In 1944, film composer Nathaniel Shilkret had an idea that still sounds crazy: Commission the leading composers of the day, including renowned figures like Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky, to compose music based on the Book of Genesis. The result was The Genesis Suite scored for narrator, orchestra, and choir.
Based in Hollywood, Shilkret didn't have to go far to recruit Schoenberg and Stravinsky for Genesis. Both lived in "Tinseltown" and hoped to land lucrative film-scoring jobs. Schoenberg wanted control over all aspects of sound including dialogue—a sensible demand for someone attuned to orchestral textures and the voice, but anathema to movie producers, who still abhor overt experimentation. Stravinsky didn't fare much better, though he managed to recycle his aborted film scores into other pieces, notably Scherzo à la Russe and the Symphony in Three Movements.
Ultimately, Schoenberg and Stravinsky, both exiles in America, needed the money. Schoenberg wrote the work's "Prelude," whose thrilling crisscrossing violins hark back to his Accompanying Music to a Film Scene. Stravinsky's "Babel" begins with a pastoral, almost wailing oboe and, unlike the other contributions by Darius Milhaud, Ernest Toch, Shilkret, Alexander Tansman, and Mario Castelnuevo Tedesco, steers clear of standard syrupy Hollywood string writing.
Surprisingly, Genesis hangs together as a complete piece, despite a corny show-choir moment when the chorus chants "the flood, the flood" and "the water, the water" several times in the "Noah's Ark" section.
Quickly forgotten after its 1945 premiere, Genesis failed to enhance Shilkret's middling résumé of scoring short films and now-forgotten MGM comedies like Blonde Fever as well as contributing stock music to Citizen Kane. He left the movie industry in 1946. Yet Genesis is more than a curio; it embodies the awkward (and almost obsolete) envy that persists between composers who write film music and their confreres who compose for the concert hall.
The Seattle Symphony perform The Genesis Suite Thurs May 29 at 7:30 pm and Sat May 31 at 8 pm. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St, 215-4747, $17–$95.
An omnibus title for an all-star band celebrating "The Crescent City," i.e., New Orleans, Crescent Boogaloo boasts the superb Hammond organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, trumpet prodigy Christian Scott, and smooth jazz reedman Donald Harrison. Here, they present their own take on boogaloo, a once suspect hybrid of R&B, rock, and the mambo. Arising in the late 1960s, boogaloo was derided for simplifying the sophisticated harmonies and polyrhythms of Latin Jazz. Yet the loose, funky rhythms of boogaloo create a flexible space; musicians have more room to solo without having to worry about shoving a slew of notes amid rapidly changing chords. Through Sun June 1. Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave, 441-9729, sets at 7:30 and 9:30 pm, $26.50.
WALLY SHOUP TRIO
Fresh from the Open: Interact Festival in Belgium, the alto sax firebrand regroups with his trio. Count on scorching torrents of notes leavened with unexpected silence, and attentively fashioned group improvisation. With pianist Gust Burns and Bob Rees on drums and vibraphone. Egan's Ballard Jam House, 1707 NW Market St, 789-1621, 9 pm, $5.
NEW BAROQUE ORCHESTRA
Seattle Baroque honcho Ingrid Matthews leads this community orchestra in J. S. Bach's second Brandenburg Concerto and selections from a suite of "Water Music" by Telemann, who like Handel, also wrote music to be performed on a floating barge. Trinity Parish Church, 609 Eighth Ave, 624-5337, 3 pm, free, but donations welcome.
HEARTSONG OF CHARGING ELK
Inspired by the James Welch novel, Wayne Horvitz's oratorio tells the tale of Charging Elk, an Oglala Sioux hospitalized in France while on tour with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Fourth floor Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, 8 pm, $10/$12.
Goat summons the exploratory spirit of early 1970s jazz-rock groups such as Soft Machine and Return to Forever. The hyphen was justified; jazz-rock laminated stylistic features of rock, jazz, and sometimes experimental music. Disparate elements abut one another without the indulgent instrumental virtuosity or groove mongering of fusion, which arrived few short years later. Propelled by drummer Denali Williams, Goat revels in the unapologetically synthetic textures from Sinibaldi's breath controlled synthesizer and Zack Stewart's electronics. Together, they celebrate the release of their new disc, Special Agent (Present Sounds). Lo_Fi, 429B Eastlake Ave E, 254-2824, 9 pm, $7/$12 (includes CD).
SEATTLE PIANIST COLLECTIVE
Described as "a joining together of sensations that are normally experienced separately," synesthesia has always seemed more a burden than a benefit. Is it really advantageous to see specific colors while simultaneously hearing sound or to smell scents while reading? The Seattle Pianist Collective present four short sets of piano music by synesthetes and other composers obsessed with color including Alexander Scriabin, Olivier Messiaen, Aphex Twin, and others. Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave, 654-3100, 2 pm, $10/$15.
JIM CUTLER JAZZ ORCHESTRA
This big band plays old chestnuts, new charts, and an experimental number or two. Watch closely and peer into the silent world of an orchestra: trumpeters in back whispering, inscrutable hand signals from the leader, and the appreciative looks from fellow musicians when someone unfurls a smokin' solo. Tula's, 2214 Second Ave, 443-4221, 8 pm—midnight, $5.
Honestly, I can't fathom the mystique surrounding Caroliner, a San Francisco—based band who surreally (in the true sense of the word) compost bluegrass, demented found sounds, punk, thrash, and practically everything else into unpredictable music. Caroliner is so odd, that in this case I distrust my judgment. During my first encounters with experimental music as a teenager, Conquistador-era Cecil Taylor and post-Ascension John Coltrane made sense to me immediately. However another 15 years passed before I understood their peers Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman. So ignore my misgivings and go hear these legends for yourself. Alvarius B and AFCGT (with members of the A-Frames and Climax Golden Twins) open. Bring earplugs. Re-bar, 1114 E Howell St, 233-9873, 10 pm, $5.