The Orpheus chamber music ensemble isn’t just Beethoven and Brahms. That much was evident at Sunday’s notable concert at Fresno State. The first part of the program paired up some fine young dancers from Clovis’ In the Spotlight Dance Center with music from Fresno area composers. The second half was a video presentation of a new version of “60×60,” an ongoing series that showcases contemporary composers in 60-second slices. Fresno State’s Brad Hufft introduced both parts of the program.
In the dance portion, two of the composers were in the audience: Jack Fortner and Benjamin Boone. In a sweet touch, Boone brought his sons Atticus and Asher, which had a special significance considering the title of Boone’s piece: “Atticus, Atticus.” The three of them are pictured (Atticus is seated, and his brother Asher is standing behind his father. Too cute.)
The program didn’t list the three dancers’ names. (If anyone from In the Spotlight can fill me in, I’d like to include them.) Their modern dance moves were keyed to the music in interesting and vigorous ways, from the emphatic looped-and-spliced recitations of text in Charles Amirkhanian’s piece to the charged aural disorder of Boone’s piece.
Composer Charles Amirkhanian is a familiar name in these parts: born in Fresno, Fresno State grad (and proud member of the Bulldog Marching Band), longtime music director of radio station KPFA. He is founding artistic director of the Other Minds Festival of avant-garde music in San Francisco, a position that takes him all over the world. (Pictured above: a shot from Warsaw.) And he’s pleased to be returning to Fresno State this weekend as the featured guest composer of the Fresno New Music Festival. His work will be highlighted at an 8 p.m. Saturday performance in the Fresno State Concert Hall.
I have a condensed interview with Amirkhanian in Friday’s 7 section along with a rundown of other festival events. (A tip from Andreas Werz, artistic director of the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series, which is co-sponsoring the 3 p.m. Sunday appearance of pianist Gloria Cheng: She is one of the world’s leading interpreters of contemporary piano music, and she will bring to Fresno an exciting program with familiar and not so familiar names.) Here’s the extended version of my Amirkhanian interview.
Question: Besides being featured in the Saturday concert, are there any other duties for you as featured composer in the festival?
Answer: I’m looking forward to doing a master class with composition students to discuss how I put together my pieces. Some are composed with sampled ambient sounds, like hummingbirds flying toward and away from a stereo microphone, or squeaky swings with children playing on them. The artistic challenge for me is not to make them unrecognizable, as many have done in the past, but to integrate them into a seamless musical texture, and I intend to share all my secret strategies.