Katie Bull’s facebook post on 6/17/12 after Burning Bridge played at the Vision Festival.
Have you ever been in an audience and realized you were watching a historic performance? The epic composition performed last night at the Vision Festival by violinist/composer Jason Hwang 's ensemble,"Burning Bridge," was an absolutely unforgettable event and I know I am not alone in feeling that way. The "Burning Bridge" set at Vision will go down in that listening audience's ears as one of the most impacting ensemble performances of a new composition. If you were there, you know what I mean. It seemed many of us sat in transfixed stillness, and then found ourselves dancing in our own seats as rhythms and energies grabbed our collective. Composed (with multiple GRANTS) in five "movements," the piece visited all the elements, and evoked images of the earth, for this listener. Places of geography and the nature that moves the geography, came alive through the five elements in motion, such as wind whirling, fire sizzling and water undulating. Many of the listeners in the balcony were alternating between silent listening and unpremeditated unsuppressed shout-outs : YES! I heard more than one "Oh my god," spoken quietly & loudly, and there was a very powerful "YES, YES, YES" that came more than once from the center balcony. To me, this audience vocalization of wonder and affirmation was part of the composition. When a composer speaks that truthfully through his art, as Jason has, capturing the collective in the dialogue, the audience's ear is not just a receptive organ, but a participant in a conversation.
As I was listening I thought I heard a form pattern emerging; an introduction of an organic element through compositional shaping of intentional melody and rhythm, that would then spill out into the chaos "side" of the element. It was a form pattern I kept perceiving, or maybe I projected the pattern onto the form. I heard, for example, a whole fire burning in quick hard-hitting unison staccato, and then it spilled out, or flared out, into the essence of the darting flames, and then it became its own heat. The element would deconstruct, and then the element would reappear again in it's fully constructed form, in a strong unison, at the "end". This happened with every element in every movement. Then there was the blues aspect of the night. Wow, reinvention of blues changes YES, YES, YES: avant blues with Japanese 'steps' . Wow! The moments of dissonance were like a new kind of note bending. Truly new sounds. Yet, the use of blues-like changes, and recognizable blues rhythm was a backbone throughout the composition. By backbone rhythm, I mean unifying rhythm that chiseled out opportunities for very strong unison, which I really appreciated. The contrast of the rhythm and the un-patterned rhythm was all the more recognizable, to my ear. That may sound simplistic, but it was, to my ear, one of the main ways in which Jason created an arcing build of the over-all movements. Due to time (it was nearly midnight) he has to skip the IVth movement. I can only imagine the arc if we had heard the piece in it's entirely.
All the players were simply remarkable. Sun Li and Wang Guowei played integral Japanese instruments I do not recognize; the instruments looked and sounded completely magical and I have a call-out to get the names of the instruments. I want to get some recordings made with those instruments, alone! A solo by Sun Li on a very graceful stringed instrument that looked like a slim lute, will go down as one of the most beautiful solos I've ever heard. Taylor Ho Bynum (coronet), Steve Swell (trombone), Ken Filiano (bass), Andrew Drury (drums), and of course Jason Hwang himself were all virtuosic. These are the heavy-hitters of our avant free times. The fine-wine nature of veteran improvisors is that they are able to effortlessly relate in-the-moment to the vocabulary established in a compositional "theme" -- that they are spontaneously evolving the composition, vs. pulling focus through displays/chops. These virtuosic soloists made up Jason's ensemble with zero ego; the whole night was a movingly coherent ode to life itself.
In the set preceding, TRIO X - with Oliver Lake, tenor, Reggie Workman, bass, and Andrew Cyrille, drums - the entrainment was entirely COMPLETE. As one listener said to me in the lobby during the set break, "They were in each other's heads". That's it, they were IN each other's heads. This trio has been performing together for 20 years. And what we heard last night was Trio X in its absolute top form. Had my furry wolf-cousin' not regurgitated her entire meal on my Indian blanketed couch and floor as I was leaving home, I would have heard the premiere of Joelle Leandre (bass) Nicole Mitchell (flute) and Thomas Buckner (vocalist); Steve Swell's Quintet; and the dancer Rachel Bernsen - I was heartbroken to miss those sets, but my heart was mended and strengthened by what I did catch!
The video art of Paul Clay was live transpositions of the sonic, through what looked to be instantaneous improvisational responses to the live film images of the musicians playing on stage. The palate seemed to be color or texture altering effects, and pre-filmed images of city landscapes + other urban objects deconstructed,(like the shapes of things in storefront windows for example). During Trio X, close-ups on the drum architecture itself in a thick green with black lines, impressed a visually moving geometry on the live sound; the video art was an added player in the "trio"! The paintings and other projected art, by artists including Miriam Parker, Jo Wood-Brown, as well as the presence of live artists sketching the live music, including Jeff Schlanger musicWitness (c), and the running thread of dancers on all nights, made the environment a three dimensional multi-art happening.
All in all, it was a night to be thankful, for Vision. At the end of evening, Patricia Nicholson Parker, founder and curator with her husband William Parker, spoke of the importance of "LIVE multi-arts" celebrations, and of the "luxury" afforded by the beautiful venue Roulette. She spoke of her own gratitude, and of how wonderful it is that we can all "get inundated every night" by visual art, dance, music, and....food. "Yes, food," - Patricia honored the kitchen, acknowledging the chefs and their dishes like vegetarian Orzo, meatloaf sandwiches, and baked goods. She gave a hand to the cooks and all the staff, including the volunteer workers for the evening. This struck me as a moment of equal importance. The night had all the elements of ritual. And we recognize in this ritual act that by participating we are giving fortitude to community and the art in each other. The art in me sees the art in you.
- Facebook, Katie Bull - June 17, 2012