Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan

Three Nights at MATA Keeps Your Ear on its Toes

“Incomparable Contrivances,” the final concert in this year’s festival, brought New York’s Talea Ensemble, conducted by James Baker, to The Kitchen on Saturday, April 18. Dan Van Hassel‘s Ghost in the Machine took the use of electronics in a refreshing direction, with small mechanical devices triggering sounds from unmanned percussion instruments placed about the stage building a luscious texture of acoustic sounds, controlled by electronic means. Matthias Kranebitter‘s packthebox(withfivedozenofmyliquorjugs) involved a pre-recorded electronic track, which cued rabid bursts of material from piano, flute and trombone, the latter being played into the body of the piano. Further down the electronic rabbit hole, Davor Branimir Vincze’s Inflection Point evolved slowly and subtly before its electronic element emerged as a dreamlike echo, reproducing the acoustic material like a hazy memory.

Ann Cleare‘s eöl, another MATA commission, featured homemade, wearable percussion instruments, rather sinister in appearance and which easily could have been plucked from the props table of Mad Max. Percussionist Alex Lipowski played into the moderate theatricality suggested by this gear with dramatic effect, though it was unclear whether or not the sounds produced justified their construction and use. That said, the visual element, while abstract, was certainly an intentional component of the piece.

Following this work, Ofir Klemperer joined the Talea Ensemble to sing his A Love Song, in which his brutal, hardcore and punk-styled vocals (sung largely through a bullhorn) were supported by intricately notated rhythms, played on indefinite pitches. Klemperer’s direction to the ensemble to play “as loud and violent [sic] as possible, constant crescendo” were carried out to the letter.

As if to summarize the varied and highly successful works of this and the previous nights of the MATA Festival, Sam Pluta‘s Machine Language was a kinetic and inspiring triumph of precision in improvisation.  Percussionists Alex Lipowski, Ian Antonio, and Russell Greenberg walloped their way through exciting patterns and timbres on woodblocks, drums, gongs and cymbals, suspended over a nebulous haze of droning textures produced by microtonal violins, electronics and accordion bellows. Exciting and bombastic, Pluta’s work is the stuff for which standing ovations are made.

Indeed, to summarize the breadth of talent put on display throughout MATA’s 2015 Festival, one can only say that the future of creative music is inspired and exciting. Artistic Director Du Yun’s good taste and ear for potential in selecting this year’s participants largely prevailed over the misstep of including her own work in the program, and has set the bar high for future seasons. Just as important, it will be very exciting to see how the careers of those featured in this year’s programming continue to develop and, perhaps, evolve as a result of having been included.