It’s not easy to describe or categorize Gerhard Stabler’s music. Take his druber…, for instance: Scored for “eight active screamers, violoncello, and tape,” the 20-minute work–whose title loosely translates as “beyond”–comments on the act of screaming and the emotions it conveys and evokes. In its first half, the screamers clamor for attention with their primal cries, then a medieval motet is heard amid the inchoate voices, offering an oasis of tradition and order. In the second half, the screams are self-consciously repeated and broken down, their echoes fading into trails of murmurs. The piece, which was written in 1973, is still regarded as a provocative landmark of the European avant-garde. Very much a response to the zeitgeist of the late 60s, when screaming was a fashionable mode of psychotherapy, druber… is intense, pretentious, irreverent, witty, and, yes, weirdly absorbing. But is it music? Or is it a put-on? The same questions, of course, have been asked of John Cage’s aesthetics, which, along with the political agenda of European leftist composers, are among Stabler’s influences. Stabler’s fascination with the hidden connections among sounds also pervades Heiss (“Hot”), a 1989 piece to be premiered here in this concert showcasing him and George Perle. The recorded sounds, of an organist both playing “music” and making inadvertent noises, may suggest a kettle boiling over or perhaps some other aural pun. Stabler, who’s a composer in residence at Northwestern this year, will be on hand to improvise Rachengold (for voice, glass of water, and stopwatch), which may or may not be a jokey critique on the shenanigans of druber… Michael Pisaro directs the ensemble of screamers and a cellist. Friday, 7:30 PM, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 1977 South Campus Dr., Evanston; 708-491-5441.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Gudrun Webel.