Adventurous sextet at home in any setting
Eclectic itinerary ... yMusic. Photo: Ilya Nikhamin
The Famous Spiegeltent, Hyde Park, January 22
From the cavernous Sydney Opera House Concert Hall one night to the sweaty intimacy of the Famous Spiegeltent the next, and with appearances in Parramatta and the Art Gallery of NSW lined up for the next few days, New York's yMusic have been making the most of their Australian debut.
It's an eclectic itinerary that says something about their can-do approach to music making. This sextet of musicians, playing predominantly classical instruments with amplification, have made themselves at home wherever they go, whether it be warm-up to a rock group or as incidental music for fine art.
The Spiegeltent is cosy enough to encourage close listening – and there is plenty to hear – without the need for the reverential formality of a concert stage. yMusic opened with their debut album's title track, Beautiful Mechanical by Son Lux. The chunky motor rhythms of the cello part provided all the rhythm and bass you could want, with hyperactive violin skittering over the top.
Proven Badlands by Annie Clark (aka St Vincent) developed from nothing but a simple line, with (superbly played) trumpet solo drifting over the layers of string figures, building to a punchy outburst. The intricate rhythms and sudden changes in mood confirmed what was becoming obvious: that this was a virtuoso band, a tight crew with talent to match their energy.
The two works from Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond) were exquisite miniatures, full of well-paced detail, a welcome break from the loud chaos of Andrew Norman's new work written for yMusic, Moving in Circles.
Contemporary classical poster boy Nico Muhly's new work for yMusic, Balance Problems, was a clever melange of chord progressions and instrumental timbres, baroquo-rock style. To finish, yMusic played one of their signature works, Clearing, Dance, Dawn by Judd Greenstein. Like most of their repertoire, it was a funky mix of minimalism meets folk meets found objects from a generation whose iPod playlist defies definition.
Whether this is the future of classical music is the wrong question. The real question is: yMusic? Answer: Why not?