I attended a performance of the CUBE Contemporary Chamber Ensemble in Fulton Hall at the University of Chicago, thinking that with the Super Bowl in a few hours, hardly anyone would be attending this concert. How wrong I was! There were many people there, ranging from established professor-types to curious young musicians like myself.
The program consisted of:
-untitled interactive improvisation for steel sound sculpture (2012), percussionist, and computer, Ben Sutherland & Howard Sandroff
-Spiral Density (fixed media) for oboe and electronics (2013) (World Premiere), Sarah J. Ritch
-Figment IV for solo viola (2008), Elliot Carter
-In Freundschaft (1977), Karlheinz Stockhausen
-Palaver & Palliative for English Horn and keyboard (2013) (World Premiere), John Elmquist
-Elegy for solo viola and piano (1987), Patricia Morehead
-Tephillah for clarinet and computer controlled audio processors (1990), Howard Sandroff
Performers were Patricia Morehead, oboe & founder of CUBE, Michael Hall, viola, Alejandro T. Acierto, clarinet, Philip Morehead, piano, and Ben Sutherland, computer.
The pieces that caught my attention were Elegy and Tephillah. Elegy was written by Patricia Morehead to "express [her] anguish for...a close relative who has an incurable mental disorder", and these emotions were effectively communicated. Ranging from lyrically mournful lines to sudden spurts of disorganized notes and gestures, the piece was sensitive and discerning. Michael Hall did a fine job interpreting Elegy, with a clean and straightforward performance.
Tephillah ("prayer" in Hebrew) was the real draw of the concert. The work was composed to reflect the "seemingly disordered and spontaneous manner in which a service is conducted by Orthodox Jewish men of the Ashkenazic tradition", and was made up of a traditional clarinet part, performed by Alejandro Acierto, and a computer-generated clarinet part, performed by Ben Sutherland. Program notes also state that the piece is in three movements; I hadn't noticed any movements per se, but rather, changes in musical characters (i.e. active and jumpy suddenly eased into a meditative state).
Alejandro had to begin twice due to start problems with the computer's part (voila! modern repertoire can yield modern problems), but that seemed to have had no effect on his concentration or delivery. The computer-clarinet part was often a looped mirror of what Alejandro had previously played, acting at times as a background drone. The piece was well-conceived, but Alejandro's delivery truly brought it to life. He plays with a smooth and warm tone, and had a large dynamic range, which is one of the qualities I love most about the clarinet. His gave off a reflective and attentive air, and wasn't afraid to take his time while playing a phrase.