Monday, June 25, 2012

Unamplified, uncompressed, intimate - Sonic Generator in Shutze's Academy of Medicine

I found myself leaning in, leaning forward, trying to get closer. They played loud and in a whisper.

These days music is engineered to sound good in the car and on MP3 players. Dynamics get squeezed out else we'd constantly adjust the volume while we jogged.

Not this night. It was the perfect storm of architecture tourism: a great event in a great space.

I sat 10 feet from the string quartet in the extraordinary auditorium at the Academy of Medicine.

Violinists Helen Hwaya Kim and Adelaide Federici, cellist Brad Ritchie, composer Jonathan Berger, violist William Johnston. Sonic Generator is the contemporary music ensemble-in-residence at Georgia Tech.

Until the music began I enjoyed the building and the people.

The Academy of Medicine glowed in the low sun. The brick pavers are part of the composition, the base layer of rustication.

A string quartet in a building like this? Free? Bring it on.

I've been here before. It works every time. Philip Shutze designed this just for me. However grand, this room is comfortable.

The rotunda is the narthex for the auditorium.

There are 230 seats. It feels like an oval but it's not. The entrance wall is flat. The stage is in Turn 1.

I wondered how would it sound? Did Shutze do acoustics?

We were about to find out.

The stage featured two marimbas and columns in antis.

Jason Freeman, associate professor in Georgia Tech School of Music introduced the show.

William Johnston performed first, playing "Viola Elegy" with a recording. I stood in the very back corner. It was as if he was right beside me.

I moved to the front row.

It was Marimba time, left - Charles Settle, right Stuart Gerber. They performed "Piano Phase" by Steve Reich and messed with our brains (see video).

Composer Jonathan Berger introduced the final piece, his own work: "Doubles" (2004).

The quartet took the stage.

I just don't get to do this.. I felt like I was holding each instrument, feeling the vibrations.

Bravo. Mark Gresham reviewed the performances at

Did Shutze do acoustics? Somebody sure did. Did Shutze ever hear a performance in Academy of Medicine?

The end of concerts are so sad. The performance is just gone. You have to leave, go back to eating, working, and sleeping.

For most of us this was the first and last time. And modern works rarely leave me whistling a melody.

Yet I do have vivid memories of the performances.

I remember how real and intimate it sounded, as if they performed just for me.

Time to go.

I don't know when the Academy of Medicine will host music again.

Sonic Generator will perform at the opening event for gloATL's Liquid Culture: a utopia station series July 6, 7-8 pm – Midtown – 15th Street and Peachtree Street, Colony Square Plaza. More here.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter I'll give you a heads up.

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