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Bravo to Bonnie Wright! The fearless promoter of cutting-edge music scored again last night with her presentation of composer Philippe Manoury's works performed by soprano Juliana Snapper and electronics pioneer Miller Puckette in a concert that succeeded beyond expectations.

Manoury's compositional aesthetic is infinite and challenging. Each of his pieces demanded a kaleidoscopic blending of virtuosic vocal abilities as well as orchestral synthesis at the highest level. Manoury was at the concert--sitting next to Puckette following his sprawling scores (at least 50 pages--maybe twice that), and occasionally dialoging with the creator of Max-MSP-- a visual programming language for interactive music and multimedia.

Snapper began Illud ETIAM with her piercing soprano being directed into a microphone--not for amplification purposes--but to be channeled into Puckett's remarkable program--which manipulated it into myriad contextual possibilities to appear at different intervals. There were 6 high-quality speakers set up around the room and the rest of the score ebbed and flowed and occasionally shot out at you from all angles. The mélange of synthesized sounds was nothing short of astonishing: bells of all sizes spun around the room, as well as almost Gamelan textures of intricate detail.

Throughout it all was Snapper's unbelievably dexterous voice, which at times sounded like a theremin on steroids. When that voice was transformed into mocking choirs or reverberant wails--Snapper wove around those devices like a songbird.

A maddening cacophony of voices evoking angry villagers or kids at a playground led off Luigi Nono's La Fabbrica Illuminata composed in 1964. As constantly shifting electronic sounds orbited the room, Snapper leaned against a wall and used an i-phone to keep track of the text--proving that the last thing she needed was a microphone.

As the concert developed--the images of dreams and nightmares became blurred past the point of distinction-- there were equal parts joy, sorrow, desire and terror-- especially on the concluding piece from Manoury, En echo, based on the text of poet Emmanuel Hocquart in homage to Nabokov's Lolita.

Swells of tempered and non-tempered instruments and gurgling waves of pitches combined with the strange brew of angelic and tortured melisma of Snapper, who never became overwhelmed by the often violent orchestrations filling the room.

I'm generally not much of an opera fan--but this music was brilliant on every possible level. It was also sold-out--for the many folks who were turned away-- Wright, Manoury, Snapper and Puckette have generously agreed to a repeat performance tonight at 8 pm, at Space4Art in the East Village.

Photo by Bonnie Wright

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