Audrey Chen, Flandrew Fleisenberg | Neptunes Parlour | Clubs & Concerts | Indy Week
This is a past event.

Audrey Chen, Flandrew Fleisenberg 

When: Fri., April 10, 7:30 p.m. 2015
Price: $8

NEPTUNES, RALEIGH—For an instrument that is at least four centuries old, the cello seems to represent a newly fascinating frontier in experimental music. The austere Julia Kent, the metallic Helen Money, the abrasive Okkyung Lee: During the last decade, several instrumentalists—often times, women with classical backgrounds and ambitions for new ways to wield such an education—have emerged with fresh ideas for the string quartet's old anchor.

Just last weekend at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, for instance, Iceland's Hildur Gudnadóttir strapped "Ómar"—an alien-like, custom-made cello that routes the sound of its strings and her voice through resonating chambers—to her body. It looked like a prosthetic limb but acted like a set of microphones, amplifiers and instruments. She sang as she bowed, her soprano voice and the instrument's mid-range beauty working together to form a sort of one-woman symphony. "Somehow, everything is combined in Ómar," she told me in an interview about her new cello months before. "I feel like I'm just starting my lifelong project."

The music of Audrey Chen feels like a similarly long-term exploration. Though she is a busy collaborator, having worked with like-minded proponents of extended instrumental techniques, Chen is most fascinating and revelatory when she sits solo at center stage. With the instrument pressed against her body, a microphone in front of her face and an array of effects equipment at either side, Chen seems to deny that divides between acoustic and electronic sounds exist, let alone matter. Her chameleonic voice rises from low, near-demonic imprecations to high, arching ululations. The bowed or plucked strings either trace the motion or pull against it, conjuring compositional tension with mere improvisational intuition. Chen taps, scrapes and bows the wooden body of her instrument, too, adding another dimension to the cello's already widened sound.

But don't worry that Chen's sets are some freak-show exhortations: Her classical education seems to ground her pieces in musicality, so that she's not showing off crazy ideas so much as deploying them to dislodge preconceptions about how solo cello music must sound. And you've likely heard very little like this. Percussionist Flandrew Fleisenberg joins Chen for this brief tour. 7:30 p.m., $8, 14 W. Martin St., Raleigh, 919-833-1091, —Grayson Haver Currin

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