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Beauty from Different Angles: Ethel, April 12 at St. Ambrose’s Rogalski Center PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 05:25

Ethel. Photo by James Ewing.

The string quartet Ethel refers to itself as a “band” and uses amplified classical instruments and improvisation. It’s called a “post-classical” ensemble, and the group has toured with Todd Rundgren and appeared on guitarist/songwriter/singer Kaki King’s 2012 album Glow.

Ethel is the very definition of “crossover,” and if all that doesn’t scare you, try this sample from Pitchfork.com’s (strongly positive) review of Heavy, its 2012 record: “The violins peel off into glass shards, and the cello starts moaning. It’s a relief from the opening melee, but only insofar as scalp-prickling fear that there is a serial killer lurking in your home is technically preferable to the certainty of being stabbed to death.”

At Ethel’s April 12 performance at St. Ambrose University, don’t expect quite that level of eclecticism. Or violence.

But the Present Beauty program Ethel will play still covers plenty of territory on the theme of “what it is to experience beauty from different angles,” said violinist Tema Watstein in a phone interview last month.

 
Photos from Eric Sardinas Concert, March 23 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Matt Erickson   
Tuesday, 26 March 2013 09:54

Photos from the Eric Sardinas concert at the Redstone Room on March 23, 2013. For more work by Matt Erickson, visit MRE-Photography.com.

Photo by Matt Erickson, MRE-Photography.com

 
A Judiciously Expansive Palette: The Kopecky Family Band, March 26 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 19 March 2013 16:46

The Kopecky Family Band. Photo by Will Morgan Holland.

The second track on the debut album by the Kopecky Family Band is the mid-tempo number “Heartbeat,” pleasant but unremarkable until the two-tiered bridge, which ultimately explodes with what sounds like a theremin.

It’s actually co-founder Gabe Simon whistling, multitracked and treated with reverb, and those 15 seconds demonstrate a maximalist tendency – understandable for a six-person band with members who play several instruments. The album starts with horns and cello, for instance, before the guitar rock kicks in, and the record employs an expansive sonic palette.

But the key thing about that whistling is that it’s right, the perfect touch at the perfect moment. Beyond the typical mix of loud and quiet songs, the Kopecky Family Band on the vibrantly dynamic Kids Raising Kids (out April 2 on ATO Records) has a judiciously sharp sense of how much or little songs require; adventurousness is tempered by discipline.

“Change” is acoustic guitar, some ethereal atmospherics, and vocals – anchored by the inherently poignant singing of Kelsey Kopecky. Straightforward opener “Wandering Eyes” has a swagger bordering on stalker menace. “Are You Listening?” finds Simon whistling again, but in a conventionally tuneful way.

“That’s the dynamic of the record: to get that simple or to get as a big as a song like ‘Hope’ – multiple layers, tons of strings, tons of keyboards ... ,” Simon said. “There have to be those moments when you say, ‘Does it need everything? ... Can this song survive just by itself? Or does the song need these layers to build it into something great, ... memorable?’ That’s what I think is cool about the record: It has both of those things. That’s what six people allows to happen.”

 
Photos from the Ana Popović Concert, March 15 at Rascals Live PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Matt Erickson   
Tuesday, 19 March 2013 11:46

Photos from the Ana Popović concert at Rascals Live on March 15, 2013. For more work by Matt Erickson, visit MRE-Photography.com.

Photo by Matt Erickson, MRE-Photography.com

 
Straddling a Stylistic Gulf: The Quad City Symphony, March 9 at the Adler Theatre PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Frederick Morden   
Sunday, 17 March 2013 17:09

With one foot on the familiar, sturdy dock of 19th Century Romanticism and the other in the precarious boat of innovative and demanding 20th Century Modernism, the Quad City Symphony was able in its March 9 concert to demonstrate diametrically different musical styles without drowning – but not without getting wet.

Without a guest soloist to share the stage and musical load, Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith and the Quad City Symphony showcased two iconic Russian pieces for virtuoso orchestra: Maurice Ravel’s orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Either piece by itself would have been considered a featured work, but together they were a grueling concerto for orchestra that required the musicians to perform as though each was a soloist.

Both compositions are musical depictions of works from other artistic disciplines: The Rite (a piece of Modernism first performed in 1913) accompanied an original story ballet, and Pictures (first composed in the late Romantic style period in 1874) described the subjects of paintings by Viktor Hartmann. Both composers used variations in orchestration, tempo, tonality, and melodic texture to differentiate the subject matter or plot of each painting or dance. But the orchestra struggled with the radically different use of these elements, and as a result the contrast between Romanticism and Modernism wasn’t always clearly demonstrated in the performance.

 
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