Two nights ago I had the great pleasure of attending two vastly different creative spaces. First, Tabitha and I went to see the Chicago Symphony play a concert under the baton of Alan Gilbert, the same person who conducted my last Civic concert of the year. The program started with a piece for orchestra and two pianos called "Tabuh-tabuhan" by the Canadian composer Colin McPhee. Interesting in concept (McPhee lived in Bali for seven years after becoming intrigued by a recording of a Javanese gamelan, an ensemble of percussive, bell-like sounds), the piece was just kind of too busy for my ears. It was hard to focus on any one thing, although it was interesting to hear eastern influences and rhythms in such a western ensemble. The second piece was Ravel's "Mother Goose" ballet suite, one of my personal favorites since playing it with Civic my first year. It's a beautiful atmospheric piece, with many gentle and touching moments. Ravel originally wrote the melodies as a piano duo suite for the two children of a couple he had befriended, and later arranged the piece as ballet music. The final piece on the program was Aaron Copland's third symphony. I didn't dislike it, but all I could think about while it was happening was how much Copland sounds like nobody else but Copland. (Well, maybe Bernstein on occasion.) It sounded so american to me. And I think if I heard it on the radio, something about the harmonies or the overall musical language would tip me off almost immediately. It's interesting to hear somebody with such a distinct style.
So the concert was fun and well-played, despite my lack of love for much of the music. Afterwards, we headed out to a music and art party at my friend Isabel's place. When we got there, we entered this incredibly hot apartment to find a set of "double-duets" happening, i.e. four people total playing one cello and one violin (one person bows each instrument, and the other fingers). There were also people writing on walls and painting the communal canvas in the living room. Pretty soon, this girl started playing an electronic patch she had written on her laptop, and people started improvising around it, singing and playing instruments. I could feel so much energy and intensity passing around the room. It sounded and felt amazing. I can't think of two more different ways to spend a single evening. Both were exciting, but the creativity was much more palapable, tactile, at the second event. I hope I get to do that again sometime soon.
And now, off to Arizona until Monday.