Malcolm Goldstein | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Some say the key to appreciating avant-garde music is education, but I'm not so sure about that. If we have to learn anything it may be simply how to listen, as closely and intently as possible, in a way we're so rarely encouraged to do in this multitasking world. For most of his career, violinist and composer Malcolm Goldstein has worked to do for his instrument what John Cage did for silence and Thoreau did for the woods: treating every sound, meticulously arranged and gloriously magnified, as a source for meditation. There's no instant gratification here, but gratification still comes--every scrape and whispery string breath suggests a world in microcosm. Goldstein's use of the violin for unorchestral, jarring, "dirty" organic tones begs some contrast with, say, Tony Conrad, but Conrad is imperious and fierce, and Goldstein's humility makes the power of his sounds emerge far more gently. The 69-year-old's work on "soundings," his theory of extended technique for the violin, has inspired Cage, Ornette Coleman, and Christian Wolff to compose pieces for him and has won him accolades all over the world. It hasn't quite won him the hipster-household-name status some other composers enjoy, but I think if more people really, really listened, that would change. Sat 5/14, 9 PM, 6Odum, 2116 W. Chicago, 773-227-3617, $12. All ages.

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