‘Trois Hommages’ at EMPAC

I’m a firm believer that a book or movie is best experienced cold. Going in with zero knowledge whatsoever of the subject matter is typically impossible but when it happens, it’s magical. Simply sitting there and accepting what’s happening with no expectation or preconceived notions as the work progresses is something that hasn’t happened to many since their childhood. This was how I got to experience Mabel Kwan perform Trois Hommages by Georg Friedrich Haas at EMPAC.

Trois Hommages by Georg Friedrich Haas are three pieces of music written to be played on two pianos simultaneously, with one piano tuned normally, and the other a quarter tone lower. This results in 24 notes per octave rather than the standard 12, and with both pianos, there are now 176 notes instead of 88.

Hommage à György Ligeti (1984) is a piece written as an homage to György Ligeti who is considered “one of the most important avant-garde composers in the latter half of the twentieth century”. This piece begins with Mabel Kwan’s arms extended fully in opposite directions tapping notes feverishly on both pianos and moves into a totally consuming dissonant droning fog that I would have previously considered a sound impossible to make with any analog instrumentation.

Hommage à Josef Matthias Hauer (1982) is written for Josef Matthias Hauer, the composer responsible for developing “a method for composing with all 12 notes of the chromatic scale”. A departure from the previous piece and decidedly more musical, arpeggios played by one hand were at odds with the arpeggios a quarter tone “off” as played by the other.

Hommage à Steve Reich (1982) is written for Steve Reich, a composer who “pioneered minimal music in the mid to late 1960s”. This was the most technically difficult to play, and the most interesting of the three pieces. In ways it felt like a combination and evolution of the previous two.

Over the course of the performance, I let go of trying to digest each note as it’s played and begin to let the sound as a whole come together. Microtonal music is a challenge to listen to as it’s quite a departure from “normal” music. But to then take microtonal music, compose it across two pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart, and compose pieces to honor avant-garde musical pioneers is another thing entirely. This performance represents a lot of what I enjoy about EMPAC. Just trust the curators to put something incredible in front of you, show up, and enjoy.


Sponsor: Vaud and the Villains at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall

Troy Savings Bank Music Hall has a fun show set for Friday September 23 at 8pm with Vaud and the Villains.

“Vaud & the Villains’ exuberant fusion of vintage New Orleans jazz, R&B and gospel music, wildly inventive arrangements and dynamic theatrical performance is simply a wonder to behold.” – *Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times *

Vaud and the Villains has been captivating Los Angeles and beyond since 2008. Widely acclaimed for their powerhouse home run performances and diverse ensemble, their local club shows have remained a coveted ticket for music lovers, hipsters and dreamers alike since their inception. Their over the top style, part Sunday service, part rock and roll, part circus, is a constantly evolving show that remains buoyed to their motto: “every saint has a past, every sinner has a future…”

Tickets are currently on sale, and you can learn more about the show on the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall website.


Quality events for this weekend

Friday September 23

Body Shine #6 at Fuze Box: Proper dance party.

Vaud & the Villans at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall: This week’s sponsor. Big band.

Fall Open House at Collar City Athletics: Free day at my gym.

Dryer, Asa Morris & The Mess, Hill Haints at The Low Beat: Rock/lo-fi/indie/alt.

Is This All There Is? at Albany Barn: Skateboard art show.

Fear of Strangers and The Units at the Hollow: Reunion show.

Saturday September 24

LarkFest: Featuring The Relationship (Brian Bell of Weezer), Ought, Lower Dens, Delicate Steve, The Televisionaries, Cannon the Brave, County Mike, Gordon St, Hammer Hawk, Jouska, PineSheets, MR. Every Day, Neighborhood of Make-Believe, Revival Revival, Ryan Leddick, Slowshine, and Throat Culture.

Geektoberfest at Shmaltz Brewing Company: Beer and beer and more beer and everything about beer and people who like beer.

Dylan Perrillo Quartet at Cohoes Music Hall: Free weekend as it’s their soft opening.

Randy & Mr. Lahey at Upstate Concert Hall: Trailer Park Boys.

Revival Revival at River St Pub: CCR cover band with Pony in the Pancake.

J.D. McPherson at The Hangar: Retro rock and roll.

Food of Spain Cooking Class at M&D Farm: Learn to be the type of person who can make food for themselves!

Troy, NY Annual Ramble Ride: Ride your bike!

Saratoga Giant Pumpkinfest at Sunnyside Gardens: It’s fall!

Albany History Race at APL: Scavenger hunt!

Sunday September 25

The Sandlot at Cohoes Music Hall: Free weekend.

Crowbar, Gunther Weezul, Before I Had Wings, and Driven By Rage at Trickshots: Metal.

Quilt, Mutual Benefit, Donny Dinero, at BSP Kingston: Indie/alt.

All weekend

Art Omi: The sculpture fields are awesome.

Day trip to MASS MoCA: Pretty drive and a great museum.

The NYS Museum: Bunch of great exhibits and it’s right in your backyard.

Second-run movies at the Madison Theater: Only five bucks!

Movies at The Spectrum: First run, independent movies at a small centrally located theater.

Farmer’s Markets: Troy, Delmar, and Saratoga on Saturday, and Schenectady and Saratoga on Sunday.


Lapalux at EMPAC: Ticket Giveaway

Lapalux is coming to EMPAC on October 6, and is exploring “a new audio-visual experience” for the performance. EMPAC was kind enough to give me a pair of tickets to give away to one lucky reader. If you’re not the contest type, tickets are currently available from EMPAC.


Considered “one of the finest producers of the moment,” London-based artist Lapalux (AKA Stuart Howard) is a rising star of electronic music. Mixing R&B, IDM, and a penchant for sci-fi with woozy, glitched-out beats, his early work caught the ear of LA mastermind Flying Lotus, whose forward-listening hip-hop label, Brainfeeder, has subsequently released Lapalux’s first two records. Last year’s Lustmore was inspired by the experience of hypnogogia, the transitional state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep, with each track aspiring to create a liminal world populated by enigmatic characters and cinematic plotlines.

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