The recent works of Los Angeles-based composer Kurt Isaacson are loosely grouped into multi-piece taxonomies about animals. These include the so-called “meat cycle” for strings, a grotesque of devolution and hybridity for low brass instruments, and a sonic re-imagination of the medieval bestiary in his “species” pieces. For some time longer, Isaacson’s music has stitched together chaotic, unstable sonic textures with fragments of poetry and literature in an effort to create an intangible mixture of sound and letters. His “animal pieces” go further and are littered with allusions to poets and authors that coalesce into micro-taxonomies of growth and atrophy, sickness and health, chaos and stasis.
Through Isaacson’s music one might hear animals as heroic friends, as fabled foes, or as cumbersome resources in a world stretched beyond replenishment. Sometimes their roars are deafening; more often, we hear them as fragile or muted. Animals appear as myriad characters mirroring our own ambitions and needs as humans in Isaacson’s cycles — their cries are not merely bestial, but rather a low speech we too feel instinctually.
Presented by three of the most ferocious representatives of a young generation of West Coast contemporary musicians, cellist Helen Newby, trombonist/performer Weston Olencki, and flutist Elise Roy will perform five pieces drawn from Isaacson’s animal collections, including three world premieres:
nausea of the cells (flute + electronics)
monk (flute + double-bell euphonium)
with billowing sheets tucked in at the edges, puckering like a healing wound (flute + cello)
radiant species (cello)
legal beast language (piano)