At a time when many avant composers append cryptic titles to their music, Phillip Arnautoff remains direct. The reclusive composer's Soliloquy: A Ritual of Communion with Vibrating Strings is what it says it is: an absorbing ritual with lush, strumming strings.
The centerpiece of the hour-long Soliloquy is Arnautoff's version of the Harmonic Canon, an instrument invented by American maverick Harry Partch (1901–1974). The Canon's exotic tuning and rows of strings shimmer and vibrate gorgeously like an orchestra of Aeolian harps. Single notes on the Canon suggest a hammered dulcimer without the hokey and insistent plinky-plunk tap of the sticks. When strummed repeatedly, the Canon's waves of sound can coalesce into aural hallucinations. I'm listening to Soliloquy right now; there's a piano tolling in the background, but it's a mirage, a thrumming dust storm of stray harmonics.
Despite an overtly sensuous sound world, Soliloquy's arresting power derives from Arnautoff's fascination with the extended, obsessively enveloping forms of Mahler's symphonies—and a personal connection to Partch.
As a young man in the 1960s, Arnautoff corresponded and met with Partch, but Arnautoff states unequivocally, "I am not a disciple. I followed my own path." And he has—yet the quest for new timbres and blunt insistence on music as a spiritually transformative, potentially transcendent act links Mahler, Partch, and Arnautoff.
Although Herb Levy's cult label Periplum published Soliloquy in 2001, Arnautoff has revised the work; he describes this premiere performance as "an overall improvement to the score. The phrasing is cleaner and crisper."
Christopher Roberts, who opens the show, plays the solo guqin, a Chinese zither capable of ghostly whispering tones and a fine complement to the Harmonic Canon.
Phillip Arnautoff and Christopher Roberts perform Sat Nov 17 at the Fourth-floor Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center (4649 Sunnyside Ave N), 8 pm, $5–$15 sliding-scale donation.
Famed for his 2002 "Bach in the Bar" tour, the superb cellist continues his double life of gigging in bars and giving more formal concerts. Here, he plays spur-of-the-moment selections, including many from his new disc, After Reading Shakespeare (Oxingale), which features solo cello pieces by Ned Rorem, Paul Moravec, and Lewis Spratlan. Tractor, 5213 Ballard Ave NW, 789-3599, 8 pm, $20.
The Haters headline the final installment of this ear-opening, body-massaging monthly series. One of the longest-running experimental noise projects going, the Haters epitomize harsh. At the Wooden Octopus festival in 2005, they somehow spewed colossally loud broadband pulses from a single instrument, a Newcomb Solid State record player. The room felt like a rapidly depressurizing airplane cabin. Also on the bill: Realicide, the H8ers, and NovaHead vs. ChickenTron, as well as DJs Android Heart and William F. Buckley Jr. Not to be missed. Bring earplugs. Re-bar, 1114 E Howell St, 233-9873, 10 pm, $5.
Why do orchestras sound so good in Town Hall? The acoustics certainly help; the height of the stage, wooden pews (now cushioned, thank God), and an orblike ceiling that crowns a spherical room all abet a plush and full-bodied sound. Conductor Christophe Chagnard spearheads a classical program mixed with big hits and solid pieces: Beethoven's Choral Fantasy and the merry Symphony No. 8 along with Schubert's Overture in D and Verleih uns Frieden by Mendelssohn. Also Sat Nov 17 at the Rialto Theater in Tacoma. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave, 888-365-6040, 7:30 pm, $12/$38/$40.
The Seattle Academy of Baroque Opera & Oratorio present a fully staged production of one of the earliest operas, Rappresentazione di Anima e di Corpo by Emilio de Cavalieri (ca. 1550—1602). St. James Cathedral, 804 Ninth Ave, 800-838-3006, 8 pm, $25 suggested donation, students and seniors pay as able.
SUSAN PASCAL QUARTET
Fluid stick work and coherent, compact solos make this vibraphonist a delight. The adroit comping of pianist Randy Halberstadt buttresses the quartet's suave sheen. Tula's, 2214 Second Ave, 443-4221, 8:30—12:30 pm, $15.
SEATTLE YOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Don't let the name fool you—these kids are good. Conductor Stephen Rogers Radcliffe leads the band in the overture to Semiramide by Rossini and the flashy Violin Concerto in E minor by Julius Conus (1869—1942), a compadre of Rachmaninoff. There's only one warhorse on the program, and it's a good one: Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St, 362-2300, 3 pm, $8—$40.
A guerilla gig—"No PA system, no mics, just set up on the floor and go," according to bassist PK—by one of the few groups that can instantly lunge from bristling free jazz to blues-shouting grooves. Back in August, drummer Matt Crane, PK, and saxophonist Eric Barber were scorching at their Earshot Jazz show; expect more combustion. Michael Shrieve's Spellbinder rounds out the evening. ToST, 513 N 36th St, 547-0240, 8 pm, free.