On Saturday, June 14, 2014, I made the journey over to The DiMenna Center for Classical Music to hear Kettle Corn New Music’s concert featuring the piano trio Typical Music. Typical Music—consisting of Todd Reynolds (violin), Ashley Bathgate (cello), and Vicky Chow (piano)—played a wonderful and diverse program featuring the music of co-founder of Kettle Corn New Music Alex Weiser as well as music by Andy Akiho, Emily Cooley, David Lang, Donnacha Dennehy, and Todd Reynolds. Under the influence of Brooklyn Brewery beer and multiple bags of Kettle Corn NYC kettle corn (both offered at no expense to audience members), I relaxed in my chair and prepared myself for a chill and exciting concert experience.
The first piece on the program was Alex Weiser’s Flex, which emphasized interplay between strings and piano as well as clashing moments sprinkled throughout the piece. Textural clashes permeated the piece, from a beginning filled with piano clusters and harmonic string arpeggios to contrasting sections filled with quick piano movements against slow strings. The clashes were present in the harmonic makeup of the piece as well, placing dissonant harmonies in the piano against consonant harmonies in the strings. Weiser’s piece was well executed by Typical Music, successfully interpreting the intentions of the piece for the audience to perceive.
Following Weiser’s piece was Andy Akiho’s Five Movements for Piano Trio. Each movement uses the same material, and one movement is structured as a palindrome. The piece moved from an opening movement of strummed piano sounds and strings glissandi to a movement featuring grounded pizzicato cello against changing violin and piano parts. The third movement made liberal use of playing behind the bridge on both the cello and violin, which contrasted with the fourth movement where string drones remain static amidst arpeggiated piano lines that colored the drone. The last movement opened with unison rhythmic gestures that evolved into more independent movement. The thread woven through Akiho’s piece is easily discerned: most (if not all) of the movements are based on a ground bass along with similar rhythmic figures.
The middle of the program featured Now is the Time by Emily Cooley, who set out to explore what it means to write for piano trio. The piece began with the instruments set apart in different textural areas: the piano playing chords against pizzicato violin and cello glissandi. As the piece continued, the instruments gradually moved towards a connecting idea that united them all. Following Cooley’s piece was an arrangement of David Lang’s Wed for piano trio that Typical Music played beautifully.
Bulb by Donnacha Dennehy kicked off the second half of the concert. The piece is based on the overtone series on the fundamental G, and Dennehy takes bands of partials and stretches them out with glissandi. Throughout the piece, the violin and cello take part in a huge registral swap that turns the overtone series upside down. Aside from the formal concept of the piece, Bulb was also extremely rhythmically interesting, the groove itself joining with the registral changes to build an intensity that did not climax until just before the end of the piece.
The last piece on the program was Todd Reynolds’s Wabisabi. The title of the piece comes from a Buzzfeed-style Facbeook post Reynolds saw that had the title “23 concepts that other cultures have in words that we don’t.” The concept Reynolds latched onto was wabisabi, which basically translates to “impermanence”—everything has a cycle of life and death. The piece also marked the first piece Reynolds has written for Typical Music, although they have been playing together for years. The piece combined electronics to create a nice groove between the performers and the track. Although the groove was great, some of the samples were a bit jarring, which took away from particular moments in the piece. Aside from that, Wabisabi was overall enjoyable and well played by the ensemble.
Two beers and three bags of kettle corn later, I was out of the DiMenna Center with a smile on my face. Never being able to attend a Kettle Corn New Music concert in the past, I was happy that I had finally been able to come to one of their shows. Kettle Corn New Music is a great new presenting organization in New York City that consistently features exciting and diverse performances of pieces by up-and-coming as well as established composers. After going to their concert back in June, I am very excited for their next concert on September 13. See you there!