Written for Talea is now becoming a tradition, an annual of concert of works written expressly for the flexible configurations of the Talea Ensemble and reflecting our belief in the creation of a new repertory that highlights important and varied voices. The admiration goes both ways: performers who thrive on the new bring to life music that is written with their own strengths and personalities in mind. Friday’s concert brings together four such pairings.

Oscar Bettison’s work is always white-hot in its intensity, regardless of its decibel level, and one may just as well perceive influences from the European postwar avant-garde as the vernacular playfulness of the Hague school and American post-minimalism. His inspiration here is the artist Joseph Cornell, whose “transformative use of everyday objects” is a vehicle for Bettison’s own longstanding experiments with materiality, whether purely musical or physically involve mutations or reinventions of instruments.

Waterlines is a five-movement work that has deep personal resonance for its composer, Christopher Trapani. Taking blues lyrics from the 1920s and 30s as a starting point (most directly related to the great Mississippi River flood), it serves as a memorial to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which caused the destruction of the composer’s own family home. Various plucked instruments and blues-intoned vocal lines combine with ensemble and electronics to create blurred edges of loss (both cultural/historical and personal) and memory.

Hans Tutschku has spent his entire career thinking about and making electroacoustic music, and is particularly adept at the subtle manipulation of processed and live sounds. Under uses the metaphor of “unseen forces” as a starting point for textural exploration. Piano and percussion play crucial, active roles here, and slowly the other instruments emerge out of granite-like textures to match them.

In Aaron Helgeson’s Poems of Sheer Nothingness, the relationship between text (in this case, ancient and forgotten) and voice, and then voice and ensemble, is one of mutual respect and maximal restraint. Instrumental colors – often sparse and delicate – reinforce particular textual affects and their resulting vocal contours: plaintive sighs in the first song, languid melismas in the second, then gasped breathlessness, quivering arabesques silenced by pregnant pauses, and finally prolonged resonance.

-Anthony Cheung
Artistic Director, Talea Ensemble