Motown Metal! - Chicago Classical Review

Motown MetalOne can only guess what motorists on East Randolph Street thought Wednesday night as they drove past the Harris Theater.

In between two vintage cars, four female singers performed Larry Miller’s Sentinel, a densely contrapuntal fugue imitating a bewildering array of activated car alarms. The Fluxus performance marked the 50th anniversary of George Brecht’s infamous “Motor Vehicle Sundown Event,” in which cars, trucks and motorcycles become an automotive symphony orchestra.

That–and more Fluxus performers hammering nails into blocks of wood inside the Harris Theater—served as offbeat prelude for “Motown Metal,” the concert presented by Fulcrum Point.

Rather than vehicles becoming instruments, the program morphed brass and percussion into cars and machines, then deconstructed their component parts with an array of music in Fulcrum Point’s best genre-smashing style.

Michael Daugherty’s Motown Metal, which gave the evening its title, led off in the Detroit-born composer’s punchy rock style. The chromatic scales and ascending and descending trombone glissandi make a worthy portrait of accelerating car and truck engines, and the hip-swaying middle section shows some influence of Daugherty’s time as 1960s soul-band percussionist. Under artistic director Stephen Burns’ direction, the brass ensemble delivered a vital, sassy performance.

David Lang’s the anvil chorus shows the Pulitzer Prize winner and Bang on a Can  founder’s bona fides, in a work intent on evoking the anvil’s origins. Jeff Handley and Tina Laughlin displayed impressive musical blacksmithery, handling the insistent beats and intricate rhythms with fine dexterity and precision.

Burns conducted the American premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Out of Black Dust on the same stage in June of 2009 as part of the CSO’s MusicNOW series. Despite gleaming advocacy by ten brass players and alert direction by Burns, this densely scored, Led Zeppelin-inspired work still feels like Turnage mechanically going through the motions.

Burns remains a terrific musician and his performance of Yan Maresz’s Metallics proved a tour de force.  With his live trumpet playing set against electronic sounds inspired by a variety of mutes, Burns vaulted through a daunting array of technical complexities, from high clarion notes to bass growls, like Fafner emerging from his lair.

The most purely enjoyable work was Stefan Freund’s Metal. The three movements depict the refining process but it is the music’s affection for brass-heavy 1970s pop groups like Chicago and Tower of Power that shines through in this melodic, smartly crafted music, performed with fine panache by Burns and colleagues.

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Giving up "Notes" for "Notes"

Giving Up "Notes" for "Notes"

From Lawrence Goldman, CEO of NJPAC, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. He's going to step down to run a new real estate corporation NJPAC is starting:

notes for notesThe arts centers that are going to be successful in the next decade or two are the ones that diversify their revenues, The basic economic model of presentations, tickets sales and fund-raising is beginning to break down.
Note that NJPAC has been highly successful. As a New York Times story (the source of the quote) noted:

The move does not reflect a state of emergency at the center, a need for a quick infusion of money or any shift in priorities, Mr. Goldman said. Rather, it represents a recognition that, given the economic climate, it makes sense to develop alternative sources of income and to play a more active role in animating the center's neighborhood.
I don't think it's just arts centers. Orchestras, anyone? Opera companies? Music schools?

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How well do you know Fulcrum Point?


SB-FPNMPFounded in Chicago in 1998 by Stephen Burns—a world-class trumpeter and renowned teacher, performer, conductor and composer—Fulcrum Point New Music Project is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to being the local leader in diverse new music which boldly straddles the barriers between new art music and traditional music from around the world.  Fulcrum Point New Music Project’s primary mission is to ensure a future for new art music by activelycommissioning innovative new works, presenting vibrant multi-media performances, and generating novel cultural collaborations and educational programs.

In its commitment to perform new work, Fulcrum Point has premiered pieces by a number of internationally-renowned composers, including Bruce Adolphe, George Crumb, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, HK Gruber, Fela Kuti, Aña Lara, Tania León, Hannibal Lokumbe, David Stock, Mark-Anthony Turnage and Randall Woolf – many who now sit on Fulcrum Point’s advisory council, the “Sounding Board.” Including the 2009-10 seasons, Fulcrum Point will have presented more than 100 Premieres – over 20 performed for the first time in the world - ensuring that Fulcrum Point concertgoers always experience a work they’ve never heard before!  Further, exemplifying the organization’s all-embracing approach, newly commissioned pieces often share a program with works as disparate as Duke Ellington’s Black, Brown and Beige; Aaron Copland’s clarinet concerto; or numbers by Jimi Hendrix or Frank Zappa.

With the goal of redefining the concert experience, Fulcrum Point performances often incorporate multi-media elements of film, dance, literature, poetry, and the visual arts.  Concerts are purposefully programmed around a specific theme (such as mythology from around the globe; different international cultural focus at each peace concert; and the 5-year exploration of the essential elements), encouraging audiences of diversity to make cross-cultural connections and, thereby, gain greater insight into the world today.

Throughout its twelfth-year history, Fulcrum Point has worked with many Illinois art institutions and organizations including the Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Humanities Festival, Snow City Arts, The Nature Conservancy, Merit School of Music, Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Institute of Chicago, St. James Episcopal Cathedral, the National Museum of Mexican Art, the Field Museum of Natural History, The Green Mill, Ravinia Festival, Millennium Park, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, and even the Cook County Correctional Facility to provide educational programs in conjunction with performances.  Fulcrum Point programs serve about 8,000 audience members annually -- an audience that is increasingly diverse in age, ethnic background and musical interest.  

In 2007, Fulcrum Point developed an innovative educational program titled
Sound Tracks – Exploring Global Cultures through World & New Music. The program is intended for 4th and 5th grade students in Chicago Public Schools social studies classes and highlights world and new art music to show connections between music, geography, politics, and the traditional cultures of Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.  There are currently 8-10 schools in the program, servicing close to 800 students in the Chicago area.  At present, Polk Bros. Foundation is the lead funder of this program.

Under Burns’ direction, the 21-member Fulcrum Point ensemble includes musicians for Chicago’s Lyric Opera Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony; university music faculty from Northwestern, DePaul, Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; and freelance musicians who have appeared with such entities as CUBE, Pinotage, the Chicago Philharmonic and the Chicago Sinfonietta.

Fulcrum Point New Music Project has called the Harris Theater for Music and Dance its Chicago performance home since 2004, when they performed the opening work at its gala opening.


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Fulcrum Point New Music Project Weekly Blog

Welcome to the new blog section for Fulcrum Point New Music Project. Starting next week be sure to frequent this page for industry news, fun topics and the inside scoop on Fulcrum Point New Music Project!

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