by Olivia Junell
On Wednesday, November 2, I took a break from the Cubs to listen with Peter Evans, Ben Lamar Gay, Sam Pluta, and Katie Young at Constellation. In my initial draft of this review, I went on a bit about different kinds of history making, as the event of this concert and the event of the Cubs winning the World Series are somewhat entangled in my mind, though neither resembled the other. Upon sitting with that draft for a few days, I find it more relevant and personally satisfying to simply describe my experience during the concert. Below you’ll find my notes in italics, annotated by further thoughts after the fact.
There is a sci-fi element.
Very enjoyable, feels somewhat narrative. Birds? Staccato.
Seals? Walrus? Multi-punctuated.
A parade. Feels like a parade.
Then a low circling.
We’re definitely on a walk.
I have tried to not be so associative when listening to music, but it simply happens without my meaning for it to. Perhaps I grasp for comparisons because I lack the technical language to describe it otherwise. Or perhaps that’s just how my brain works no matter the subject or situation. In any case, comparisons always require further explanation so that anyone else can access my personal memory of my original intent. Just the notes without explanation are almost entirely misleading — i.e. when I say “parade” I don’t mean it sounds like a parade. It did not. If memory serves, I think I meant that the group sounded like they were enthusiastically, energetically, and purposefully moving forward all together. Perhaps it was even a bit celebratory. Generally speaking, the music was not lingering, even when the tempo slowed. It was always progressing.
Trumpet solo is like talking. BLG joins the conversation vocally. Katie joins with bassoon as speech. All are listening intently, eyes closed.
They are all trying hard to explain something.
Everyone gets space, but the solos don’t feel formulaic or obligatory.
This part really did feel like a conversation in another language. There is a certain calm that accompanies overhearing a conversation in a language you don’t understand. All you can do is listen. Nothing is expected of you and you cannot analyze any content. This was a very peaceful portion of the evening.
Totally new-to-me sounds coming from Evans and BLG. In a blind test, I’d have never guessed the instrument.
All of the players accomplished this throughout. I often found it difficult to discern which instrument was making which sounds, which I thought created quite an enthralling performance. There are many feelings that can accompany a performance, but for me rapt, enduring curiosity is a rare one. That’s definitely something I’ll be seeking more of.
I like Katie and BLG this time. This variation in opinion is a good sign.
I have heard both Katie Young and Ben Lamar Gay play a number of times. Often I have enjoyed it, but sometimes I have felt pretty medium about it. I think a varied response to the same musicians is a good sign that they are trying new things and staying nimble in their own practice.
Bassoon is stalking.
It is narrative in a visual way, but not in a cinematic way. Dutch light.
Several weeks ago I visited the 17th century Dutch paintings at the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum. These paintings are largely realistic depictions of everyday life, however despite their detailed rendering they still come off as fictions. The light though, the light within these paintings makes me want to look over my shoulder to see where it’s coming from. Dutch paintings have a history of being compared to other genres, most notably in literature. I will not go down that rabbit hole here, though it could be interesting. However it did strike me during the concert that the music being played held a similar bolt of realism. Not that it literally sounded like a parade or a walrus or a creature burrowing down, but that in its evocation it re-contextualized something true from the world. I cannot explain more than that. You’ll simply have to believe me that there was a bit of Dutch light in their playing.