piece began with an ominous violin part accompanied by scattered notes of support from the cello and piano. Pianist Donald Berman would occasionally reach over the keys to pluck the strings themselves.
The three instruments swelled and faded together in a haunting reverie that fit seamlessly with “The Harmony of the Body-Machine”.
Dinosaur Annex then performed “In Thin Air” for the second time in front of an audience. Composed by co-artistic director of Dinosaur Annex Yu-Hui Chang, the piece made its debut Sunday at Harvard University. Chang introduced the song, saying she was inspired by “a sense of unfulfillment.”
The rapid chiming of cymbals and piano gradually faded into the deep strains of the violin and thunder-like rumbling of the drums. All three instrumental parts seemed quietly frantic with longing, and the piece ended with the faint, insistent plunking of piano and percussion braced by a dying thread of violin. Chang took the stage to excitedly hug the musicians before they all bowed to the applause of the audience.
“All the details came out better,” Chang said, referring to the slight differences from Sunday’s performance at Harvard, and explaining her gratitude for the chance to have one group of musicians repeatedly working together on her piece.
After a brief intermission, the musicians of Dinosaur Annex played Godfrey’s “Luna Rugosa,” the composition he referred to as mixing the melancholy and beautiful. The title, Italian for “wrinkled moon,” comes from a poetic expression for the reflection of the moon on water, in keeping with the “deeply contemplative” mood Godfrey wanted to convey.
When the piece ended, the whistling flute and clarinet slowly falling back into the gentler melodies of the piano, Godfrey climbed onstage to smilingly hug and shake hands with the performers as they bowed.
The concert concluded with the entire ensemble taking the stage to perform Steven Stucky’s “Boston Fancies.” The music immediately rose to a tense, dramatic peak, and then the different parts broke away. The instruments repeatedly built to a high-pitched frenzy and then dropped, always revealing in those quieter moments a distant, dreamy clarinet or cello.
When the music ended just before 10 p.m., the eight figures in crisp, black clothes bowed to an enthusiastic crowd.
Tuesday’s performance marked the group’s first visit to SU. Dinosaur Annex will continue its tour at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester tomorrow night.
“It was a really special experience,” said Sheng Yu, an amateur composer and second-year graduate student in applied statistics. “The arrangement is quite unique.”
Thomas Wolfe is leaving his position as senior vice president and dean of student affairs to become the new president of Iliff School of Theology… Read more »
UPDATED: MAY 15, 4:35 p.m. Syracuse University students will soon see new living options in downtown Syracuse, after a new construction company revamps a vacant… Read more »
THEY'RE BACK: Syracuse pulls off furious comeback win against Yale to return to final four after longest absence since 1979
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Brian Megill sprinted over to Dominic Lamolinara and catapulted into his arms. The game was over. The unthinkable was no longer… Read more »