Music Program

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 at 8:00 p.m.

$7 general, $5 students

Null Point 8: Virtuosities in Experimental Music

featuring Zane Merritt and Ethan Hayden

7:15-8:00pm installation open

8:00-9:30pm concert

9:30-10:00pm installation open

Colin Tucker - distances swarming and encompassing for solo prepared electric guitar (2011/2014)

Mieko Shiomi - boundary music for extremely quiet sounds (1963)

Dmitri Kourliandski - Voice-off for solo voice (2010)

Zane Merritt - Double Etude Gizmo Mechanism Device Machine (class α, set 1, no. A) for solo electric guitar and stereo audio (2015)

Einar Torfi Einarsson - Negative Dynamics 1a for a string player (2011) (North American premiere)

Ethan Hayden - "…ce dangereux supplément…" for solo voice and electronics (2015)

Eva-Maria Houben - La Solemnité des Silences, performance installation for ensemble (2005)

Colin Tucker - [new sound installation] for concealed speakers (2015)

Ethan Hayden, voice/trombone/electronics
Zane Merritt, electric guitar
Colin Tucker, cello

Virtuosities in Experimental Music

Null Point, an experimental music ensemble from Buffalo, NY, will present "Virtuosities in Experimental Music". In 19th century Western classical music, virtuosity often implies an illusion of effortlessness in performance, as if the performer transcends the instrument's resistances. In contrast, in works on this program, impediments inherent in instruments and in the protocols of concert performance are a point of departure; difficulty is then less an end in itself than a way to render audible obstacles encountered in the act of performing. Virtuosity in this concert program leads not to grandiose assertions of "mastery" but instead to states of delicate vulnerability.

Works by Kourliandski, Hayden, Merritt, and Tucker take up conventional virtuoso concerns such as density and simultaneity, but in ways that approach thresholds of impossibility. Tucker's piece for solo electric guitar takes its point of departure from the ruins of rock guitar gestures. The guitar's tone is distorted and muted by preparations inserted between the strings (a spring coil and masking tape); moreover, the guitar's volume pedal operates independently of the actions of the guitarist's hands. While the guitarist's fingers execute characteristically dense "hammer-on" passages, the preparations and independent volume pedal, together with extended silences, function to denature the hammer-on gesture's sonic and syntactic impact.

Kourliandski's Voice-off takes a different approach to thresholds of possibility. The piece is an extended, rapid-fire montage of sounds produced by the tongue, lips, teeth, breath, and more (sounds produced by the vocal chords are an exception). The piece begins focusing upon the tongue and lips, and progressively adds more and more vocal techniques. In this athletic piece, the performer must execute an increasing number of techniques in rapid succession, even while fatigue increases as the 15-minute-long piece goes on, creating a uniquely precarious fragility that is especially palpable in a live performance.

Other works on the program, such as those by Shiomi, Kudirka, and Houben, explore subtleties of timbre, volume, and performer interaction. These issues are often not connected to notions of virtuosity, and yet they often present performers with challenges that are no less considerable than those of more conventional "virtuoso" repertoire. Shiomi's Boundary Music and Kudirka's Light 1 explore nuances of sustained tones: the former features tones on the threshold of audibility, while the latter foregrounds the difficulty and fragility inherent in performing extended, gradual diminuendi. Houben's La Solemnité des Silences investigates a virtuosity of listening in the form of cueing systems; the music's direction is determined in real time as players listen to and respond to each other and environmental sounds.

Null Point and/or its members have given the North American and/or world premieres of all pieces except Shiomi; all works on the program except the Shiomi are regional premieres.