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Face the Music

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Largely unappreciated in his own country, the Italian count Giacinto Scelsi (1905-'88) wrote at his own pace and followed his own taste without succumbing to the pressures of a peer group. Mostly self-taught--though he went through the musical training required of a young nobleman--he often sponsored concerts to showcase his own music and that of like-minded friends, but was dismissed as a dilettante by Rome's tight-knit musical bureaucracy; there were even rumors that he hired others to transcribe and orchestrate his compositions. Scelsi's music finally caught the attention of the new-music crowd when the French avant-gardist Tristan Murail, who cites Scelsi as a major influence, introduced a sampler at Darmstadt in 1982. Gene Coleman, curator of HotHouse's Face the Music series, learned about Scelsi through local composer Jim O'Rourke, who's plugged into Europe's fusion movement. For his latest concert, Coleman's put together an assortment of Scelsi's chamber works from the 50s on--when the composer was turning away from early Bartokian imitations. Pwyll (1954) for solo flute oscillates between two pitches while reveling in quarter-tone variations and unusual rhythms. Built on gradual harmonic modulations, Maknongan (1976) for bass clarinet conveys profound mystery. Le reveil profond (1977) for contrabass is a continuous drone colored by infinitesimal changes, whereas C'est bien la nuit (1972) for the same instrument is filled with rapid notes. Also included on the program are his Three Pieces for Soprano Saxophone (1956), Stockhausen's Expo fur 3, Berio's Sequenza I, and John Zorn's Hockey. Among the performers are flutist Lisa Goethe, bass clarinetist Coleman, saxophonist Jerry Ruthrauff, and Michael Cameron, a crackerjack bassist. Sunday, 7:30 PM, HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee; 235-2334.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marina Finn.

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