American Mavericks

Nite Trax: American Mavericks fest brings big organ, Bach phantasm, fruit smoothie

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"The best form of government ... is no government at all!" announced singer Meredith Monk in the second program of the SF Symphony's rollicking American Mavericks festival at Davies Hall on Sat., March 10, her trademark braided pigtails and Shuffling Elf gait in full effect. And while I could hear the pleated pants of several libertarians around me surely being wetted (and a few liberal feathers ruffling in the back), this was no mere Ron Paul back-pat, though it was delivered with all the empty bluster we've come to expect from the current campaign season. 

We were in the midst of an astonishing presentation of John Cage's epic, random Song Books from 1970, after all -- revered experimental vocalist Joan La Barbara had delivered a beribboned gift of apples or cranberries to an arbitrary audience member, magnificent diva Jessye Norman (in a stunning Issey Miyake gown) had joined in a boisterous card game and typed a letter on a mic'd typewriter, and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas had chopped up various fruits and veggies and Cuisinarted them into an orange-y beverage for the pianist. Cage, our 20th Century channeler of chance, would never allow such an inflexible utterance to stand unchallenged.

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Against the grain

SF Symphony's American Mavericks festival returns with visionary rareties -- and a timely dose of oddball wonder

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The organ, the laptop, and 'Digital Loom'

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The SF Symphony's awesome-looking American Mavericks festival -- which will present a "wild side" of contemporary and modernist classical works not often heard on a Davies Hall scale (Meredith Monk! Jessye Norman singing John Cage!) -- kicks off next week with a host of edgy aural goodies. 

And this Sun/4, in a kind of pre-fest wallop, Quebecoise organist Isabelle Demers will take advantage of the enormous Davies pipes to play a number of neat pieces, including one by SF's electronic-adventurous Mason Bates, entitled "Digital Loom," (hear a sample here). "Digital Loom," from 2009, embodies Bates' signature fusion of techno-ambient effects, often laptop generated, with symphonic elements to create something not quite Sci-Fi, not quite rave, not quite Stravinsky at his most cosmic-colorful, but all quite cool.

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