Present Music brings experimental sound to the Wherehouse

Violinist Plays Music
Violinist Plays Music

MILWAUKEE- Present Music, the internationally-acclaimed new-music ensemble, performed on Friday evening at the Wherehouse. The concert contained the world premiere of Cory Smythe’s “Reenactment,” an experimental song which confronts the musical legacy of the Civil War era with dark and unsettling tones.

Elaine Schmidt at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

Playing at the Wherehouse, a converted industrial building between S. Water St. and the Kinnickinnic River, Milwaukee’s new-music ensemble gave two performances of a brief concert entitled “Boundaries” on Friday evening, with a performance by DJ Jordan Lee in another room of the Wherehouse between the shows.

Longtime Present Music ensemble member Cory Smythe served as guest artistic director, writing some of the music for the event himself and playing piano on six of the program’s eight pieces.

The roster of ensemble members on the program included cellist Adrien Zitoun, saxophonist Steve Lehman, violinist-guitarist Eric Segnitz, violinist Naha Greenholtz, violist Maria Ritzenthaler, and Marty Butorac running electronics.

The evening’s world premiere was Smythe’s “Reenactment,” for piano, quarter-tone guitar, violin and viola, which Smythe described in his notes as “a short, tightly wound, ghost story” that was inspired by modern-day bands recreating emotionally jarring, racist songs of the Civil War era.

The ringing, twanging, resonator-guitar effect of the amplified, detuned guitar created unsettling, tight vibrations with the pitches produced by the piano, violin and viola. The effect was as aurally jarring as the subject matter of the tunes that inspired it.

Read more at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.