Specializing in experimental music and related art forms, A Change of Harp and Bowerbird team up for a Fringe presentation of Luciano Berio’s challenging 14 SEQUENZAS. The complete repertoire of Sequenzas—extended-technique solo pieces for fourteen different instruments (accordion, guitar, violin, oboe, trombone, viola, piano, trumpet, bassoon, harp, saxophone, voice, flute, and cello), composed between 1958 and 2002—are staged in six rooms on three floors of the First Unitarian Church. Attendees are invited to come at any time during the three-hours of timed performance (conceived and organized by harpist Elizabeth Morgan-Ellis), to wander through the space, to sit while listening to the pieces that resonate most with them, and to examine nostalgic artifacts related to the era and to Berio’s life. In addition to the props, the interactive site-specific production offers an installation of sound-reactive televisions and a listening station with recorded performances and additional background information on the work.
Each of the daring and demanding 14 SEQUENZAS features virtuoso musicians and masterful performances. Among the most affecting of the adventurous “new music” compositions is Sequenza III-Voice (1965), performed by coloratura soprano Alize Rozsnyai, a graduate student in opera at the Curtis Institute of Music. Combining vocals, visual projections, and movement, the feminist piece explores the theatrics and tonal possibilities of the human voice, and the anxiety and depression created by a woman’s social and personal struggles; it is filled with raw emotion and fragmented lyrics (“Give me a few words for a woman to sing a truth allowing us to build a house without worrying before night comes”). 14 SEQUENZAS is a unique and rewarding Fringe experience for aficionados of modern music and an excellent immersive introduction for newcomers to the genre. [First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, 2125 Chestnut Street] September 18-20, 2014; ringearts.com/14-sequenzas.