Vol. 26 Issue 1 Reviews
Ought-One Festival

Kalvos & Damian New Music Bazaar (KGDR-FM), Montpellier, Vermont, USA, 25-26 August 2001

Reviewed by Jennifer Hymer
Münster, Germany

The Ought-One Festival took place in Montpellier (Vermont), America's smallest state capitol, on August 25-26, 2001. Bringing together 160 composers and performers for 40 concerts of all possible, non-restrictive musical genres, its subtitle, "The Woodstock of Non-Pop," was aptly earned.

The event was organized by the hosts of Vermont Public Radio's award-winning radio show "Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar," composers Dennis Báthory-Kitsz and David Gunn. Wishing to showcase a broad stylistic range of musical forms at the forefront of the 21st century, what started off as a small local event quickly became an international one, with appearances by performers and composers ranging from the New York downtown music scene, Dartmouth College, the Belgian Logos Ensemble, and Ensemble WireWorks from Germany to computer music pioneers Clarence Barlow and Larry Austin, as well as composers Ji Hi Kim and John McGuire, among many others. The use of electroacoustic and computer means in a variety of musical expressions was highly prevalent among the artists in attendance.

Ought-One was dedicated to Clarence Barlow, whom Mr. Báthory-Kitsz and Mr. Gunn attribute as an ongoing inspiration for their aesthetic philosophy. "Clarence, through his boundless energy and good humor, sowed seeds years ago which are blooming on this Festival weekend" (Báthory-Kitsz). His ensemble piece, Le Cixeau du Tom Johnson, was premiered by Ensemble NonSequitur, with particularly notable playing by the young cellist, Ha-Yang Kim.

The New York presentations consisted of a cast of glamorous, well-dressed performers and composers showing the influences of theater, New Age, synthetic sounds, and (despite the festival’s subtitle) popular music. Flautist Margaret Lancaster combined elements of cabaret and comedy in her solo flute and electronics program, performing pieces by Karlheinz Stockhausen, Jon Appleton, and Kaija Saariaho. In Mr. Appleton's Stop Time, for a tap-dancing flute player, musical excerpts are recorded live and then played back, providing Ms. Lancaster with her very own immediate dance accompaniment. Bass clarinetist and composer Michael Lowenstern achieved stunning results with his works for electronics, sampled sounds, and virtuoso playing. In At The Refrain: Day In, by means of electronic "clothing," Mr. Lowenstern is able to trigger an amazing assortment of sampled sounds and music through physical gestures in an amusing theatre piece that describe his "typical" day in New York City. Composer and Village Voice critic Kyle Gann's Custer and Sitting Bull is a one-person microtonal opera, in which, through his own narration-song technique accompanied by a pre-composed microtonal background, he delves into the conflicting psyches of two men representing opposing stances of America's historic past. Other New Yorkers included composer/singer Eve Beglarian, pianists Nurit Tilles and Eleanor Sandresky, and violist Martha Mooke.

The academic environment of Dartmouth College was represented by faculty composers Larry Polansky, Jon Appleton, and Eric Lyon. In Mr. Lyon's Slumber Party Massacre, an almost-piano concerto with percussion, his protest of USA military policies is marked by virtuoso piano improvisations by the composer himself and harsh drum calls by the percussionists.

Another feature of the festival were the 15 installations set up in a "Dream Room" by composers such as Maggi Payne, Anna Rubin, Karlheinz Essl, and Larry Austin. In Mr. Austin's Williams [re]Mix[ed], for octophonic computer music system, based on the formula of John Cage's William's Mix, he has composed five ensuing variations built from categorized elements such as wind, electronic, and manual sounds. Taking full advantage of today's digital technology, Mr. Austin has created a surprisingly tangible and sensuous version of Cage's pioneering, pointillistic tape piece.

Additional performances at the festival included Brenda Hutchinson performing her own Go Through Walls and Stuff Like That, Joseph Celli and Ji Hi Kim with their compositions for double reed and komungo, Gregory Beyer performing Elaine Thomazi Freitas' a falta que ele me faz… for berimbau and electronics, and singer Beth Griffith performing John McGire’s A Cappella for voice and tape. Duo “Odd Appetite” gave a memorable rendition of Kaija Saariaho’s Pres for cello and computer, and Larry Polansky’s “Polo” guitar duo performed Mr. Báthory-Kitsz’s HighBirds for guitar and playback, among other pieces. There was also a lecture/demonstration by music researcher Manfred Clynes.

A Zip-Three Festival is planned for 2003 (see www.kalvos.org for details).