Ensemble Dal Niente, Chaya Czernowin Member Picks Recommended Soundboard

When: Fri., Nov. 16, 7:30 p.m. 2012

Increasingly impressive Chicago new-music group Ensemble dal Niente puts another notch in its belt this weekend by presenting the first significant local showcase of work by Chaya Czernowin, a staunchly modern, unsentimental Israeli composer who's been a professor at Harvard since 2009. Her stark, rigorous, forward-looking music sometimes draws inspiration from natural phenomena and sometimes builds its explorations of abstract sound around small, contrasting gestures that she juxtaposes or collages together. Her 1996 piece Afatsim, from a superb Mode Records CD of the same name, seeks to translate the knots and twists of tree branches into music. No listener would be likely to infer that fact without Czernowin's program notes, but the image of a disfigured branch, once it's in your head, works well as a kind of an abstract score—strings and winds play dissonant, astringent flurries over spasmodic percussion, suggesting an ominous scene of barren trees lashed by wind. Last year's Shifting Gravity (Wergo) includes a recording of the 2008 composition Sahaf, which Czernowin describes in the liner notes as a series of "found sound objects" fed into a meat grinder (represented by a cranking ratchet); terse phrases on electric guitar, piano, saxophone, and percussion blend and mutate in a restlessly shifting matrix of fleeting unison passages and colliding gestures. Tonight's program features those two works, along with Winter Songs II (2003) and the world premiere of a new piece for solo sopranino saxophone called The Last Leaf. Also on the program is Webern's succinct Four Pieces for Violin and Piano (1910) and the jarring Jargon of Nothingness by Czernowin contemporary Steven Takasugi. Czernowin will be present for the concert. —Peter Margasak $10-$20

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