Last Night at High Mayhem

- April 19, 2012

“Nini Julia Bang + Point Reyes in Santa Fe…”

Theater Grottesco and High Mayhem presented Nini Julia Bang + Point Reyes at High Mayhem’s warehouse studio on Siler Lane to a packed house last evening.

Point Reyes, the new music ensemble founded in Brooklyn in 2010 by guitarist/singer/composer Asa Horvitz, consists of: Horvitz, vibraphonist Kyle Farrell, percussionist Jack Randall and cellist Bryan West. They were joined last evening by singer Nini Julia Bang, a principal singer with Teatr Zar, a post-Grotowski ensemble dedicated to research on the voice and body working with traditional singing from across Eastern Europe.

Jerzy Grotowski, the Polish theater director and innovator of experimental theater, helped guide theater artists in the development of a new vocabulary of theater performance, much like Bang and Point Reyes are doing with their music as they mix the sense of the freedom of aleatoric music (chance music) with the precision of a Stravinsky score. Like the laboratory experiments of Grotowski, Point Reyes and Bang use various techniques to accomplish their goals.

What drew me to this concert was the opportunity to hear someone like Bang, steeped in the polyphonic singing style of the Caucasus, and to hear that unique and ancient musical form mixed with the work of a new music group. The juxtaposition of the polyphony with an often pointillistic style of playing by the ensemble was quite rich. Both Horvitz and cellist West participated in the vocal renderings, most often to great effect.

My only letdown in the performance was the way pitch kind of moved around, as singer/guitarist Horvitz tends to sit on the south side of pitch in his vocal production; ironically, most often when playing guitar at the same time. The vocal music style from the Georgian/ Caucasus region is pretty-much without a strong sense of vibrato and, perhaps the proximity of the three singers kept Horvitz anchored in his voice and pitch when singing un-accompanied. Despite this downside, I was delighted by the total ensemble approach to Point Reyes’ one-hour set.

Taken together, Ms. Banks and Point Reyes produced music alternating late-19th century romantic and even Pop style harmonies with a post-Webern approach, anchored in a rhythmic drive that was sometimes Stravinsky, sometimes 12-bar blues

And, the early Christian-style, a capella Kyrie was quite wonderful!

I didn’t stay for the workshop/masterclass that followed, but I know it was well attended and I have since been told that it was terrific.

I hope Point Reyes returns, especially if they have Nini Julia Bang in tow, or is it the other way around?