The New York Times
Review: MATA Festival’s Sounds of Play
By CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM APRIL 16, 2015
A playground swing, a set of miniature panpipes and a chorus of table lamps were among the instruments in use at the Kitchen on Tuesday and Wednesday during the first two concerts presented by the MATA festival of new music. One trend that emerged early on was the playful experimentation with objects — found, invented and tinkered with — as a conduit for sound.
Tuesday’s program featured the versatile Curious Chamber Players from Sweden, who opened with a haunting rendition of Carlos Gutiérrez Quiroga’s “Jintili,” which invokes the ancestral spirits of the composer’s native Bolivia. For it, he built a set of jewelry-sized pan flutes with which the players produced eerie but sweet birdlike trills. Mixed with dramatic inhalations and scratching noises made with loofahs, they created a sound world painfully innocent and fragile.
At the opposite end of the energy spectrum was “palinode,” by the Swedish composer Malin Bang, which evoked the brash, forward-grinding thrust of Berlin. Here a chamber ensemble is supplemented by a replica of a swing from a playground there, a suspended flat metal sculpture from a now defunct art center and a broken flea-market vase. These objects were sawed, scraped, pounded and bowed, adding animalistic groans to the general urban clamor in a piece that felt as violent as it was life-affirming.
There were more city sounds — this time taped and blended with acoustic ensemble — in Wang Lu’s evocative “Urban Inventory,” which conjures the bustle of public parks in her native China.
“Stheno” by the Finnish composer Tomi Raisanen also took on a vivid shape in a virtuosic performance by Frederick Munk Larsen and Dries Tack. They drew a stunning array of percussive sounds from a guitar and a recorder which, together with foot stomping, rhythmic panting and primeval beat-boxing, flared to life as a manic satyr’s dance.
Wednesday’s program played with extremes of light and dark. It opened with a wickedly entertaining performance by the mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer of “Orgy of References” by the Croatian composer Mirela Ivicevic. The piece pokes fun at the tedium of artist biographies through a recitation of names and accolades.
Music for Lamps is an immersive sound and light installation created by three composers based in Montreal, Adam Basanta, Julian Stein and Max Stein. Tactical transducers were placed inside the lamps so that they emitted pitched hisses, crackles and pops as they were switched on and off by the artists seated at laptops. The old-fashioned shapes of the lamps combined with the illusion of a secret communication created the feeling of a séance.
Another idiosyncratic instrument was the velicon, invented by and named after the Serbian composer Jasna Velickovic. Using fixed magnets and movable inductors, she created intriguing sounds and vibrations that made the seats in the auditorium buzz.
If Ms. Velickovic’s art plays with the forces of attraction and repulsion, the final work on Wednesday explored them dramatically. In Megan Grace Beugger’s “Liaison,” a dancer — the darkly expressive Melanie Aceto, who also choreographed the piece — is tethered to a grand piano, with fishing lines attached to her wrists and ankles looped, via a pulley system, around the instrument’s strings. By straining, arching and jumping against her restraints Ms. Aceto created metallic shimmers and rumbles inside the piano. Several times, she approached the keys raising her hands as if to strike them, but a force seemed to forbid it, leaving her twisting and writhing — a human marionette at the mercy of an inanimate instrument.
The MATA Festival runs through Saturday at the Kitchen, 512 West 19th Street, Chelsea; 212-255-5793, Ext. 11, matafestival.org.
A version of this article appears in print on April 17, 2015, on page C15 of the New York edition with the headline: The Sounds of Play.