F/M Reception | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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F/M Reception


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Keyboardist and electronicist Bob Falesch and cellist Bob Marsh met at HotHouse in 1994 and played their first concert together at Lunar Cabaret in '96. About two years ago they started a joint project called F/M Reception, and its mischievous, unclassifiable soundscapes have grown more and more fascinating. They often sketch the structures of their improvisations ahead of time, and Falesch, who's an electronics engineer by day, applies systematic constraints to the output of his keyboard with synthesizer software he calls the "metaPiano." He preprograms a sequence of up to 12 pitches--a tone row, a la Schoenberg and Webern--and as he plays, the metaPiano when necessary corrects the struck note to conform to the sequence, allowing him to improvise within the tone row at any speed. And since the metaPiano is a real-time filter, not a composing program, no two F/M Reception performances ever sound alike, even if they use the same pitch sequence: Falesch can flip the tone row upside down or backward on the fly, shorten it to six or eight pitches, even bypass it with a foot pedal and revert to plain old piano playing. Marsh augments his cello with wordless vocals or even switches to flute, and onstage the duo has the smooth give-and-take of an ad-libbing comedy team. Neither man is a stranger to the intersection of new music and free jazz: both have performed with Gene Coleman, Michael Zerang, Ken Vandermark, and other local stalwarts, and both bring a wide knowledge of 20th-century composers, including Ligeti, Boulez, and the New York abstract expressionists, to their playing. Falesch might execute a piano solo as elaborate and dissonant as anything by Ralph Shapey or DePaul professor George Flynn, his mentor, and Marsh could reply with a flute riff straight out of Poulenc. The eerie babbling vocals of "Opera Viva," from their debut CD, Co-lage, echo Steve Reich's The Cave in their incantatory intensity, and "Back to Braque" sounds like a postmodernist version of Satie. This performance is a CD-release party for Co-lage; assisting F/M Reception for an extended second set will be bassist Kurt Johnson and percussionist Mark Stevens, both from the local band Lozenge. Sunday, 8 PM, Nervous Center, 4612 N. Lincoln; 773-728-5010. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Karen A. Peters.

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