August 2017 Convention
Minneapolis, MN

Made in America

I thank this year’s program chair, Leonard Garrison, for the attention that he gave to new music. There was a rich array of new music offerings this year, and it was wonderful to see so many concerts on the schedule featuring both new compositions and major works from the 20th century—so many, in fact, that I was only able to attend a fraction of them.

 Melissa Keeling, Tammy Evans Yonce, and Angus McPherson.


“Made in America” opened with Melissa Keeling playing the premiere of her own composition, “:O,” for electric flute and Glissando headjoint. In addition to amplification, she used pedals to trigger effects including delay and distortion through the relatively brief piece, creating some very eerie moments.

Judging from comments around me, audience members were interested in both the piece and the Glissando headjoint, which some hadn’t seen before. Keeling, who has studied with Robert Dick, followed her own piece with an authoritative performance (from memory) of Dick’s “Air is the Heaviest Metal.” The piece includes multiphonics growing out of low notes, air sounds and syllables, and circular breathing, and was received enthusiastically.

Next, Hannah Leffler and pianist Eva Polgar performed “Birds of Paradise” by Shulamit Ran, a composer familiar to many flutists for her well-known works such as “East Wind.” The musicians wore bright dresses—pink and blue—echoing the title, and it was an evocative work, by turns fluttering, sensuous, and assertive. A few parts reminded me of Messiaen’s “Le Merle Noir,” though that might have been partly suggested by the title; interesting, also, that not having program notes makes titles take on more significance. A few extended techniques were integrated into the language of the piece, such as tongue stops, jet whistles, and whistle tones, as well as some playing inside the piano. There was great coordination and communication between the duo members throughout—and sensitive playing from both.

Unfortunately, I was only able to hear the first part of this concert and left after the Ran piece.

—Wayla J. Chambo