A projection screen guides the audience through all of Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble's innovative concerts at City Theatre. But this summer two of the group's world premieres would be unthinkable without the silver screen.
"L'oeil ecoute (The Eye Listens)" by Pierre Jalbert is a collaboration with Belgian filmmaker Jean Detheux. "Detheux is a digital media artist now living in Canada who has worked with many composers in the past," says PNME director Kevin Noe. He created a silent film that the full ensemble will accompany. "If you could imagine a Caulder sculpture moving, this would be it."
- Where: City Theatre, 13th and Bingham streets, South Side.
- When: July 10-11, 17-18, 24-25, 31-Aug. 1.
- Tickets: $10-$15, first time patrons get in free; 412-431-CITY.
Jalbert wrote music after seeing the abstract film, and in return Detheux has agreed to create another short to accompany Jalbert's earlier work for PNME, called "Visual Abstract."
The group also will premiere Pitt composer Amy Williams' "Cineshape 3," which was inspired by the German film "The Lives of Others."
These works are typical of the genre-bending and visually arresting shows PNME has come to be known for under Noe since 2001. But this summer, its concerts will be more straightforward in presentation due to financial concerns. Noe has had to cut a week of concerts and a week of rehearsals due to losing some grant money in the economic downturn. He says he won't be able to include a big production, such as last year's "Just Out of Reach."
But it is not as if PNME is suddenly going to be conventional.
Take, for instance, Jacob Ter Veldhuis' eclectic "Lipstick" for flute and electronics which draws heavily from pop culture. Or another world premiere in composer Stacy Garrop's "The Book of American Poetry (Abridged)" featuring PNME singer Timothy Jones. Or take "The Evidence," by John Fitz Rogers, a work for solo actor and tape taken from a 1949 speech given by U.S. Rep. George Dondero of Michigan. "It is a quirky, if scathing, indictment of new works of art in the mid-20th century," says Noe. "How wonderful that a speech condemning new work could itself be the basis of a new work!"
And there's plenty more, such as a classical version of a Chick Corea tune and a song about Jackie Kennedy.
"This is the most difficult program we have ever done," says Noe of the summer season's lineup. "Through and through the group's talent has never been higher, and it has enabled us to play the excruciatingly difficult pieces in such a short time."
PNME also releases its new CD, "Against the Emptiness," at the opening night concerts. The disc includes Kevin Put's "Einstein on Mercer Street," written for the PNME and Jones, Jalbert's "Visual Abstract," Russell Pinkston's "Lizamander" and Ryan Francis' "Consolations."
Classical music critic Andrew Druckenbrod can be reached at email@example.com . He blogs at Classical Musings at post-gazette.com.