The Stony Brooks Composers’ Concert
On Tuesday, October 29, The Stony Brooks Composers held an evening concert at the Recital Hall, which entailed a four pieces, written by three different composers. The Recital Hall is rather a small public space, which makes audiences sit close to the performers. With nearly four hundred people in attendance, it was my first time sitting nearly four meters away from stage. The small confined space added to the clarity of the sound and the power of the pieces, as music seemed to float in front of a person’s eyes. The four pieces included Niloufar Nourbakshs’s The Darkness of the Womb, Kevin Kay’s Visuality, Alan Hanker’s Inhale/Exhale and Intensity of Color. The auditorium and the music were designed in ways that make the performances interactive, causing a more immersive experience for the audience. The four-piece performance and brilliant stage management deserved to be met with praise, support and passionate applause.
The opening piece was The Darkness of the Womb, which is a music composition informing on how human birth serves as a reminder of the human society’s cyclical nature. For the performance, Sarah Young sat at the piano while Alina Tamborini lent her soprano as the single singer. The piano introduced the vocalist while equally directing the tempo of the pitches. With no words, the melody gradually increased in pace as the pianist elevated the energy and vibrancy of the keys. The pattern is repeated five times in the performance to denote five different times in human history where the darkness of mankind superseded conventional imagination. Fascinating is how most of the crowd felt stiff yet consumed by the performance. There was a certain degree of intent from the vocalist that the observer could not simply shake off.
The second movement, Visuality, opens with Kay personally playing the clarinet. The play is quite confusing as the main focus is human sight, yet sound is the primary tool for exploring the sense. The clarinetist did not move the entire performance resulting in a person not entirely focusing on the performance. The rhythm entailed variations of high to low sounds and vice versa to create a harmonic language similar to that of a whirling wind. At the beginning of the performance, Kay informed the audience to pay close attention to how sight and thought shifted with changes in sound. As the sound from the clarinet grew in power, the movement felt collective. The sensation is similar to that of moving wind. However, as the sound lessened, one perceived individual objects moving with the wind, such as leaves or dust. The mood throughout the piece was rigid and isolative.
The third piece, Inhale/Exhale, was the most complex yet most entertaining performance of the night. The pianist used an array of simple traditional instruments, such as bottle glass, bamboo wood and rough paper to produce different sounds. Tamborini serves the soprano; Vetter plays the clarinet while Peter White covers the percussions. Unlike the preceding compositions, Kay’s movement was frantic and all-over the stage, which contributed to the excitement and active pace of the piece. The performance starts with a simple pitched drone prior to the entry of the clarinet and vocalist. The sounds from the different instruments come together to create a broken sensation in the music. The texture of the performance becomes so hysterical towards the end that the movement dominates the music. The autonomous nature of the instruments creates a broken melody that is difficult to repeat or replicate in terms of the depth of immersive experience.
The last piece, Intensity of Color, is a two-phase baroque cello composition that expounds on the relationship between color and sound. In the first phase, as the cello plays, a dancer spreads different shades of color on stage. It was as if each note from the cello was meant to inspire the use of distinct color shades and density. Even though there was no literal pattern in the dance for the audience to follow, it was apparent that there was a clear emotional trajectory. The first movement was ambiguous, the second aggressive and the third quite brutal. The second phase used same colors but different contrasts to create abstract art from the melodic waves.
Alan Hankers Intensity of Color