In the early 1960s, coffee houses in university towns provided accessible live performance venues for aspiring musicians and their casually assembled ensembles. Although compared to the sepulchral silence of today’s coffee houses—with row upon row of mesmerized zombies staring at glowing laptops—I feel like I am describing a social condition from the reign of French King Pepin the Short.
Fresh Sound presented the duo of violinist Andie Springer and guitarist James Moore Monday (April 2) at Bread and Salt in a program of their own compositions and pieces that friends had written or arranged for them. Their minimalist and minimalist influenced music may have been current, but their laid-back approach, conversational presentation, and strict adherence to acoustic performance practice harked back to those coffee houses of the 1960s.
Moore’s ample technique and the brightness of his steel-string resonator guitar provided generous accompaniment for Springer’s bright violin playing and gave him a wide dynamic range for solo riffs.
At the rowdy end of the sonic spectrum, Pat Muchmore’s “Chichen Itza” featured strident guitar strumming, an insistent rasgado, that evoked the exotic ethos of that historic place, while his “Mexico City I” suggested the hectic pace and urban grit of that contemporary metropolis. In “Mexico City II,” an intense violin theme burst into rapid, densely coiled figurations only to end in a quiet, pensive cadence.
Opening with a majestically forlorn, low incantation by alto flute, Toru Takemitsu’s “Toward the Sea” suggested the vast water’s pristine melancholy. Flutist Katie Cox gracefully followed the composer’s soaring contrasts with an unusually rich but unforced sonority, to which Moore added deft, pointillist accompaniment. Moore’s own “Cycloptic Eye” for violin, flute, and guitar layered static lines, usuualy of a single tone, announced decisively and propelled with quick crescendos. The effect made me think of winds blasting on a remote, unpeopled plain.
Dance figured in a few selections. A rousing Irish dance slowly came into focus in the duo’s program opening “Fiddling Tune,” written by a friend in attendance, and a frenzied Bulgarian dance swirled through another work that gave the impression of a contest piece for extended techniques on both violin and guitar.
Springer and Moore concluded their concert with vocal three vocal selections from the 2003 opera Celestial Excursions by the late American composer Robert Ashley. Floating from sentimental ballad to talkin’ blues, these “songs” came closer to spoken blank verse over gentle chord progression than actual singing, although Moore and Springer occasionally essayed a kind of sotto voce vocalizing.
Fresh Sound presented Andie Springer and James Moore in a program of contemporary music on April 2, 2018, at Bread and Salt in San Diego’s Barrio Logan. The next Fresh Sound program will feature pianist Adam Tendler on April 20, 2018.