Bowerbird Fall Performances

Source: Philadelphia’s Bowerbird.

with Arcana and Shizuka Duo
FREE at The Rotunda (40th and Walnut)
Bowerbird is pleased to present “Neil Feather: Sound Mechanic” an evening dedicated to the sonic contraptions of Neil Feather, the inventor of such fantastical instruments as “the Wiggler”, “the Nondo”, “Thunderwheels”, “magnapooters”, “Apex Roto-Zither”, and the “Thumbsnake”. The night will feature a performance of a work-in-progress chamber concerto composed for Feather’s instruments alongside the Arcana New Music Ensemble by Philadelphia and New Zealand based composer Rosie Langabeer, with whom Feather collaborates closely in the duo Two To Tutu Too. This will be followed by an improvised set featuring many of Feather’s creations. Opening the evening will be Hannah Rose Nicholas and Samuel Kelder’s Shizuka Duo, performing new works for two violas.

Maas Building (1325 N Randolph St.)
Bowerbird is pleased to present an evening featuring a new collaborative work by between vocal group Variant 6 and instrumental / percussion trio Square Peg Round Hole. Each ensemble will perform its own set and then join forces, performing the music they made together for Branches and sharing a new collaboration: Irrational Forms. The new work takes inspiration from writers who consider form, figure, and perspective. Among them are the artist Francis Bacon, the 19th-century socialite and amateur photographer Clover Adams, author Annie Dillard, and a Wikihow entry on drawing faces. Through the combined sounds of voices, vibes, synths, and drums in a collection of musical fragments, Variant 6 and Square Peg will bring to life Bacon’s statement: “I’ve never yet been able to make the one image that sums up the others. So one image against the other seems to be able to say the thing more?”

University Lutheran (3637 Chestnut St.)
This superb New York chamber trio deftly applies the instrumentation of the classic jazz piano trio to dazzling new contemporary writing. Pianist Karl Larson, percussionist Matthew Evans, and bassist Pat Swoboda achieved an early apotheosis in 2018 with American Dream, a concert-length commission from the Brooklyn composer Scott Wollschleger, which according to Bandcamp Daily, “toggles between Morton Feldman-esque contemplation and pointedly fractured, multi-planar collisions to indicate both the hope and deep disappointments of contemporary America.” Written in 2017, the work for piano, double bass, and vibraphone cycles through incrementally transforming harmony and melody—starting one place, and ending up another without drawing attention to the journey. The piece only gained resonance within the increased division and disenfranchisement in the US, its meditative, often fraught dualities reflecting disparate visions of the title concept—whether utter disenchantment or guarded vitality. Gas Station Canon Song and We See Things adroitly bookend that work, with fractured elements of each obliquely contained within American Dream. This evening’s program opens with Trio, a commissioned work by Katherine Balch—currently composer-in-residence with the California Symphony—which the trio premiered at Pioneer Works in April of 2019.

plus Flourish with Ashley Tini
FREE at The Rotunda (40th and Walnut)
Ithaca composer and percussionist Sarah Hennies presents a cinematic version of her stunning 2017 video work Contralto, a bracing yet tender meditation on gender dysphoria viewed through the lens of transgender women finding a comfortable new speaking voice. Based on her experience in Ithaca College’s Voice and Communication Modification Program for People in the Transgender Community, the composer gathered seven diverse transgender women to perform vocal exercises designed to aid in so-called, “voice feminization.” Contralto is an intimate glimpse into the participants articulating stock phrases, singing notes, and sharing personal details to present a powerful example of the harrowing difficulties involved in the process. While the video stands on its own as an experimental documentary, it’s greatly enhanced by an inextricably woven score by Hennies that underlines the sense of futility embedded in quotidian, wok-like exercises practiced by the video subjects, which by default become symbolic acts of resistance in the transgender community.

Maas Building (1325 N Randolph St.)
Unseen Rain is an experimental ensemble from Philadelphia. Delving into the sound worlds of places beyond human reach, the music evokes the echolocation of ocean floors, the bustling of anthills, and the cosmic reverberations of extra-terrestrial life. The group’s instrumentation of strings, vibraphone and modified drum kit lends itself to an intimate, quieter aesthetic that embraces space and slow-building forms.