Video: Excerpts from wild Up’s Ornithology

As previously posted, experimental classical/contemporary group wild Up presented a show of bird-themed pieces, Ornithology, in the two-story studio space of the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena on Jan. 14. Performing to a sold-out crowd, the show featured performances, arrangements and compositions by CalArtians.

The young, 24-member ensemble premiered new works by recent alumnus Chris Kallmyer (Music MFA 09) as well as faculty member Mark Menzies. Kallmyer’s work, this nest, swift passerine, utilized birdhouses with embedded speakers scattered around the room that emitted field recordings of birds, over which the ensemble played corresponding textures. Menzies piece, Double Tui, which is named after a New Zealand bird, included rain sticks, boom boxes, and some theatricality involving performers moving on and off stage.

Among the other bird-themed arrangements on the program were jazz legend Charlie Parker’s Bird of Paradise, arranged by Archie Carey (Music MFA 11), who stretched the opening chords of the famous tune into a microtonal soundscape. Richard Valitutto’s (Music MFA 11) arrangement of indie songwriter Andrew Bird’s Fake Palindromes was an amalgamation of Bird’s songwriting with the mindset of composer Oliver Messiaen’s gestural and harmonic writing.

With many CalArtian performers in the ensemble, two were featured during the evening.  In composer Brian Ferneyhough’s La Chute d’Icare [The Fall of Icarus], clarinet soloist Brian Walsh (Music MFA 08) played virtually non-stop through the 10-minute, physically-taxing composition. Ferneyhough’s complex music is extremely challenging to perform rhythmically and structurally.  Pianist Valitutto also performed a difficult work of Oliver Messiaen’s, Oiseaux exotiques [Foreign Birds], which was inspiration for his aforementioned Andrew Bird arrangement.

To read more about the compositions and arrangements, visit wild Up’s blog.

On Jan. 19, wild Up and its artistic director Christopher Rountree were featured on American Public Media’s Performance Today with Fred Child. Listen to the broadcast here.

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