(Originally published in the Lincoln Journal Star on December 31, 2003)

Newest musical sounds please audience at church

By John Cutler
For the Lincoln Journal Star

Tuesday night was the second run for the New Music Agency, a group of forward-thinking musicians who played gadgets, synthesizers and traditional instruments for a crowd of about 50 gathered at the Lincoln Unitarian Church.

For openers, trombonist Scott Anderson joined Joe Holmquist and Rusty Banks on percussion for “Dances of Greeting,” a 1995 work of Norman Bolter.

Anderson was able to bring the varied textures of the air-clearing “Dances” to the crowd with enthusiasm and professionalism.

“Heart’s Desire” for Contrabassoon and Piano” got a great rendering from bassoonist Karen Sandene and pianist Joan Kucera.  Sandene’s effortless playing used this 1991 work’s warm and wonderful chordal progressions to relax the audience. Kucera provided a flowing curtain of sound backing Sandene.

Rusty Banks’ “Long Pine Creek: New Year’s Day” is a composition framed this year that uses computer-generated babbling brook sounds that are interrupted by solos on clarinet, guitar and flute.

Rusty Banks, on guitar, played the first solo, weaving intricate chords and melody parts around the sound effects.

Christy Banks’ clarinet offered mood-flushed phrasings to skillfully imitate the coursing water.  Betsy Bobenhouse brought an oriental-sounding flute narrative to accompany the stream’s sound.

The crowd appreciated what they heard in “Long Pine Creek: New Year’s Day” and talked it up during intermission.

Terry Riley is one of the best known contemporary composers.  Holmquist, Julie Anderson on systhesizer and Diana Frazier’s excellent cello phrasings brought poetic justice to Riley’s “Room of Remembrance” following the break.  The quietness of this work seemed to create a time for introspection among patrons.

“Timepeace” is a new work by Arthur Jarvenin and is a spontaneous performance work for any number of tickers, music boxes, bells, gongs, and candle chimes.

Sandene handed me a glass bowl and a stick, telling me to “play it no more than three times at a point where it felt appropriate.”  Some played wind-up music boxes.  Others rang handbells or started clocks ticking.  I did my thing, too.

Though “Timepeace” got many in the crowd involved in the performance, the participation didn’t provide a justification for the piece’s lack of musical values.

Nonetheless, “Timepeace” audience participation  redeemed its purpose and the work provided a good ending for a novel evening of the newest in serious musical thought.