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January 29, 2013

In conjunction with the fabulous music series, Music on Main, PuSh presented pianist Vicky Chow playing some heavy-hitting modern composers.

It feels funny to call Igor Stravinsky and his 100-year-old Rite of Spring, modern, but it is still outside the comfort zone of many listeners. In this version for solo piano, Chow provided the necessary intensity and wild abandon. Despite what was said in the artist talk, my understanding (after reading a New Yorker article) is that the notorious riot was much more about the choreography for the ballet than the music itself. It is too bad - because I had been using this story as an example of the power of music to incite strong feeling.

The real draw of the evening, though, was a world premiere of American composer Steve Reich's Piano Counterpoint. This is a new version of his piece Six Pianos (1973), performed here with one piano and multiple sound loops which Chow triggers from her computer. Chow also played using a score on an iPad, turning the pages with a pedal. This was pretty neat.

Despite a false start (technical difficulties), Chow's style was particularly well-suited to the precision of Reich's work. It is a combination of rhythmic patterns and sections shifted in time (phasing), and as they fade in and out they provide a audio texture which is both comfortably hypnotic and uncanny . The set-up included eight speakers and the different musical phrases were more audible depending on where you were sitting in the room. I liked that you needed to strain to hear some of the far away speakers, with the sounds blending and distorting in somewhat unusual ways.

I only wish that there were more opportunities to see live performances of Reich's music in Vancouver as audiences seem hungry for it. PuSh and Music on Main are the only organizations filling this need and the performances always seem to sell out. It will be hard to top PuSh Fest event of Reich's Drumming from a few years back, but let's try!

There is a final performance on January 29th.

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January 29, 2013

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