Michael Jackson. After blinking a bunch of times, that was still the first name I spotted in the program for the Seattle Chamber Players' Icebreaker IV festival. Michael Jackson is part of the SCP's three-day event, but indirectly: William Brittelle, a twentyish New York–based composer, collaged parts of the pop icon's biggest hits including "Beat It," and "Human Nature," into a piece for chamber ensemble, Michael Jackson.
The decidedly avant bent of Icebreaker IV—subtitled "The American Future No Rules/All Ages"—is due to the curators, Alex Ross and Kyle Gann. For the festival's first night, Ross, classical music critic of the New Yorker, corralled Brittelle and other upcoming composers, notably composer/DJ Mason Bates, Anna Clyne, and Nico Muhly, a protégé of Philip Glass.
Gann, a composer and chronicler of New York's famed "Downtown" scene of the 1980s and '90s, curates the second evening with premieres by Eve Beglarian, Seattle's own Janice Giteck, the underrated microtonalist Elodie Lauten, and William Duckworth's Cathedral Band. I'm also eager to hear The Light Within by John Luther Adams, an Alaska composer influenced by Morton Feldman (1926–1987) and the remote wilderness.
On Sunday, the SCP embarks on a Feldman marathon, essaying pieces such as Crippled Symmetry, De Kooning, For Bass Clarinet and Percussion, and For Franz Kline. Humbly speckled with just a few notes, cryptic rhythms, and often hovering at the threshold of audibility, Feldman's music bewitches the ear.
There's much more to Icebreaker IV: For details on the preconcert talks, "meet the composer" events, and panel discussions, see www.seattlechamberplayers.org.
Icebreaker IV hits Fri Jan 25 and Sat Jan 26 (On the Boards, 100 W Roy St, 217-9888), 8 pm, $12–$20. The Morton Feldman Marathon on Sun Jan 17 (Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave, 654-3100), 1:30 pm, is free with museum admission.
SCMS WINTER FESTIVAL
The winter version of the Seattle Chamber Music Society's popular summer festival looks a bit different this year. The usual suspects (Bach, Mozart, Brahms, et al.) spice up rather than dominate the program. Each day of the four-day festival has a gem or two: the Quintet for Piano and Strings in F sharp minor, op. 67 by Amy Beach (1867—1944), the first prominent woman composer in America (Fri Jan 25); the masterly Jeremy Denk tackles Bach's Goldberg Variations (Sat Jan 26); and in an afternoon free preconcert recital, clarinetist Sean Osborn plays two classics, Three Pieces for Clarinet by Stravinsky and the haunting Abyss of the Birds from Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time (Sun Jan 27, 2 pm). Through Sun Jan 27; see scmf.org for details. Recital Hall at Benaroya, 200 University St, 283-8808, 7:30 pm, $10/$42.
PLAY! A VIDEO GAME SYMPHONY
At a recent festival in Canada, Anthony Braxton decreed that "anyone seriously studying composition and making music in this current time-space needs to pay attention to what the video-game people are doing. They're navigating a dynamic system that can go just about anywhere at any time and we can learn a lot from their solutions." I believe that such dynamic systems—whatever they might be—will be essential to engaging the ADD-afflicted audiences of today. Here, in what seems to be more of a suite than a symphony, the Seattle Symphony performs music from various video games including Halo, Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy, and World of Warcraft. Also Sat Jan 26 at 1 pm. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St, 215-4747, 7:30 pm, $17—$95.
Propelled by the phenomenal drumming of Paal Nilssen-Love, this quintet combines the melodic intensity reminiscent of Miles Davis' late '60s freebop groups with the fury of free jazz. Reservations recommended. Tula's, 2214 Second Ave, 443-4221, 8 pm, $14.
Carolyn Kuan leads the band in a free, all-Mozart concert. Aside from two symphonies—the negligible Symphony No. 1 and the fine Symphony No. 40—the band delivers the best wine-pouring music ever written, the Allegro from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Violinist Quinton Morris solos in the Allegro from Concerto No. 3 in G major for Violin and Orchestra. Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Ave, 684-7171, noon—1 pm, free.
Devoutly abrasive grindcore rockers Goly Grim transmute their CD-release shindig into a microfestival of noisy experimental music with Sparkle Girl, Eric Ostrowski, Blue Sabbath Black Cheer, and others. Columbia City Theatre, 4916 Rainier Ave S, 723-0088, 7 pm, $5.
Using fans, e-bows, and other devices, this Australian guitarist makes droning, elongated textures that are sometimes beautiful, sometime scarred, and always shivering and squirming with life. Also on the bill: Paintings for Animals, guitar saboteur Bill Horist, and Matt Shoemaker, one of our burg's most compelling composers of electroacoustic music. Gallery 1412, 1412 18th Ave, 322-1533, 8 pm, free, but donations accepted.