Cosmic sounds of ‘Surface Image’ transform ClaZel

By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
Pianist Vicky Chow and composer Tristan Perich lifted the roof off the ClaZel Monday night.
Together with an ensemble 40 loudspeakers emitting digital signals, they transformed the movie house turned nightclub into cosmic atmosphere, a vision of deep space. And what were those sounds coming from the loudspeakers? Cosmic peepers?
Chow performed Perich’s “Surface Image” as part of the Music at the Forefront Series, sponsored by the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music at Bowling Green State University.
The expansive piece unfolds then folds back onto itself over more than an hour. Chow articulates layers of simple figures, the musical equivalent of haiku, while buzzes, bleeps, clicks provide a counterpoint. Those lines of the counterpoint never meet.
The pianist is showered by signals that demand translation; the piano expresses a longing to translate. Yet the electronics remain on another plane, emanating from deep space, heard in a darkened room. Still a mystery. The effect is at once something grand and marvelous, but also lonesome.
Chow’s performance was at once virtuosic in its relentlessness. Yet remains intimate and meditative.
The music flirts with monotony, and with its subdued colors actually would work well in the background, a suitable soundtrack for that state between wakefulness and sleep. Yet its profundity demands concentration as the figures shift, rise in volume, fade. A simple figure will assert itself in the middle, dropping at odd places over the steady pulse that undergirds the piece.
Usually concerts at the ClaZel have a more informal air – that’s the appeal. People gather, chat at the bar, and serious listeners sit in the chairs in front of the stage. Those chairs were full, the bar area was full, and the audience throughout the venue was hushed, ready to be transported.

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