Accessible. Simple. Direct. These terms are not necessarily perceived as laudatory when applied to serious, contemporary music. Many composers feel shallow if they're understood.
In offering four premieres by Los Angeles composers in its Saturday night concert at the Hermosa Beach Civic Theater, the new music group eXindigo! showed that some local composers aren't afraid to combine sophisticated musical idioms with ready apprehension.
In his highly theatrical "this poet Bukowski" for narrator/vocalist and instrumental ensemble, Carlos Rodriguez calls upon such diverse antecedents as Walton's "Facade" and Schoenberg's "Survivor From Warsaw" in staging two poems by Charles Bukowski.
The drunken monologue of the first poem becomes personified in Rodriguez's narrator, who delivers his lines in tottering Sprechstimme while the instruments wind around his slurred metrics.
Rodriguez treats the second poem's laundry list of life's small tragedies--everything from a snapped shoelace to constipation--with a pointed mock seriousness, the narrator whining and swooning, the four-member ensemble supporting with comic low-tones and expressionistic dissonance. Tenor Geoffrey Alch smirked and sang his way through, memorably.
Composer/pianist Gregg Wager, who is also a free-lance music critic, offered his engaging "El Pueblo," a fluttery, minimalist theme followed by 14 variations that take the initial idea through phase-shifting polyrhythms, blues, stride and tone clusters. Violinist/composer Haim Shtrum's Prelude and Tango (the only non-premiere) effectively combined elements of Spanish dance, serialism and, again, jazz, in a nervous dialogue for violin and guitar.
Rounding out the program were Barry Brisk's atonal Four Sonnets and Ted Peterson's minimalist "I Never Thought About It ( a la Da Vinci)."