by MICHAEL CARUSO
The most fascinating aspect of Sunday’s Chamber Orchestra concert was the presence of the guest artists, Scrap Arts Music. You may already be wondering, “Who and what are Scrap Arts Music?” Well, they’re pretty much precisely what their name implies. The ensemble of five young musicians, four men and one woman under the directorship of Gregory Kozak, create their own percussion instruments out of what most of us would describe as scrap metal and then allow the characteristics of those instruments to inspire the creation of their music. The Chamber Orchestra’s assistant conductor, Jeri Lynne Johnson, heard the group in performance at the Painted Bride Arts Center and commissioned Kozak to compose a work for both his ensemble and hers. The result was Composition for Sigh-Chordians and Strings, which received its worldpremiere on Sunday at the start of the program’s second half under Johnson’s baton as well as Kozak’s energetic leadership of his players. The remainder of the concert featured Kozak’s Synthesoid Plasmatron of 1999, Ribs of 2001 and Agreement, also from 1999.
Composition for Sigh-Chordians and Strings is a beautifully evocative that pairs the eerie sounds of the wind with the focused tones of string instruments. It proffers an arching structure that is delineated through the rising and falling of intensities and speeds, and it travels through time with an hypnotic power over the listener.
Synthesoid Plasmatron, Ribs and Agreement are all more percussive in nature, and yet if anything all three are even more varied in timbral color and textural range than is Composition for Sigh- Chordians and Strings. Kozak’s sense of unfolding form is flawless in all three of these works and his ear for the imaginative layering of propulsive rhythms is impeccable.
I would be doing the five members of the group a grave disservice if I didn’t mention and praise here the spectacular choreography of their playing of their many instruments. Just watching them dash around the Perelman’s stage in immaculate ensemble and with explosive intensity was breathtaking. They made a thrilling contribution to the afternoon’s music-making — and Jeri Lynne Johnson deserves tremendous credit for having had the openness of mind to have encountered Scrap Arts Music in the first place and for having the courage in the second to commission a score from Kozak. Classical music exists within but it can only thrive when those traditions are invigorated with fresh input.