I’ve been helping out with the excellent Music at First Series this year, which is run and curated by my good friend, composer Wil Smith, and features the newest music and freshest talent that NYC has to offer in the way of experimental music.  Held at First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn Heights (where Wil is also the organist), I was able to shoot some short video clips of both of the sets from the first performance of 2011, which you can see above (warning! the clip contains some strong language).

Pianist David Friend stunned with radical pieces and perfectly controlled energy.  The first piece on his set was Aorta, by fellow Transit member Daniel Wohl (I unfortunately didn’t get any video clips of this meditative piece, but I urge you to listen to it on Daniel’s website).  Next up was the churning Sensitive Spot by Kate Moore, which featured live David playing along with several pre-recorded Davids, all playing the same track.  Probably the most shocking piece on the set was JacobTV‘s Cities Change the Songs of Birds, in which sound-bytes of homeless and drug-addicted women from NYC talking about their lives are mercilessly played over a piano part that skillfully merges with the spoken word and transforms the women’s pain and bitterness into something astonishingly beautiful.  David’s belief in the message of this piece was palpable in his passionate performance.  Next up was the world premiere of Angélica Negrón‘s the peculiar purple pieman of porcupine peak for piano, electronics and desk bells, followed by Christopher Marianetti‘s I think it would be beating a dead dog if we do anything but present this statement, which had David playing an athletic piano part while also rhythmically speaking the title of the piece.

For the second set, singer and composer Corey Dargel charmed the audience with his six-song art/pop cycle, Hold Yourself Together, with Wil on synthesizers and James Moore on guitars.  This was the third time I’d heard this cycle, and I have to say I love it more each time I hear it.  The lyrics are witty and sad in the vein of Morrissey, and the music is so one-of-a-kind that it’s hard to capture in one word.  How about “artfully-structured catchy-pretty”?

Stay tuned for a review of yesterday’s Music at First concert, which featured soprano Mellissa Hughes and synthesizer-player Lorna Dune.  Upcoming MaF performances:

April 8th – Janus Trio and Mantra Percussion

May 20th – Margaret Lancaster and Eric km Clark‘s Deprivation Choir