Exploring Beyond Usual Boundaries

WALTHAM - Dinosaur Annex's season-opening concert on Sunday offered a strong program under the tricky title of "Dissolving Boundaries.'' The idea was to present music by stylistically polyamorous composers, digesting multiple genres and influences. But then again, almost all composers, whether they like to admit it or not, are what they eat, musically speaking.

And besides, to have a sense of boundaries dissolving, one has to have a sense of the boundaries in the first place. Sure enough, a couple of the pieces made expressive use of quite visible seams. For his clarinet solo "Thracian Sketches,'' Derek Bermel shoehorned transcriptions of Thracian folk music into a Western, whole-tone scale, then neatly arranged them into a gradually accelerating new-music soliloquy. Much of the fun was the tension between the source material's rusticity and its prominently curated momentum. (Diane Heffner dispatched the torrent as a white-knuckle toboggan ride through Eastern European scenery.) Barbara Kolb's flute-and-vibraphone "Homage to Keith Jarrett and Gary Burton'' reworked fragments of a recording by the jazz artists in almost Jasper Johns fashion, vernacular outlines visible through a lush encaustic of modernist commentary. Dinosaur Annex codirector Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin and percussionist Robert Schulz were engrossing and keen. pieces tapped potent genre energies. Julia Wolfe's "East Broadway'' was a bright, cheerfully clangorous assault of toy piano (Donald Berman, playing with deadpan aggression) and prerecorded beats, part punk, part art-of-noise futurism. Theo Loevendie's "Dance'' appropriated muscular fiddling, interspersed with the occasional atonal melodic flight. With violinist Gabriela Diaz fiercely sawing, stomping her sleigh-bell-accessorized foot, the music thrived on adrenaline.

"Trifolium,'' by the Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz Torres, sublimated its sources to the point of being largely congruent with a familiar new-music style: angular, driving rhythms, clashing but accessibly circumscribed melodic patterns, everything polished but a bit perfunctory. (A Boston premiere, the work was graced with a sharp, scintillating performance by Diaz, Berman, and cellist David Russell.)

David Sanford's "Dogma74'' (another Boston premiere, conducted by Julian Pellicano, with Hershman-Tcherepnin, Heffner, Russell, and Berman joined by violist Anne Black) was both more pugnacious and more beguiling. The vocabulary is all tensile drones, punchy rhythms, dissonant, crackling atmosphere. But both the insistence of the ideas and their intuitively sure progression hinted at hidden narratives. Any boundaries were not so much dissolved as shrugged off; the combination of vivid immediacy and lingering mystery was invigorating enough that one simply forgot to tally any stylistic debt.

Matthew Guerrieri, Globe Correspondent, The Boston Globe
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