Yesterday the evening began with clarinettist Heather Roche, of whom multiple friends have spoken warmly but i had never heard play. The recital took place deep in the bowels of the University’s temple-like Creative Arts building, and comprised a selection of pieces incorporating electronics. Quite a few of them—Aaron Einbond’s Resistance, Chikako Morishita’s Lizard (shadow) and Sylvain Pohu’s l’identité—left me cold, revisiting tropes and methods that have become overused and hackneyed. i’ve written in the past about the endless parade of works where electronics pick up and play with material given off by the soloist, and while, of course, there’s scope to do genuinely interesting things with this, it’s some time since i’ve encountered any. Einbond’s Resistance felt especially moribund, assuming that the sounds of Occupy Wall Street would somehow embody his material with electrical charge, yet the result sounded merely exploitative.
The more successful pieces, though, were far more exciting. The relationship set up by Alex Harker in Fluence was simple but superbly effective, drawing on a vast array of prerecorded clarinet samples. No sign here of the problem of dislocation that plagues so much electroacoustic music; Harker creates a genuine, subtle dialogue between acoustic and electronic, giving the distinct impression that Roche was engaged in a duet—no small achievement. Pierre Alexandre Tremblay’s la rupture inéluctable fell into some flat moments, but the demonstrative way Roche interacted with the electronics—regularly stamping a pedal, producing hard-edged, glittering and grinding tones—again made them feel deeply integrated, an extension of the clarinet rather than separated from it. But what struck one more than even these fine works was the remarkable stamina and concentration of Heather Roche’s playing; in her hands, each and every piece became thoroughly absorbing.