Arts Listings

Music Without Borders by Del Sol Quartet

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Friday November 03, 2006

The Del Sol String Quartet will present ‘Premieres Without Borders,’ pieces by the late Marc Blitzstein (famous for The Cradle Will Rock), New Zealander Jack Body, Persian-American Reza Vali and West Coast native Eric Lindsay, at 8 p.m. Tuesday Nov. 7 at the Ashby Stage. 

Composers Body, Vali and Lindsay will be in attendance, and a post-concert discussion will be lead by former KPFA programmer and founder of Other Minds festival Charles Amirkhanian. Admission is $20 ($15 seniors, $7 students); information: (415) 831-5672; 

Amirkhanian, commenting on the different pieces and composers, was particularly excited by Blitzstein’s 1930 “Italian String Quartet,” a virtually unknown, unpublished and professionally unplayed piece he discovered in the collection of manuscripts held by the composer’s estate. Blitzstein’s centennial was celebrated by Other Minds at last year’s festival. “He was the most politically active of the composers, like Bernstein, who were close to Copeland; he studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, who wrote on this manuscript, ‘Brilliant for strings!’” Amirkhanian said. “Blitzstein was called ‘The American Kurt Weill;’ his translation and arrangement of Three Penny Opera played on Broadway. And this piece, in four movements, is rich with humor and irony.” 

Jack Body, who teaches at the University of Wellington, was featured at Other Minds two years ago. “He’s always searching for unusual instrumentation,” Amirkhanian commented, “and travels a great deal in his musical studies. But he’s not just inspired by ethnic music, whether Indonesian or from New Guinea. He’s also looking for something extra. There’s always a quirky filip in whatever he does; true personality. He takes chances, always refining.” 

Body’s piece, “Epicycle,” was originally composed in 1989 for Kronos Quartet, but now features a new final movement, from 2004, that changes the whole work’s quality. Body called “Epicycle”: “A cycle within a cycle, a circular melody that generates slower melodies from within itself. The first section is a kind of auditory kaleidoscope.” The second section is inspired by traditional Korean music “to explore different styles of vibrato.” 

Reza Vali, born in Iran, now teaching at Carnegie Mellon, is represented by his “Nayshaboorak (Calligraphy # 6),” written for Del Sol, “based in a system far removed from European Equal Temerament,” according to Amirkhanian. It’s based on the Dastgah system, Nava mode, of ancient Persian music, polyphonically constructed. 

Eric Lindsay, from Puget Sound, now based in Los Angeles, is known for his vocal music, but wrote “Hopkin and the Wired Night” for Del Sol, after seeing the handwritten posters of a little boy trying to find his lost frog, which also provoked an internet phenomenon. 

“His music is lush, evocative, with unusual lines,” Amirkhanian said, “Completely inventive.” The composer remarked that the piece shows “rapid exchange and mutilation of musical ideas.” 

Del Sol Quartet was founded in 1992 and will be featured at the next Other Minds festival in San Francisco this December.