It takes all kinds to make the world an interesting place. The same holds true for art. The Duke University Department of Music presented, side-by-side, works of two young, energetic composers who work on the cutting edge. But they could not be more different. "New Voices," featured electroacoustic music by Paul Leary and Mark Snyder.The program included guest artists Becky Brown, harp, a University of Mary Washington student; Andrea Cheeseman, clarinet; Paige Naylor, soprano, also a University of Mary Washington student; and Thomas Rosenkranz, piano. The concert took place in the Nelson Music Room on the campus of Duke University.
Snyder presented compelling multi-media compositions, all of which included live performers and two of who are his students at the University of Mary Washington. Snyder, a lively story-teller, introduced his pieces. His work is immediate, accessible yet original, for he combines musical and visual elements that create a dreamlike effect. "Butterfly," for example, grows from a slow repeated rising fifth. Together with the changing colors of the video, I found the hypnotic effect nearly irresistible. Cheeseman played with amazing concentration and breath control. Snyder performed the very personal composition, "Harvey," also for processed clarinet, electronics, and video. He drew from the mournful tug of a slow descending minor second. Children's crayon pictures graced the screen. The effect was powerful and, for the composer, cathartic.
Snyder, a dedicated teacher, wrote two pieces for students: "Qwee" for processed harp, accordion, electronics and video; and Canción I: "Our house on the hill," with poetry by Jeanine Casler. Becky Brown, a very accomplished young harpist, played with elegant precision; I was completely mesmerized. And Paige Naylor sang with clarity and sweetness. "Our house" is a lovely fantasy of youth and optimism.
Paul Leary teaches electronic music and theory at Duke University. His pieces range from a manic hip-hop-like work on recorded stereo electronics ("Reverend Kelly's Substep") to a percussion work for anvil and live processed electronics ("Hephaestus' Fire: Music for Anvil and Electronics"). Leary's work is extroverted and adventuresome.
"Intersections" suspends time. Was I traveling fast slowly or slow fastly? I liked the way the piece evolved. But my favorite was "Perfume." Influenced by the rock band Nirvana, the composition is structured sequentially with electronics, vocal tracks, and piano. Thomas Rosenkranz made sense of the chords and watery arpeggios. He gave a commanding performance.
Altogether, this was a rewarding musical experience for those brave souls who came out on a freezing cold, rainy night.