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In performance: Crash Ensemble

Web-only review:

Crash Ensemble crashes and burns at the Kennedy Center
by Robert Battey

The Crash Ensemble, an Irish contemporary music group founded in 1997, brought part of its show to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage last Thursday. I say "part" because although it was just a straight concert performance, Crash, according its program notes, "considers its sound engineers, technician, and video makers as much essential to the enterprise as the musicians." Well, there was no video, and the Millennium Stage's sound engineers have their own imperatives given the demands of Internet streaming and amplification in the most acoustically unsatisfactory venue in Washington.
(read more after the jump)

Thus, I can only guess as to what a real Crash performance would look or sound like; the one here was a dull, coagulated mess. The ensemble consisted of piano, percussion, four strings, three winds, and electric guitar. The latter dominated the sound mix whenever he played, and one spent long periods of time watching the string players wrestle with what looked like interesting, angular licks that were completely inaudible.

The program included works by David Lang (recent Pulitzer Prize-winner), Terry Riley (the father of modern minimalism) and Donnacha Dennehy (Crash's founder). The music featured long, asymmetrical bars, instrumental lines of herky-jerky rhythms around just a few notes, and nothing in the way of dynamic contrasts or juxtaposed textures (everything just "evolved"). The final work, Dennehy's "Love and Death," added a trumpet and a tenor, who sang something in Gaelic (no text was given). And, again, with the sound-mix coming out as undifferentiated, electric-guitar-heavy soup, it was a long afternoon.

-- Robert Battey

By Anne Midgette  |  May 8, 2010; 5:23 AM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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