The future of Philadelphia music: String quartets in helicopters?

Friday, 10 November 2017, 12:11:10 PM. Once a comfortably conservative music town, Philadelphia is turning into a hub of musical experimentalists.
Sometimes you just have to plug your ears — and not care who notices. The occasion was the debut of the Barnes Ensemble weeks back in a program that delved into Ligeti, Scelsi and other composers who go to the edge of what’s possible for the human mind to conceive. Much was fascinating. But the opening dissonances in Eric Wubbels’ Viola Quartet were so confrontational that I hit overload. Off the cliff. Unable to take another second. Fingers went in the ears. The diabolical enthusiasm of Barnes Foundation curators Katherine Skovira and Robert Whalen left me nearly begging for mercy. Not that I’m complaining. In fact, this is great news. Really. The concert was the artistic equivalent of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sending back pictures of Pluto. Maybe it isn’t pretty. But look you must. Such events haven’t been available to Philadelphians on this scale until recently. But 2017 has been a succession of large-scale, at-the-edge events. Bowerbird’s Julius Eastman festival recovered lost works of the late African American composer (1940-90), whose music was scattered to the winds at his death but who is now emerging as an infectious visionary. It was historic. Meanwhile, Philly Fringe, Opera Philadelphia’s O17, the October Revolution, and PRISM Quartet have all had concerts that were artistic successes and that carved out a larger-than-usual space in the musical ecosystem. This month alone has Network for New Music with new pieces by Cynthia Folio and Robert Maggio...Read more
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