If “Less is more” is the mantra of the moment, Lori Freedman must seem very much like Satan with a bass clarinet. In this age of the great uncluttering, who else would title their solo tour The Virtuosity of Excess?
It’s not that Freedman, a former Vancouverite now living in Montreal, is arguing that we should fill our homes with owl figurines, cracked jewel cases, and back issues of the New Yorker. Instead, the excess she’s advocating revels in complexity, saturation, and abstract polyphony—ideas she’ll expound on in her upcoming Music on Main concert.
“In North America, and perhaps in the western world, we’re all trying to cut back,” she says, in a telephone interview from a San Francisco tour stop. “Less is more: that’s what we’re brought up on. Economize. Ecologize. As you know, in this day and age excess is so frowned upon, but I just thought, ‘Whoa, if you go beyond the excess, go even further, you’ve got abundance.’ ”
Arguably the most demanding piece on Freedman’s concert program is also the oldest: Brian Ferneyhough’s Time and Motion Study #2, from 1977. It’s deliberately impossible to play, with the famously demanding British composer expecting only 60 to 85 percent accuracy in performance.
“It’s maniacally detailed, as Ferneyhough always is,” the clarinetist says, before alluding to the very specific kind of virtuosity the work calls for. “But even if I go in there and find myself somewhere that’s not precisely, perfectly as he wrote it, I still have to make it sound like something that makes sense.”
With Raphaël Cendo’s Décombres, on the other hand, the complexity is generated electronically. Freedman’s playing—and singing—will be digitally processed to generate real-time but random-sounding counterpoint.
“You can’t follow what it’s doing through what I’m doing,” she says. “Saturation is what it sounds like; it’s just in-your-face to the max. But unlike the noise genre of music, Cendo’s got this really beautiful way of sculpting, so that it’s almost too much, but it never is too much.”
Also on the bill are Richard Barrett’s ritualistic Interference, Paolo Perezzani’s Achilles-inspired Thymos, and Paul Steenhuisen’s Library on Fire, in which Freedman will be asked to interpret a graphic score based on improvisations that she recorded and sent to the composer.
“He transcribed what I was doing, and then I was looking at what he’d done and went, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about,’ ” she says, laughing. “It’s very trippy to play your own improvisations as interpreted by someone else on paper—and that piece fits beautifully into the idea of excess, because I go beyond, way beyond, what I can understand.”
Freedman will likely have the last word, however, by ending the concert with her own Solor, an improvised response to the rest of the program. “It feels really good to get rid of all of the notes and the stand and just go inside another place,” she says—a very human response to fiendish complexity, and not at all satanic.
Lori Freedman plays the Fox Cabaret on Tuesday (March 8).