"New Music" Draws On Centuries Old Tradition


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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Empyrean Ensemble performed Sunday, Nov. 5th at Sacramento State's Festival of New American Music and will also perform on Nov. 19th at the Mondavi Center in Davis. 

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It sounds almost like a piece composed by Georg Philipp Telemann in the 1700s.... but something tells you that it’s not. That’s the paradox in contemporary composer Dan Becker’s clever cover version of the baroque, titled “Tamper Resistant.” It will highlight  Sunday’s concert by the Empyrean Ensemble. This recording is by the Bay Area’s Philharmonia Baroque.

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By way of context, here’s some genuine Telemann, from his Tafelmusik.

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Laurie San Martin directs the Empyrean Ensemble, a UC Davis group specializing in so-called “new music,” and the minute she heard “Tamper Resistant,” she wanted the Empyrean to play it.

"Dan Becker has taken a Telemann piece and sort of reworked it, and done this sort of post minimalist piece technique to it, which basically means he’s taken it and he’s stretched certain moments, and everything’s a little out of whack...”

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It’s a new way of referencing a smooth, familiar sound, and the composer is definitely playing – rather lovingly -- with our expectations.

But some of the OTHER pieces on the Empyrean’s concert challenge listeners in a more aggressive way. Try “Leaping Lizards” by Aaron Einbond -- a pulsing, eight minute showcase for two high-powered percussionists.

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One of San Martin’s goals for the Empyrean Ensemble is to explore new sounds, whether the texture is smooth or abrasive.

 “It’s really good performers, it’s interesting and diverse programming, it’s not at all like your typical classical concert, so I always do tell people that. And I try to give them a taste of what we do. “

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“You know, I have a two-year-old, and you know about Sam I Am and Green Eggs and Ham. She’s tried it now, and you know, maybe it actually is pretty good.”

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“It’s different. But if you give it a chance, it’s fun.”

Think of it as a musical adventure. And the thrill of discovery is definitely part of the appeal. Jeff Hudson, KXJZ News.

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