A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

We are so fortunate to live in Los Angeles with this wonderful access to a distinctly rich indigenous new music scene.  Berlin is “so last year”; LA has the sound to be heard now.

One outstanding demonstration of this point happens Saturday, April 10, as the Music Series of the ASTO Museum of Art showcases the breadth and depth of the local new music art with a program entirely of Los Angeles composers, all of whom are well-established here at home and abroad.  The list of distinguished local composers on the program includes John M. Kennedy, Sara Graef, Jenni Brandon, Eric Guinivan, Daniel Gall, Don Baird, Vera Ivanova, Milen Kirov and Alex Miller.

The Synchromy project is a musical collective of regional artists and performance enthusiasts who are passionate about new music and guided by the principles of collaboration and self-organization.  The result is a grassroots experience that embraces the unique and eclectic excitement of the LA new music scene.  The Synchromy cast of musicians includes David Adler, Christine Snipes, George Sotelo, David Sucik, Jonathan Terry, Eleanor Weigert, Emily Reppun and others.

The music of John M. Kennedy has been performed throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Korea, and broadcast in Austria, Canada and Argentina, and he is also the founding Music Director of the Chamber Players of Los Angeles.  I had the pleasure to hear the group earlier this year, and in my review I was particularly impressed with Emily Reppun and her exceptionally warm sound and technical abilities on the French horn.

Saturday’s program features Kennedy’s work titled Five Reflections on “Nefertiti” for trumpet, guitar and bass. The piece derives material from the 1967 recording of “Nefertiti” and reflects on the five musical personalities of the quintet: Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis.

Sara Carina Graef, a graduate of the USC Thornton School of Music, is well-established as a creative LA composer, and her works in various media have won prestigious awards and been performed and broadcast widely.  Graef describes her composition, “poor warty bliggens,” as “a duo for bass and alto saxophone, and is inspired by a selection from Don Marquis’ ‘archy and mehitabel’ — the chronicles of a cockroach named archy who, reincarnated from a free verse poet, hops from key to key on a typewriter (thus the absence of capital letters), musing about the other critters he encounters along his life’s journey. Our friend, warty bliggens, is a toad who enjoys lolling under a toadstool, convinced that the universe created the toadstool just for his benefit.”  The poem, which she originally intended as the basis of a full opera about the “absurdities… lodged in the crinkles of the human cerebrum” is a brilliant verse, and her quirky instrumentation is a superb match of character and sound, combining to form a unique and profound artistic statement.

If William Kraft’s Encounters XI, performed at Walt Disney Concert Hall last week, is any indication of West Coast style, then serenity in the midst of modernity and sophistication is definitely a requisite component.  Here is a chance to hear it and define it for yourself with Jenny Brandon’s work, that Indiana Public Radio described as fusing “the puckishness of Poulenc with a West Coast mellowness. Delightful!”

Saturday, April 10, 7:30 p.m.

ASTO Museum of Art, 4505 Huntington Drive, LA

Tickets: $7 at the door.  For information, visit ASTO Museum of Art.

This concert was selected from among events listed in Jim Eninger’s Clickable Chamber Music Newsletter – check it out to see an extensive calendar of upcoming music events, large and small, happening all around Los Angeles.