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Compelling Mystery: The QC Symphony Performs Jennifer Higdon’s Bewildering, Beautiful “Violin Concerto” PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Frederick Morden   
Friday, 29 November 2013 05:09

Jennifer Higdon. Photo by J.D. Scott.Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto unfolds as a slow burn with flickering, firefly-like tones, then straps you into a sonic roller coaster, corkscrewing through ever-changing musical images. When you have experienced the sublime disorderliness of Higdon’s concerto, it seems miraculous that it ultimately makes sense; you have experienced something that was perceivable if not completely comprehensible.

The winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Music, Higdon’s concerto could be bewildering for audiences at the Quad City Symphony’s December 7 and 8 concerts, with its copious, fast-changing variations of instrumental combinations and dynamics: violin harmonics with small finger cymbals, tingling high woodwinds with low, growling cellos and basses, sudden changes in volume, and constantly contrasting textures of sound. The musical events might seem random at first, but somewhere in your brain, you should be able to recognize and reorganize them enough to get a sense of Higdon’s complex yet stunningly accessible musical thinking.

 
Too Few Detours: Minus Six, “Come Out from Where You Hide”; November 27 at RIBCO PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Friday, 22 November 2013 13:15

On Minus Six’s new album Come Out from Where You Hide, “Grassfed” boldly announces itself with gorgeously intertwined fast runs on sax and piano – downhill, then up, and back down again, a deft flash of early jazz grafted onto verses of piano rock. The instrumental breaks elevate the whole, with pianist Kevin Carton and saxophonist Matt Sivertsen given the space to playfully develop and explore.

It’s telling that these sections represent the whole of the song’s progression, as the verses and chorus are (relatively speaking) inert – which is where the album falters as a whole. The dominant style and overly consistent mix don’t sustain interest over the course of the record, and fertile detours don’t come quite often enough.

 
Soul in the Bits and Pieces: The Quad City Symphony, October 26 at the Adler PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Frederick Morden   
Wednesday, 06 November 2013 09:28

With a diverse, rich sampling of chamber music in its second Masterworks concert of the season, the Quad City Symphony on October 26 provided sensitive musical insight into the personal lives of composers. No symphonies, concertos, or philosophical tone poems here; rather the program included instrumental music for the stage, and vocal music about relationships with family and friends. The performance was consistently strong throughout with a strange musical shuffle near the end that almost ruined the warm, cozy atmosphere the musicians worked so hard to create.

To “Concert Conversations” participants sitting in the Adler just before the program, Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith explained that “in the old days, concerts were bookended by big works and filled in with bits and pieces of other works.” Franz Schubert’s Overture to Rosamunde and Richard Strauss’ Suite from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme might have been the ”bookends” of the program, but the soul was found in the “bits and pieces” sung by guest soprano Sarah Shafer.

 
Back to Ground Zero: Local H, November 8 at RIBCO PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Friday, 01 November 2013 05:43

Local H's Scott Lucas. Photo by Wade Hawk.

It would have been the perfect time for Scott Lucas to close the door on Local H.

In February, he was mugged in Russia, an attack that left him with damage to his vocal chords – and they still aren’t fully healed. In August, Local H announced that drummer Brian St. Clair was amicably leaving the guitar/drum duo after 14 years.

On the plus side, the band was coming off Hallelujah! I’m a Bum, which one PopMatters.com author dubbed the “best rock album of 2012,” and which TinyMixTapes.com called a “watershed album ... . Not only is it the most intricately arranged and carefully structured of the band’s 20-plus-year history, but it is also their first to delve so deeply into the polluted waters of partisan politics. ... Musically, Hallelujah! is on par with the best entries in the H catalogue. Lucas has a knack for crafting heavy rock with strong, distinctive hooks.” As epitaphs go, a band could do much worse.

But when I asked guitarist/vocalist Lucas last week about shelving his Chicago-area band given the events of 2013, he said he never seriously considered it. “This would be the second time in my life where I would sort of think that,” he said. But “at this point it’s kind of hard to separate myself from the band. When I’m dead, you won’t have to wonder what I thought and what was going through my mind. All you have to do is put on these records, and you’d know. ... This has never been a job for me. I honestly don’t know what else I would do. It is part of me, and it always has been.”

 
Hail to the Thieves: String Quintet Sybarite5 Tackles Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, and More; November 10 at Augustana College PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 31 October 2013 05:54

Sybarite5

It likely seems a minor thing, but most of the tracks on Sybarite5’s 2012 album Everything in Its Right Place clock in within a few seconds of the corresponding Radiohead versions.

The string quintet – which will have three public performances as part of its Quad City Arts Visiting Artist residency from November 4 though 10 – is by no means the first classically trained ensemble to tackle the songs of Thom Yorke and company. But it’s certainly the most faithful, and the song lengths are actually telling.

The eight arrangements by Paul Sanho Kim (on the 10-track album) are striking in matching each song nearly moment-for-moment and part-by-part. This includes lush, thick, slow pieces such as “Everything in Its Right Place” and “Pyramid Song” but also explosive rockers such as “Paranoid Android” and “2+2=5.” Crucially, neither the arrangements nor the performances castrate the songs, retaining their dynamic range and energy without drums, electric guitars, or amplification.

 
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