This Monday night (July 27), 7PM the 701 Center for Contemporary Art in Columbia, South Carolina hosts a concert devoted to a potent movement active on the fringes of (or maybe quietly threading its way all through?) the current classical scene: the Wandelweiser Group. Described as “the evaluation and integration of silence(s) rather than an ongoing carpet of never-ending sounds,” Wandelweiser was formed in 1992 by Dutch flautist Antoine Beuger and German violinist Burkhard Schlothauer. Their ranks have slowly grown over the years, and include Swiss clarinetist Jürg Frey and pianist Manfred Werder, American guitarist Michael Pisaro and trombonist Craig Shepard, Austrian trombonist Radu Malfatti, and many more. With such a stellar group, and aided by its own publishing operation (Edition Wandelweiser) and its own record label (Wandelweiser Records), quite a following has grown up worldwide.
But it’s rarely heard anywhere near the confines of the traditional concert hall; Wandelweiser music works with extremely delicate, sometimes obsessive, nearly conceptual sound — gestures and patterns seemingly unmoored in expanses of quiet intensity. Even when rigorously calculated, there’s a sense of improvisation; nowadays, since the movement has also attracted many players from the experimental/improv side of the serious music line, that sense is often a reality.
Wandelweiser ideas found their biggest foothold in the U.S. in Southern California, with CalArts as the focus. But now Columbia SC has folds experimental music and performance workshop: Jason Brogan director and guitar; Kieran Daly, performance; Michael Hanf, percussion; Richard Kamerman, electronics; Nathan Koci, horn/accordion; David Linaburg, guitar; Dave Ruder, clarinet; Sam Sfirri, piano; Ron Wiltrout, percussion.
Monday’s concert is titled “Several Silences”, and brings together pieces not only from the South Carolina contingent, but both Europe and Southern California as well: Antoine Beuger – cantor quartets; Jason Brogan – metronomic irregularity; Michael Pisaro – harmony series nos. 11a-d; Sam Sfirri – I gave thanks for evening that brings out the lights; Mark So – this singular tale of the past; Manfred Werder – 2008 (1).
If you’re in the area do try and make it; for $10 you’ll get a window into a whole new world.