Fearless Symmetryposted on November 16th, 2010 by Sara Wintz
Most of the time, we think about music in terms of lines—not shapes. If we do experience elements of geometry in music, they often aren’t the subject of the music. At Bringing Down the Stars and Moving Them Around (Nov. 6) at the Alexander Kasser Theater, Sō Percussion performed works that tested the shape of sound: Proximity, by Cenk Ergün, and Pléïades, by Iannis Xenakis.
In Proximity, long lines of accented sounds occurred at varying distances from each other. The piece showed a space to us by demonstrating what sorts of activity can happen within it. For Ergün, who frequently collaborates with choreographers, it seems important to discuss physical manifestations in his music—an importance reflected in this particular work’s title, “Proximity,” which means nearness in space or time and here alludes to the physical universe, the audience, and this music’s relationship to the audience.
Sō Percussion performed the piece in close proximity to one another and far up toward the front of the stage, in close proximity to the audience. So close to the edge of the stage, the performers’ movements were even more exposed, and the audience could be even more attentive to isolated sounds throughout this piece.
Where Proximity existed as a physical space, Xenakis’s Pléïades invaded our physical space. At times, sounds extended past the established surface of audibility and deeper into our “inner ear.” As the title suggests, Pléïades sounded like star clusters, the result of repeated rhythmic patterns, Xenakis’s interest in mathematics, and a very peculiar instrumentation. The piece’s uniquely stellar coloration came by way of the sixxen, an instrument composed of metal plates that Xenakis designed for this piece. The composition shimmered as a result. Sō Percussion performed Pléïades, a percussion sextet, with the Meehan/Perkins Duo.
Where Proximity existed as a field or a sound space that we responded to, Pléïades jumped out and became literally part of the audience. Every moment of Bringing Down the Stars and Moving Them Around was uniquely palpable and very deeply felt.
Sara Wintz’s writing has appeared in The Poetry Project Newsletter, Jacket, HTMLGIANT, 6×6, and HARRIET: The Poetry Foundation Blog and is forthcoming in The Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry. She was communications assistant at Peak Performances from 2009 to 2010 and is a 2010 graduate of the MFA program in writing at Bard College.