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Review Sat Dec 15 2012

Review: MusicNOW @ Harris Theater

So on Dec. 3 I had the pleasure of going to the Harris Theater to see the second of four concerts in the MusicNOW series for the 2012/13 calendar, and ti should be said that this series has been in existence since 1998. This series focuses on... well, I am not exactly sure what this series focuses on because that information was not clearly spelled out on on the CSO's website. I did go to the event, so I was privy to the fact that it focuses on new and local composers in some fashion. Don't ask me how exactly, that was kind of lost on me when one of the pieces was over 15 years old and only one of the four composers was local, kind of; I feel that a more apt title to the series would have been MusicKindOfRECENTLY. Putting all that aside, because who wants to go the symphony and bitch about semantics anyway, onto the music, but not yet exactly.

First I had to sit through a video of composer Steven Bryant arrogantly letting us know how great the piece was we were about hear that he composed. Here is a hint CSO, don't do that. I first thought, OK maybe Stevie is just like that, maybe he doesn't really understand the creative process, maybe he was told he is a genius at a young age and doesn't have a true grasp of reality. What do I know about composing. I am just here to listen to some music now; unfortunately it was composed by that smug composer Bryant, who I was just introduced to via a video, which did nothing to help me appreciate the piece. The question I walked away with was whether I would have enjoyed the piece more had I not heard Bryant talk so highly of it from a place of arrogance and intellect.

As the night wore on, the arrogance in the videos didn't cease, although Mason Bates and Zosha Di Castri seemed slightly less willing to express theirs so openly. Both Mason and Zosha presented pieces I appreciated. I was able to get lost within them despite the interview videos that preceded the performances. You may be noticing that I am focusing on the videos much more than the music, and you're right. When the CSO decides to show short-format video, which I can only assume is to help new audiences appreciate concert music, I have to chime in.

As many of you know, I have been making short-format videos to help expose the visual arts of Chicago for over five years, and so I know as well as anyone that what the CSO is trying to do is not easy, and bravo for them giving it a go. I would suggest that they do a bit more research on how to successfully accomplish a goal -- like, make the composers likable, or focus on what excites the composers about the piece we are going to see. When Zosha spoke about her piece, I could see her excitement level rise when talking about some odd instruments that we would be seeing, but that gave way to more stiff, academic, pompous jargon, which I couldn't make heads or tails of, it must be said that by this point I didn't really care to either. Having video of the composers just because you can is no reason to complicate what you are here to present. It makes sense that in this MusicNOW series a video could work, and I can appreciate that, but there is this site called YouTube, which can be a great guide to how people are using video -- now -- to present things like music. Just thought I would pass that along.

The next two Concerts in the MusicNOW series are on Feb. 25 and June 3. You can access programs and details for these concerts at the CSOs website.

 
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