In the concluding performance of its 2009-10 season, on Tuesday night the Southern Theater hosted genre-bending chamber ensembles Brooklyn Rider and 2 Foot Yard, who shared the stage with each other and with shakuhachi player Kojiro Umezaki. (A shakuhachi is a Japanese bamboo flute.)
In the first half of the program, string quartet Brooklyn Rider (Johnny Gandelsman, Colin Jacobsen, Nicholas Cords, and Eric Jacobsen) played a selection of pieces ranging from Afrobeat to Debussy, then yielded the stage to 2 Foot Yard, a quartet fronted by vocalist/violinist (she plays and sings simultaneously) Carla Kihlstedt. Weaving her voice in and around time signatures and the complementary singing of Marika Hughes, Kihlstedt produces an uncanny, floating sound that was particularly apt for the collaborative piece that filled the second half of the program.
A Blue Hat Washed Up On Shore…, a piece created and performed by the two ensembles together, sets spoken text from Alan Lightman’s 1993 novel Einstein’s Dreams to music. The piece offers a pleasantly dreamy collection of textures that sound—if you have any expectations about what two genre-bending contemporary chamber ensembles dramatizing the theory of relativity might sound like—pretty much as you’d expect. (Think Britten, Messiaen, and Crumb, with a drum kit.) It occurred to me that the piece might have been best experienced when under the influence of cannabis, and the same might be true of Lightman’s novel.
It was a typically adventurous, accomplished program for the Southern Theater, which has happily recovered from the controversial 2008 removal of Jeff Bartlett, who had served as the theater’s artistic director for decades. (See Graydon Royce’s enlightening recent article in the Star Tribune.) The concert was an apt occasion for celebration, but had a bittersweet tinge for those who knew that Bartlett—now employed at the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts—remains hospitalized after an accident on a Genie lift last week caused multiple fractures and a collapsed lung. For more information, see Bartlett’s CaringBridge site.