On Friday, April 6, Duke University Ph.D. candidate Alex Kotch presented his dissertation in music composition, a 30-minute instrumental-electronic dance work with a live, eight-piece ensemble and laptop DJ, embedded within a longer set of original dance music from the composer-DJ.
Starting off the night was a violinist who played a fascinatingly odd piece. The performer played a rather minimalist piece of music while a computer gradually sampled his performance and looped the samples in the background. This made the music increasingly dissonant and strange, but oddly intriguing.
After this performance came another avant garde piece performed by an ensemble. This ensemble consisted of an odd collection of instruments such as the previous violinist, a saxophone, flute, propane tanks, wood blocks, a soprano vocalist, and an instrument that seemed to resemble a huge bassoon. They played possibly the most frightening piece I have ever heard live. The composer used this combination of instruments to their full potential to create a shocking blend of ups and downs of dissonance.
After this ensemble of beautiful horror, the floor was cleared of all chairs to be made into a dance floor. After a huge set change, Kotch took the stage to open with a thank-you speech before diving into an hour of Intelligent Dance Music, often referred to as IDM. Half-way through this set an ensemble took the stage, consisting of a couple members of the previous ensemble. The combination of samples and drum loops intertwined with live trumpets, french horns, and vocals amounted to a gorgeous blend of digital and acoustic. Most everyone in the audience found themselves moving to the syncopated drum beats while Alex live mixed on his laptop, probably using Abelton.
The atmosphere and sets created an intriguing and inspiring blend. Kotch did an excellent job bringing together the old and the new.