Photograph by Shin Sugino
Creative Road Map: This Wednesday, the Gryphon Trio performs 'Tears in Your Hand,' a piece commissioned from Stanford professor Jonathan Berger.
TO CALL Stanford associate professor of music Jonathan Berger a composer tells only part of the story. Berger, in addition to writing a commissioned piece for the Gryphon Trio to be premiered this Wednesday, also creates computerized soundscapes and studies the art and science of "sonification," which he defines as "using sound to represent complex information." Among Berger's projects is a system that digitizes images of both healthy and diseased colon cells and assigns them differing sounds. Berger also speculates about "relating sound to golf swings or the stock market." Berger's grail is the fundamental nature of music behavior in humans—"how listeners build expectations." He notes that two instruments can play the same note and produce dramatically different perfections, and adds that he is looking for "a useful metric space" with which to quantify the differences. Berger is also an archivist who has worked extensively with historical recordings. He once took an 1889 wax cylinder of Brahms playing the piano on which "no one could actually hear the music," peeled "away the layers of noise" and made the great composer audible again. The result, he recalls, "flew in the face of assumptions of how music was played at that time." Berger derived his one-movement piece for the Gryphon Trio, titled Tears in Your Hand, from a traditional Yiddish song, written during the Holocaust, although the dire subject is not a strict influence but rather inspires "the spirit of the piece." This relatively traditional work for violin, piano and cello begins somberly and then turns frenetic, Berger explains. The work "features a flowing melody that turns angular, falls apart and then comes back together." Although Berger often composes for cutting-edge computer programs, he also loves "handing over a road map to creative people and seeing them make it their own." (Michael S. Gant)
The Gryphon Trio performs Jan. 10 at 8pm at Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford. Tickets are $18-$40. (650.725.ARTS)
The Chelsea Smiles
THE CHELSEA SMILES rip out gritty rock & roll the way it's supposed to be played: loud and fast, with infectious rhythms and hard-hitting guitar riffs, all loaded up with charismatic lyrical gutter poetry. Amped to the point of exploding and full of throwback rock swagger, there's no question that the Chelsea Smiles—all veterans of some legendary outfits—owe their sounds to the dirty rock pioneers of old, but have somehow souped it up for modern consumption while still recalling the days when attitude, amplifiers, whiskey and distortion first coalesced into rock & roll. (Ryan Osterbeck)
The Chelsea Smiles play on Saturday (Jan. 13) at 9pm at the Blank Club, 44 S. Almaden Ave, San Jose. Tickets are $7. (408.292.5265)
Blue Hawaii: Or is that a lighter shade of purple?
I'M NOT really sure how the waves are off the coast of Spain, but with bands like the Longboards laying down blazing instrumental surf rock, at least we know the tunes are in good hands there. Recalling the Endless Summer days of big boards and fast cars, the Longboards rip it out in style on vintage pieces to match their retro cool vintage sounds full of reverb, wild guitar work and solid rhythms. Wickedly high-octane riffs, dynamic bass lines and cymbal crazy action on the kit mark the Longboards sets. They channel the big wave sounds of the King of the Surf Guitar himself, the one and only Dick Dale. (Ryan Osterbeck)
The Longboards play on Friday (Jan. 12) at 9pm at Johnny V's, 31 E. Santa Clara St, San Jose. Tickets are $5. (408.947.8470)
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