Critic's Pick

Critic's Pick: A new-music cornucopia

When California State University, Fullerton, composer Pamela Madsen began a festival devoted to contemporary female composers 14 years ago, she wasn’t exactly a voice in the wilderness.

There were successful female composers. Southern California had a significant new-music scene, although it was far more prominent in Los Angeles than Orange County. Even so, this was an outlier activity.

No more. Some years ago Madsen made the Fullerton festival mixed gender while still keeping women prominent. This year’s event at the school’s Meng Concert Hall, which began Thursday with a program by composer Lisa Bielawa, is called “Image Music Text.”

The weekend holds music by Elliott Sharp, the prolific cross-genre avant-garde guitarist and wind player, and by Madsen herself. Sunday afternoon, the ensemble Either/Or takes on Morton Feldman’s meditative four-hour-plus masterpiece “For Philip Guston.”

But this really is no voice in the wilderness anymore. Saturday night at Logan Creative in the newly happening arts district of nearby Santa Ana, for instance, the L.A. collective wild Up will jam with members of the Pacific Symphony in music that ranges from John Dowland to Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood.

Los Angeles, of course, is not exactly left out. Both of the Music Center’s big halls have modern operas this weekend. The Los Angeles Philharmonic is offering the West Coast premiere of Unsuk Chin’s “Alice in Wonderland” Friday and Saturday nights at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Los Angeles Opera features the final performance of its new production of John Corigliano’s “The Ghosts of Versailles” in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, smaller, artier downtown performance spaces have become increasingly active. The new music ensemble wasteLAnd tackles pieces by the British master of complexity Brian Ferneyhough at ArtShare-LA on Friday night. The Reader’s Chorus — a collective of composers, musicians, visual artists, filmmakers, writers and poets — is performing an oratorio called “Black and White” by Robert Lax and John Beer at the Velaslavasay Panorama Sunday night.

Another collective, Four Larks — working in the intersection of theater, music, visual art and dance — has a seriously imaginative, theologically post-apocalyptic, gravely yet wondrously immersive new show, “The Temptation of St. Antony,” based on Flaubert, at an undisclosed location that runs through March 6.

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