synethesizing the blueprint

I have to admit, this seems like it's been the year to get "cultured." There's been symphonies, and operas, and plays. There's been concerts and lectures. I've been fortunate to fall into the circle of Kevin Smokler, who has organized a series of blogger nights. This past weekend was a lovely event at the SF Conservatory of Music . This school provides a series of ongoing musical events, covering a wide variety of orchestral/symphonic music.

The physical structure is located in an area of San Francisco in the thick of it, and is a beautiful modern building that has recently been renovated so that multiple musical events can happen. We were treated to a lovely bit of wine and cheese, and chat with the staff.

Lisa Petrie, Senior Manager, Communications for the school, talked to us a little bit about the facts and figures, and a little bit of the history of Blueprint. Blueprint is designed to showcase new and innovative works, and modern music. The particular performance we viewed was entitled Synesthesia: Bridging the Senses, bringing together new musical experiences. I did feel that there were definite visual and auditory pieces to the performance, but I would challenge Blueprint, in titling a performance thus to reach out to all five senses, to truly bridge that gap. Fortunately, us bloggers had the advantage of pre-performance snacks, but olfactory sense stimulation could have been interesting, seeing as synesthesia is about that unknown link some have between the senses, with a crossover into new territory.

Small quibbles aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

The first two pieces pieces (Eight Colors for String Quartet and Sept Papillons) were ones that I don't know if I would ever listen to if recorded, but live provided an interesting sense and something intellectual to ponder. Some of this comes from the integration of non-Western elements in the case of the former, and the latter the language of opera and nature as the story of seven butterflies.

The next piece, written by local composer Jay Lyon, based on Rimbaud's Voyelles was more challenging. It was a piece of orchestrated jazz, overlaid with MC work by WiseProof, and multiple vocals including spoken word. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the mix was off and the MC dominated what was an already layered piece. I would love to hear a recording of this, just to see what a better sound mix would provide.

Philip Glass' Facades followed intermission, and featured a digital projection by Elliot Anderson. While the visuals were interesting, I would have almost preferred to listen to this moody somber piece in the dark and allow my own imagination to do the work. If anyone has ever attended Audium, you'd understand the value of sitting and listening to a variety of sounds in the dark. Still, the orchestration and instrumentation were lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed this. Seated next to me, Tyler responded at the end of the piece with "blissful" and I'd have to agree.

The final performance of the night was Les Illuminations by Benjamin Britten. Ambur Braid, a soprano brought rousing spirit to the music. I hadn't heard this particular piece before, but am well familiar with Britten's work, as he was a prolific writer of music in this century, and his music is often sung by church choirs.

The last two performances were conducted by Nicole Paiement, the Artistic Director and Conductor at the school. She came and spoke to us after the performance, where some of our group asked her about "new music" and what defines it. Much like our experience at Swarm Gallery, the question arises, how can we trust our own judgment about art? Should we be able to make our own choices or do we defer to those "in the know?" I think Nicole's assessment of this vein of questioning was to say that we have to sit with the experience and be our own judge. I would agree. It is important for us to take in the art that speaks to us, no matter the medium. But it is also incumbent upon us to push beyond our comfort levels to experience new things. This enables us to continue to grow and to find the next unseen horizon. Or merely to see it with new eyes. Or new senses.

I cherished our evening at the SF Conservatory of Music and look forward to the opportunity to return. For those of you looking to push your own boundaries, and to experience something new, the SF Conservatory of Music has generously offered 2 free tickets to a show if you mention that you read a post about the show and mention "SF Blogger" upon calling the box office. Take them up on it. And call me to go with you.

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