Sounds Modern spins off bold program of recent works with connections to Iran

The Sounds Modern series, which combines concert programs with exhibitions in the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, guarantees adventurous offers of classical music.

The latest edition, presented to a personal and live-streaming audience in the museum’s auditorium on Saturday, complemented a three-decade-long art survey by Shirin Neshat. The 90-minute concert comprised eight current works almost exclusively by young female composers with cultural ties to Iran.

Neshat was born in Iran and immigrated to America at the age of 17. She works mainly in the fields of photography, video and film. Her exhibition at Modern, which ended on Sunday, took place at a time when museums across America were increasingly curating art from the Middle East.

In many portrait photos, Neshat placed tiny calligraphic poems in Farsi on the bodies of her subjects. So it made sense that two of the musical selections included poetry.

Shirin Neshat’s 1996 work ‘Untitled (Women of Allah)’ is part of the artist’s first photo series. The series also introduced the artist’s use of calligraphy.(Gladstone Gallery)

In Kitchen (2017), Bahar Royaee uses a poem for speech and live electronics that her uncle dedicated to a dead friend. The piece places high demands on the singer, who makes heavy wheezing noises and soft croaking growls. The singer Sarah Ruth Alexander met the challenges with serenity, but her intensified complaints at the climax were uncomfortably loud.

Martyna Koseckas Ruba’i (2020) is played by loudspeakers on the stage and superimposes and distorts recordings of four voices reciting a Persian poem. Some speech fragments are elongated while others sound static.

Neshat’s The Home of My Eyes (2015), a series of photographic portraits depicting people from Azerbaijan, is based on minimalist elements. The black-clad figures are shot in black and white and stand against a strong background. They stare straight ahead and do simple poses.

Some of the pieces of music are also inspired by minimalism. In Kosecka’s Halos (2019) for saxophone and tape, the saxophone repeats spinning minimalist ideas. Saxophonist Kyle Stec handled slightly unconventional techniques, creating slapping noises and earthy multiphonics (two or more notes played simultaneously), and displaying a sweet vocal tone in his upper register.

Niloufar Nourbakhsh’s impressive title “White Helmets as White as Death” (2017) for flute, violin and viola honors the White Helmets, an organization of volunteers in Syria who help civilians affected by the ongoing civil war. Persistent, repetitive numbers gradually increase in volume and intensity. Flutist and Sounds The modern director Elizabeth McNutt, together with the violinist Mia Detwiler and the violist Kathleen Crabtree, emphasized crispy dissonances, but also played reflective passages with considerable introspection.

Violinist Mia Detwiler, violist Kathleen Crabtree, cellist Kourtney Newton and flutist and director of Sounds Modern, Elizabeth McNutt, play 'Vestiges' (2017) by Aida Shirazi at the Sounds Modern concert in the auditorium of the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth on May 15th.Violinist Mia Detwiler, violist Kathleen Crabtree, cellist Kourtney Newton and flutist and director of Sounds Modern, Elizabeth McNutt, play ‘Vestiges’ (2017) by Aida Shirazi at the Sounds Modern concert in the auditorium of the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth on May 15th.(Sounds modern)

Oscillating Alizadeh (2020), an electronic piece by Mahmood Schricker and Kimia Koochakzadeh-Yazdi, used melodic language and rhythmic patterns from Persian classical music. It consists of repeated, interlocking motifs.

Anahita Abbasis Situation IV (2016/17) for solo violin includes avant-garde sounds such as scrubbing, ghostly whispers and creaking noises that are reminiscent of an old door that is slowly opening. Although these wore out over time, violinist Andrew May mastered the non-standard techniques.

In Vestiges (2017), Aida Shirazi for flute, violin, viola and cello transforms quotations from Orpheus operas by Gluck and Monteverdi with modernist effects such as flutter flutter and grainy tremolos in the cello. McNutt, Detwiler and Crabtree, along with cellist Kourtney Newton, gave an energetic report that captured the drama of the score.

McNutt brought a similar force to Koochakzadeh-Yazdi’s The Starts and Stops (2019). The music, which was rated for Piccolo and Live Electronics, thwarted the listeners’ expectations of the Piccolo by amplifying its sound to tremendous dimensions through computer processes that will be played here until May. Even so, the work didn’t make a big impression.

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A recording of the concert is available on the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth YouTube channel.

Shirin Neshat's work 2016

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