The Idea of North

“There was no one to confuse or torment me, and I was forced to become original,” Haydn once famously observed of his decades as Kapellmeister at the opulent but lonely palace of the Princes Esterhazy, and the connection between isolation and innovation seems to be manifesting itself again in Fairbanks, of all places—probably the world’s northernmost musical avant-garde hot spot. Not long after the Seattle Symphony’s stunning, much-discussed premiere of John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean, two of Adams’ University of Alaska faculty colleagues, Bonnie Whiting and Karl Knapp, arrive to perform new works by Seattle composer Nat Evans. In Fairbanks last fall to study and collaborate with percussionist Whiting, Evans came up with the 25-minute The Narrow Aisle to the Deep North, which combines traditional instruments with field recordings and natural objects (branches, stones, shells) from the two almost-neighboring states.

For his Music for Cello and Found Sounds, which Knapp will premiere, Evans provides just a page of musical fragments and instructions for a background of recorded train noises. He writes, “Field recordings (that I make) show up in my pieces in one way or another all the time, but I wanted to remove myself somewhat from the process, and also draw attention to the sounding mechanism itself, rather than having it be some mysterious sound that drifts in like a specter from an unseen hand. So the piece becomes a dialogue between the cellist and this familiar technology, as well as with a particular recording phenomenon from the 20th century where people bought, collected, and listened actively to field recordings such as these.” Through the nostalgia of these faded technologies—rail, vinyl, portable record players—the resulting duet evokes travel, pioneering, and the profound impact art far removed from the mainstream can have. At this concert, Whiting and Knapp will also play music by intrepid double-bass explorer John Teske. Chapel Performance Space, 4649 Sunnyside Ave., N. $5–$15. 8 p.m. Mon., July 22.

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