Thursday, June 14, 2007 | June 13: Opening night for soundOn, a festival of new music that continues for the next three days from the Athenaeum and NOISE, which is the resident ensemble for San Diego New Music.
Too many concert-goers flee from new music, ducking out the door when it appears on a program, say, after a Beethoven piano concerto. So am I looking for punishment, with dozens of hours of the stuff?
For one thing, the Athenaeum’s music room makes listening to new music easy. You can’t escape from this place, can’t duck out the door when the new music comes after say, a Beethoven concerto. It’s about the size of a large living room, and when it’s not set up for concerts, you can settle into a sofa and comfortable chairs. Shelves of books and LPs that line the walls — and CDs in another room — beckon. For concerts, the sofas and chairs are pushed against the back of the room, and mesh chairs are set in rows, and you’re close to the action.
For me, this festival is a ride through the musical thinking and feeling of our time, with a minimum of external distractions from musicologists. That’s not punishment. Still, if you want to talk about the music, drop by the Athenaeum today (Thursday), at 1 p.m., when the composers will discuss the challenging social, political and practical issues that they face.
The opening night concert is titled “Homage,” and some of the cognoscenti might grasp all the allusions to the currents of modern music. For now, I stroll around the performance space, where the Athenaeum’s Steinway grand joins a collection of different instruments not always found on a concert stage.
About 35 people are here, no surprise, because this music attracts only the adventurous and the curious. The youngest is a 3-year-old boy in the front row who makes several appearances throughout the evening, randomly becoming part of the sonic environment. Some in the audience are the composers, their name tags hanging around their necks. Most of them are kids — OK, in their 30s.