Ned Rothenberg | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Ned Rothenberg


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From softly guttural woodwind landscapes to impossible two-part inventions and passionately chorded melodies, solo reedman Ned Rothenberg's music contains much that is remarkable. Nonetheless, the biggest jolt on his album Trespass lies in the unassuming liner note that points out "there is no overdubbing on this record." Your ears will claim something different. Rothenberg belongs to the "sound effects" school of reedmen who have exploited their instruments' unique malleability--through techniques like multiphonics and circular breathing--to create a new language of musical expression. Rothenberg makes especially good use of this language, crafting distinct, evocative compositions that boast shape as well as texture, and you could make a case that he be considered a composer first. But like England's Evan Parker and Germany's Peter Brotzmann--both of whom have appeared at Southend Musicworks in recent months--Rothenberg has reached a level of virtuosity that allows him to actually transcend the previously presumed limitations of his instruments. It isn't pretty--the process of pushing the envelope is never "pretty." But the results--the breakthroughs--can be starkly, breathtakingly beautiful. Saturday, 8 PM, Southend Musicworks, third floor, 341 W. Superior; 283-0531.

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

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