Frank Abbinanti | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Frank Abbinanti


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Composer Frank Abbinanti came of age in the 1960s, when art and politics were all but inseparable. He studied piano with Frederic Rzewski, a disciple of Cage and Stockhausen who wrote a piece called The People United Will Never Be Defeated!, and his composition teachers were Ralph Shapey and Ben Johnston, both men of originality and candor. Over the years he's championed the works of Luigi Nono, Luciano Berio, Cornelius Cardew, and other left-leaning European avant-gardists, and he's summed up his ideology thus: "I've never believed in art for art's sake. That is a bourgeois concept that is fairly outdated. I think one should write music for those who need it, not simply as an ornament for middle-class life." His works have responded to the urgent issues of the day, and their titles say it all--American Labor Studies, Cantata Immigrant, East Timor, Belfast, Lebanon. But concert presenters seem to shy away from overtly political pieces of music, and many of these works have rarely been performed. The Cultural Center, however, has invited Abbinanti to put on a recital in conjunction with its retrospective on Leon Golub, a figurative painter who was noted for his visceral depiction of violence and used his art to protest the Vietnam war. The program includes Nono's "Djamila Boupacha," a movement from his oratorio Canti de vita ed amore (1962) named after the Algerian anticolonialist; Rzewski's Coming Together (1972), which incorporates the words of an inmate involved in the Attica prison uprising; Jeff Kowalkowski's new Seven Songs Regarding White Collar Crimes, a pop-infused catalog of capitalist sins; and two newer works by Abbinanti--Glut 2003, with a text about the homeless and globalization, and "Mumia," a rap song. Performers include the indefatigable mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley, percussionist Carrie Biolo, Kowalkowski on voice and piano, and Abbinanti himself on trombone and piano. Sunday, March 30, 3 PM, Exhibit Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630 or 312-346-3278.

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

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