Saturday, May 20, 2017

Switchboard Music’s Festival will Celebrate Tenth Anniversary

Next month the annual Switchboard Music Festival will celebrate Switchboard Music’s tenth anniversary. The Festival involves an uninterrupted flow of sets all involving adventurous programming. Indeed, that adjective was chosen because in 2015 Switchboard won the annual ASCAP award for Adventurous Programming, the first (and thus far only) organization on the West Coast to do so. (In light of my own perspective on adventurous practices in this country, most of which is based on recordings, my admittedly biased reaction to the award was, “It’s damned well about time!” All too often I come away feeling as if the rest of the country has worked up some “alternative definition” for “adventurous.”)

This being an anniversary year,  Switchboard has calculated some interesting retrospective statistics. Over the course of ten years the group has presented 127 hours of music. This is not limited to the annual festival; and, in fact, Switchboard was one of the earliest curators of concert programming at the Center for New Music. Those 127 hours took in over 850 musicians performing 168 sets at which over 40 premieres were presented. This year’s festival will run for an (almost) uninterrupted six hours; and, as usual, listeners may come and go as they please. The schedule is as follows:

3:00 p.m.: The San Francisco Conservatory of Music percussion quartet will perform selections from Paul Lansky’s “Threads,” written for So Percussion, and Steve Reich’s “Drumming.”

3:45 p.m.: Bay Area cellist Teddy Rankin-Parker has been collaborating with New York-based composer Michael Beharie. Their project, called Some Other Fields, is based on a longstanding interest in how the physical constraints of an instrument informs its repertoire. Rankin-Parker’s set will constitute a “progress report” for this project.

4:30 p.m.: Ryan Brown will present the second installment of a large, hour-long work for vocal quartet, percussion quartet, and two keyboards. Entitled Mortal Lessons, the work is based on a book with the same name by Dr. Richard Selzer. The final version will be a semi-staged reflection on Selzer’s lyrical, and often graphic, musings on surgery and the mysteries of the human body. Brown is currently calling this a “medical oratorio” that translates the operating theater into the concert theater.

5:25 p.m.: The duo Ramon & Jessica will perform “Roses are Blue.” This will be a musical approach to Gertrude Stein’s The World is Round, written as a book for children and published in 1939. As might be guessed, Stein was as interested in the play of the words themselves as she was in any unfolding narrative, if not more so. Ramon & Jessica approach their source with both lyrical melodies and complex rhythms. 

6:10 p.m. Billygoat is the duo of David Klein and Nick Woolley. They make their own stop-motion films by creating frame-by-frame photographs and then installing the resulting images into dynamic handcrafted 3-D landscapes. They then compose their own musical accompaniment for these films. 

6:40 p.m.: This year there will be a pause in the usual uninterrupted schedule. For about 50 minutes the action will shift to the lobby, where, in celebration of the anniversary occasion, Switchboard will host a birthday party. Free cake and beer (the latter for those 21 or older) will be served. In addition, Dennis Aman will have created an installation of interactive musical instruments he has designed to provide a suitable context for the festivities.

7:30 p.m.: Based in the Bay Area, Splinter Reeds is the quintet consisting of two double-reed players, Kyle Bruckmann (oboe) and Dana Jessen (bassoon), and three single-reed players, Bill Kalinkos (clarinet), Jeff Anderle (bass clarinet), and Dave Wegehaupt (saxophones). The group was formed in 2013, at which time it was relatively unique. Now they share repertoire with several similar groups located around the world. They will perform samples from that repertoire.  

8:15 p.m. For more than 40 years, the Kronos Quartet—David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola), and Sunny Yang (cello)—has pursued a singular artistic vision, combining a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to continually re-imagining the string quartet experience. For those of my generation, they have been leading pioneers of adventurous programming. They will close out this year’s Festival with two works from their Fifty for the Future commissioning project. The first of these will be “At the Purchaser’s Option,” composed by Rhiannon Middens and arranged by Jacob Garchick. The second will be Laurie Anderson’s “Shutter Island.” They will also play “Dadra in Raga Bhairavi,” composed by the Indian violinist N. Rajam and arranged by Reina Esmail.

This year’s Festival will take place on Saturday, June 10. The venue will be Z Space, located in the NorthEast Mission Industrial Zone at 450 Florida Street. Tickets will be $40 for standard admission and $30 for seniors and students. As already mentioned, ticket-holders may come and go as they please over the course of the Festival’s six hours. OvationTix has set up an event page through which tickets may be purchased in advance online.

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