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April 13, 2012

Guest blog review: Mobtown Modern presents Michael Lowenstern

My thanks to Megan Ihnen, mezzo, concert presenter, blogger and more, for submitting this account of the latest Mobtown Modern program.

Michael Lowenstern, considered one of the finest and perhaps the most innovative bass clarinetist in the world, muses from the stage about a conversation he had with his 3 year old daughter.

“Daddy, write something I would like,” he recounts to the small crowd gathered for the Thursday night Mobtown Modern performance at the Windup Space. Knowing chuckles rose from the tables flung about like a Chicago jazz club done through a quirky Baltimore lens.

Lowenstern took his daughter’s request to heart and created the pieces for the album Ten Children.

Along with selections from that album, Lowenstern delighted the audience with pieces featuring his innumerable bass clarinet timbres, occasional voice/body percussion, tech-savvy multi-tracked layering, and his approachable stage presence.

An unmistakable hint of humor runs through Lowenstern’s compositions and performance. His is the “serious new music” featuring (gasp!) technology in live performance that even non-new music people like.

From the initial moments of Trick, the first piece of the evening, he established a groove that propelled the audience through the rest of the performance.

Lowenstern uses a system called ...

“Max” that connects his laptop and sound equipment to develop unique sound-making tools, unusual instrumental sounds, and custom performance systems which he uses to synthesize his loops with his live performance.

Catapulting from Klezmer influences in Sha to searing harmonica lines in a 2006 piece entitled My Mouth; the character and tone of each of his pieces change continuously. For example, Lowenstern plays whirling dervish loops in the third piece of his cycle Ten Children then contrasts with the beautiful, melodic lullaby in the tenth piece.

He demonstrated his humor, later in the evening, when he invited two audience members to play iPhones using phrases cut from English language learning tapes. He juxtaposes male and female voices with questions and statements for uproarious results while he loops frenzied musical lines in the background.

Mobtown Modern has a highly successful programming history and Michael Lowenstern’s performance adds to it. Co-Founders Brian Sacawa (Series Curator) and Erik Spangler (Sound Lab Curator) work hard to ensure that they are bringing high-quality, innovative contemporary performances to Baltimore. In fact, most of their programming is rarely heard in the Mid-Atlantic area.

Baltimoreans should certainly seek out their next concert, ZeroTime Operations, on April 28th which features a networked performance of two groups of archeologist/musicians, one in Rome and one in Baltimore.

-- Megan Ihnen

PHOTO COURTESY OF EARSPASM.COM

Posted by Tim Smith at 4:09 PM | | Comments (0)
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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at baltimoresun.com/artsmash. This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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