Monday, November 8, 2021

NAC Presents its Piano and Multimedia Concert

The New Arts Collaboration (NAC) describes itself as “an interdisciplinary art project for sound and multimedia.” It is currently curated by Ting Luo, who planned a premiere piano recital involving both multimedia and extended performance techniques for the piano itself. At the end of this past September, Ting presented NAC’s premiere concert at the Center for New Music to raise funds for the recital she was preparing. That recital took place yesterday afternoon, presented by Old First Concerts (O1C).

The program consisted of recent work by nine different composers. Three of them, Danny Clay, Christopher Cerrone, and Chatori Shimizu, provided their own media supplements. Each of the remaining six selections involve a partnership between a pianist and a media artist. This made for a considerable amount of content served up over the course of about an hour and 45 minutes (including an intermission). The music offered a wide variety of different technical and rhetorical approaches to composition, and the variations in media design were just as extensive. If ever a video recording deserved to be added to the O1C archives, this is definitely it!

It is now the “morning after” that concert, and I must confess that I am struggling to mine a few memorable gems out of yesterday afternoon’s richly absorbing experience. I suppose that my strongest memory is of the six short movements of Clay’s “Six Threads.” Readers may recall that he prepared his own graphics for a suite entitled Sounds in Motion, whose score was a graphic display which I described as “lovingly crafted squiggles, wiggles, blobs and doodles.” In “Six Threads” Clay augmented his approaches to animating shapes to include animating words, taking the titles of his six movements as points of departure: “Prelude,” “Polyphony,” “Videogame,” “Garlic,” “loops,” and “Window.” Ting’s account of Clay’s playfulness could not have been more engaging, suggesting that the rhetoric of humor tends to be more memorable than the more serious reflections encountered during the rest of the program.

This is not to downplay the significant innovations of the other eight works on the program. The videos covered a rich diversity of both natural and abstract images. Similarly, the audio accompanying the piano frequently served up engaging confrontations between the piano and different approaches to audio synthesis. Nevertheless, the entire program felt like a vigorous competition for attention; and, in the midst of so much of that competition, Clay’s casual sense of humor afforded the most memorable experiences.

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