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Composers take it on themselves to get their music played


The Baltimore Composers Coalition is a recently formed organization of local composers who have banded together to get their works performed. The coalition's first concert was held yesterday afternoon in the Great Hall of the Church of St. Michael and All Angels. In a concert that lasted less than 80 minutes, 10 different works by seven composers were performed. That meant all were short; if a listener didn't like what he was hearing, he knew it wouldn't be long until he heard something else.

The most accomplished of yesterday's pieces may have been Sarmad Brody's "Intersect for Tape" (1993). Brody uses Tibetan bells, doors swinging, children playing and various other sounds in a variety of ways to create a satisfying sense of mystery, narrative complication and climax in only five minutes. This was more than Doug Dawson seemed able to do in "Cross-Channel Cantus Firmus & Still Life with Bells, White Noise and Tape" (1973) -- a piece that lasted a few minutes more and was heard by these ears as only a series of computer-generated gurgles and goops.

Dawson was more successful in two other pieces: "Synthetic Woodwind Quintet" (1993), a short, easy-to-listen-to work that reflected influences from popular music, and "Study in White Noise" (1975), in which the sounds of thunder and rainfall made for a relaxing two minutes.

Dawn Culberton's clever "Fire Power" (1993) for solo recorder takes its title from a pinball game. The phrases in her piece -- which she performed herself -- imitated the tortuous route a pinball makes, and they were combined with verbal ejaculations expressive of the pinball player's various satisfactions and frustrations.

Robert Haskins, a composer who also writes about music, performed his own "Dialogue of One" (1986) for solo piano. It was a charming exercise in minimalism -- the major influence here seemed to be the John Adams of a decade ago -- that was effectively written for the instrument and built to a satisfyingly sonorous and exciting conclusion. Kathleen Pierson's setting of her own poem, "Between These Words," for soprano and piano was sweetly lyrical and well played and sung by the composer (at the keyboard) and by J. Kala Gruber.

Other composers represented on the program were Kirk-Evan Billet and Paul R. Schlitz Jr. The Baltimore Composers Coalition's next concert -- also to be held at St. Michael and All Angels, 2013 St. Paul St. -- will take place on June 15. For further information, call (410) 825-1379.

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