Varied and reliable music festival returns to New York

The festival of time periods has carved out a unique place for itself in New York’s musical life over the past decade – and not just be...


The festival of time periods has carved out a unique place for itself in New York’s musical life over the past decade – and not just because it occupies an otherwise barren part of the calendar at the end of August.

This contemporary music event, now a matter of several weeks, is this perfect paradox: varied reliably. Throughout the evenings, you can discover electroacoustic experiences, meditative string quartets and barrel pieces for chamber orchestra.

There’s no stylistic tribalism on offer, just a sagacious balance of good taste and calculated risk-taking. This is in part thanks to the curatorial hand of the festival executive and artistic director, Thomas Fichter, a seasoned bassist.

And it is also thanks to the quality of the performers. Ensembles like the JACK Quartet and Alarm Will Sound may be familiar to music lovers. But they are rarely presented in such concentrated portions. Each Time Spans show is typically about an hour long, while still managing to look like a full meal.

After the pandemic led to the cancellation of last year’s festival, Time Spans resumes live performances on Tuesday and continues through August 29. Presented by the Earle Brown Music Foundation Charitable Trust, and held again at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music in Manhattan, it’s a harbinger of a return to action in the city this fall.

Here is a look at four of the presentations from this edition. (Details on the festival’s Covid-19 safety protocols can be found at periods.org.)

Cellist Mariel Roberts’ debut album “Nonextraneous Sounds” heralded her as a talent to watch in 2012. Since then, she has commissioned music by george lewis and joined the Wet Ink Ensemble, a respected collection of composers and instrumentalists. His first composition for the whole group will be heard on Friday at the Ensemble’s Time Spans slot and is inspired by a story embedded in “Seiobo There Below”, a novel by Hungarian writer Laszlo Krasznahorkai.

“The story is about this man going to the Acropolis,” she said in a recent interview, “and he’s trying to get on the Acropolis. But the light is so intense and inflexible that he cannot even see his surroundings. I thought it was also an interesting concept in music.

She added that the piece shares some traits with “Arming” – his recent, often fierce, solo album of his own works which ends with passages of serious (although still aggressive) lamentation.

“Or we don’t need light” and “Weapons” both use electronics, she said, adding that between the two works, “there is a relationship in the sense that I interested in exploring beautiful harmonies, but with really a sort of gruff “. and intense textures layered over them, obscuring them almost most of the time.

The daring and itinerant “Book of the Savages” by composer Oscar Bettison was a highlight of the Time Spans 2018 festival, when it was performed by the Ensemble Talea. (It has since been recorded for the Wergo label by Ensemble Musikfabrik.)

On August 23, Bettison and Talea come together for a new work that channels similar energies. “I have a little obsession with artificiality,” he said. “You know, the distortion. There is a lot of preparation on the instruments. Those are the two things that are kind of themes that I keep coming back to in what I do. “

“This coin is very much on the rise,” he added. “He’s always trying to move; it’s very frantic.

This opus, however, is more intimate in its strengths than “Book of the Savages”; it is written for only seven players. “I think this piece is really a chamber concerto for Talea,” said Bettison. “They really like to work, you know?” They like to get started. I wanted to write something that would push them a bit.

For a preview of Yarn / Wire’s upcoming album, which hits the Wergo label on September 10, you can hear their Time Spans set on August 24. In addition to pieces by Andrew McIntosh and Zosha Di Castri, this percussion and the piano quartet will premiere this work by Wolfgang Heiniger.

This is truly a first, said Russell Greenberg, one of the band’s percussionists, as the album’s version was recorded in multitrack mode – with percussion and keyboard parts (and even some vocals) recorded individually. .

“So this will be the first time that we play it live,” said Greenberg.

“Surface melodies and harmonies, they are so unique and dramatic; they kind of hit you immediately, ”he said, adding, of Heiniger:“ He sees him as a passacaglia. It’s pretty short, and these patterns keep coming up. When I sent him the record, he said, ‘Yes, you have it; it’s so gothic. ‘

Composer and instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey has forged a successful collaboration with the Alarm Will Sound ensemble in recent years. The group’s players immersed themselves in his work in progress “Autoschediasms” – which mixes Sorey’s style. orchestral conducting skills, improvisational responsiveness and ventures into noted composition – with remarkable results.

They also prepared his meditative and fully noted tribute to composer George Lewis, a mentor of Sorey. In an interview, the conductor of Alarm Will Sound, Alan Pierson, spoke of “a deliberate intention with which Tyshawn places each of the sounds in this environment” as a defining characteristic of the work. (A recording will be released on the Cantaloup label on August 27.)

“It’s not a piece that belongs to a concert with another music,” he added. “So we are very carefully and thoughtfully designing a part experience for the DiMenna Center.” The whole will appear in the round, with specially planned lighting.

“He spends all this time creating that landscape,” Pierson said, “and then once you’re there, there’s some sort of magical thing that happens – about 40 minutes after the play starts – where Tyshawn suddenly brings you back to where the piece started. But takes a subtly different path and makes space for this truly unexpected melodic thing to happen. “

Time lapse

Until August 29 at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music in Manhattan; periods.org.

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