Critic’s Pick: Wild Up at the Colburn School and Music Academy of the West

WildUp performs Ellen Reid's opera, "Winter's Child," at the Hammer Museum in 2013.
WildUp performs Ellen Reid’s opera, “Winter’s Child,” at the Hammer Museum in 2013.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Share via
Music Critic

Well, wild Up may not be quite so wild any more, but the young ensemble is rising rapidly. Four years ago, this was a collective of anything-goes young musicians from CalArts and USC, founded by a 20-something conductor, Christopher Rountree, playing in funky clubs in Echo Park, reinventing orchestra concerts for millennials.

Anything went. Palestrina, Shostakovich, rap, avant-garde noise, jazz, performance art. Beer flowed. The program, never announced in advance, was written on a blackboard. The performances were exhilarating, and before long, wild Up had residencies at the Hammer Museum and UCLA. The Colburn School and U.C. Santa Barbara noticed. So did the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of this still very young and unconventional group is just how avidly its commitment to music of the future is already reaching the next generation. This fall, wildUp began a three-year tenure as LACO’s education ensemble in residence.


The Colburn connection continues, as well, and Saturday night, Roundtree will lead members of wild Up and students at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in a program of new works that includes Ted Hearne’s 2012 “Law of Mosaics” for string orchestra (wild Up does now announce, at least some, programs).

Hearne, who has just joined the USC faculty, was recently in the music news for his music theater piece “The Source,” about Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, the Army private charged with handing over classified documents to WikiLeaks.

Then on Nov. 8, wild Up will offer one of its most ambitious concerts to date at Music Academy of the West’s Hahn Hall in Santa Barbara, presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Called “Pulp,” Rountree’s program (also leaked), includes a wild array of composers – Satie, Sun Ra, Duke Ellington, John Zorn and Esquivel (best known for “Space Aged Bachelor Pad Music”). The audience will be shuttled around the idyllic Montecito Music Academy campus. Inside the hall, the promise is “to find performers on stage, sitting next to video versions of themselves in low light on chaise lounges.”

Along with Rountree, several wildUp members are beginning to have success as soloists and composers. Ensemble pianist Richard Valitutto is becoming increasingly well known, and he will offer a recital in the Piano Spheres series Nov. 11 at REDCAT of works by Fredric Rzewski, Salvatore Sciarrino and Olivier Messiaen.

Meanwhile, wild Up violinist Andrew McIntosh has just released a CD, “Hyenas in the Temples of Pleasure,” of his recent chamber pieces on the L.A. label Populist Records. An explorer into the cracks of intonation and the quirks of symmetry, McIntosh starts seemingly predictable processes, but the predictability becomes invariably hijacked by the piling up of wonderful small accidents of acoustical resonance into lavish cascades of colorful sound.