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Yarn/Wire stitches together novel sounds PDF Print E-mail
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor   
Friday, 21 March 2014 09:38
Next Sunday the four members of the new music quartet Yarn/Wire will spend some quality time together.
The ensemble will be making the nine-hour drive from Queens, N.Y., to Bowling Green for a concert on campus, enjoying trading the music of their rock musician friends and some peace and quiet.
They could fly, but that would mean, Russell Greenberg explained in a recent telephone interview, leaving some of their favorite instruments at home.
Yarn/Wire is a quartet of two pianists and two percussionists - the name refers to the material covering the tips of some percussion mallets and the strings of a piano. While Bowling Green State University's College of Musical Arts will provide the marimba and other large percussion instruments as well as the two grand pianos, it's the littler instruments that make the difference.
Yarn/Wire will perform a concert of music of the 20th and 21st centuries Monday at 8 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall as part of the Music on the Forefront series.
Greenberg explained that one of the pieces on the program was composed not just for the group, but with some of its specific percussion instruments in mind. The composer Eric Wubbels analyzed the sound spectrum of the gongs, log drums and tuned cowbells, and incorporated them into the piece.
While the piece can be performed with other instruments, Greenberg said, to use those specific instruments "takes it to a new level."
Greenberg and fellow percussionist Ian Antonio and pianists Laura Barger and Ning Yu have been working together since 2005 when they were doctoral students at Stony Brook University. The piano and percussion departments at the State University of New York school tended to be the most strongly aligned with new music, Greenberg said.
The musicians lived in the area, so it was natural that they would start rehearsing, first tackling the two of the signature pieces for this instrumentation - Bela Bartok's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion and Luciano Berio's "Linea."
"That's the kind of piece that started it," Greenberg said. They also discovered other compositions, especially from France written for piano and percussion. "We decided to add to it."
"We really liked playing with each other and since we knew a bunch of composers we thought we'd ask them to write for us."
The fruit of that effort will be on display at Monday's BGSU concert. The quartet will play Berio's masterpiece and Wubbels' "alphabeta" as well as Aaron Helgeson's "if where is of to why," Alex Mincek's "PendulumVI: Trigger" and Philip Schuessler's  "Particle Fountain."
After finishing at Stony Brook in 2008, the members settled in Queens, and set about establishing itself as a top contemporary ensemble.
Greenberg said there's "a good energy now" on the scene particularly in New York and Chicago.
The ensemble was able to rent out a space in Queens large enough for its expansive instrumentation. It's even walking distance from home for the two percussionists.
The ensemble has played festivals, concert venues and colleges around the country. They've also performed in clubs and more unusual venues.
Greenberg said with that in mind the ensemble is commissioning pieces where the two pianists play on one instrument, or one plays a synthesizer.
The magazine Time Out said Yarn/Wire has assembled a body of work that is "spare and strange and very, very new."
Greenberg advised listeners to arrive at a Yarn/Wire performance with open mind and alert ears. "People will hear new combinations of sounds and new ways of putting sound together."
These incorporate a world of percussion, and different approaches to the piano as well as electronics.
The musicians bring their own influences to bear.
Both Greenberg and Antonio play in rock bands. Greenberg plays in a group that blends the influence of new music with Renaissance and heavy metal. Barger and Yu also perform more traditional classical music.
Those connections don't have to be explicitly stated in the music, Greenberg said. Sometimes "it's about the energy."

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