An often heard complaint against new music is that it’s too complicated and self-involved for its own good. Indeed, ever since Schoenberg, serious-minded composers have attempted to invent a new coherent musical language that would go beyond the classical style perfected by Mozart, Beethoven, and their intellectual heirs. Yet to date much of their effort has not won wide acceptance; the most noteworthy compositions nowadays are sort of like Joyce’s Ulysses–they make demands on the listener by being deliberately obtuse and unyielding. “A modern composition is something you enter into. It evokes opaque feelings through its complexity, and I don’t mean that kind measured by notes,” says local composer Frank Abbinanti. To illustrate his point, Abbinanti has put together this mostly European program in which “complexity” takes on various forms: Karlheinz Stockhausen’s In Friendship (for alto saxophone), for example, is made up of a series of pitches precisely calculated according to a mathematical formula; in Cornelius Cardew’s Workers’ Song (for violin), complexity is not in the music itself so much as in the sociopolitical context provided by the juxtaposition of familiar protest songs; in Insight Ada Gentile, a young (in her 30s) Italian composer, strikes out in a different direction, using postserial techniques to create a delicate, impressionist atmosphere reminiscent (ironically) of Scarlatti. The other local premieres are Ali by Franco Donatoni and Cassandra’s Dream Song by Briton Brian Ferneyhough. The lone American representative on the bill is local composer Janice Misurell Mitchell’s Speechscape (for alto saxophone), which continues her exploration of the parallels between instrumental sounds and spoken words. Featured soloists include saxophonist Jeremy Ruthrauff, violinists Katherine Hughes and Tom Yang, violist Keith Conant, and flutist Carole Morgan. Abbinanti will comment on each piece. Thursday, 6 PM, Goethe-Institut, 401 N. Michigan; 329-0917.

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