I went to the SF symphony on friday, and it was great. The headliner was Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements, which is classic Stravinsky. It’s big and sweeping and rough around the edges, and it’s a lot of fun.
They also played a Weill violin concerto, which I was meh about, and a piece called “Different Trains” by Steve Reich, which was only written 15 years ago. It was really interesting. The three movements were “America: Before the war”, “Europe: During the war”, and “After the war”. He took little clips of people talking about their experiences during the war and played them with the piece, kind of like another instrument. He brought out the tonal changes in their voices by writing other instruments to play in tune with their voices. Also, he cut and spliced their phrases together, quickly and out of order, almost like a DJ was spinning. It was very very cool.
I also went last week, and they played a Chopin piano concerto (yeah, I’m predictable :P), an ok Scriabin piece, and an amazing piece, Exquisite Corpse by a modern composer named Anders Hillborg. It was the US premiere, so he was there at the performance. Somehow, he wrote for the instruments to make sounds I’d never heard them make before. Parts of it sounded almost like ambient noise – ocean waves, a beehive, wind through the trees. There were definitely notes and melodies and harmonies too, but even then, they sounded very different. Almost eerie. Sometimes when the brass played, it sounded like motion blur looks. Resonant, but very tight. At other times, notes would grow and shrink, but you’d never hear them actually start or stop. It was incredible. What’s worse, there’s no recording of it. Nothing like zero supply to increase demand…my demand, at least!