Ninth Planet Presents: Reflect, Respond

Sat Nov 02 2019: Osher Salon, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco ($20 general, $10 students/seniors/disabled persons.)

Ninth Planet presents works by Eve Beglarian, Jenny Olivia Johnson, Ursula Kwong-Brown, Kaija Saariaho and Dan VanHassel

NINTH PLANET NEW MUSIC- the union of two established Bay Area new music groups, formerly known as Wild Rumpus and Composers, Inc – announces its inaugural concert: Reflect, Respond with works by Eve Beglarian, Jenny Olivia Johnson, Ursula Kwong-Brown, Kaija Saariaho and Dan VanHassel.

“We seek to continue presenting and commissioning exciting new music and particularly bringing attention to the work of younger composers,” says Nathaniel Berman, Artistic Director of the newly-formed Ninth Planet ensemble. “Our inaugural concert is centered around the work Reflect Reflect Respond Respond (Echo and Narcissus in reverse) by Boston-based composer Jenny Olivia Johnson. The works on the program are united by this theme of Reflection and Response: how do we react to the world around us, especially in the wake of transformative life events?”

The Ninth Planet’s core of nine players — Jessie Nucho (flute), Sophie Huet (clarinet), Brendan Lai-Tong, (trombone),  Mckenzie Camp (percussion), Giacomo Fiore (electric guitar), Margaret Halbig (piano), Mia Nardi-Huffman (violin), Joanne de Mars (cello) and Eugene Theriault (double bass) — will all perform in Reflect Reflect Respond Respond, joined by the fantastic sopranos Ann Moss and Amy Foote, and conducted by Nathaniel Berman.

Composer Jenny Olivia Johnson will be present to oversee the electronics of her piece. Reflect Reflect Respond Respond (Echo and Narcissus in reverse), which was commissioned by Wild Rumpus in 2012 and revised in 2015. The work is an extended meditation on Ovid’s story of Echo, the nymph cursed to only repeat what she hears, and Narcissus, who loves his own reflection and is oblivious to Echo’s love. With live delay creating ripples in her already shimmering and canonic textures, the piece traces the emotional journey of the two figures’ doomed communication. Jenny Olivia Johnson is Associate Professor at Wellesley University.

Unwinding III, by Ursula Kwong-Brown – a Ninth Planet board member and former Composers, Inc. member – tells a personal story of recovering from a traumatic bike accident which left the composer with ongoing pain and memory troubles. The term “unwinding” refers to a craniosacral therapy treatment in which tensions of the muscular and nervous system are unravelled and the patient is left feeling light and free. An early version of the work for string trio was performed by the Earplay ensemble in 2017. This version will feature six members of Ninth Planet’s core ensemble.

Two pieces by Eve Beglarian highlight contrasting elements: Play Like a Girl, and Until it Blazes. The former, written for one or two or more keyboard instruments with pre-recorded tracks, weaves material from Bulgarian choral music into a twinkling spiral. Until it Blazes, played in this version on solo electric guitar with live delay processing, is a spellbinding journey guided by Beglarian’s simple patterns and the choices offered the performer.

The wonderful Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s Cendres, a trio for alto flute, cello, and piano, delves deeply into the timbral world of the instruments, at times bringing them together and other times opposing them, to create a sound world that ranges from ethereal to sensual.

Finally, music by Dan VanHassel, one of the founders of Wild Rumpus. His Balance of Powerjuxtaposes funky, noisy percussive elements against a slowly unfolding chord progression. The result is a shifting sound world that is rich with color and catchy rhythms. Like all the works on the program, this work for sextet will feature core members of the Ninth Planet ensemble.