We’ve been lucky in Atlanta. Over the past decade or so, modern chamber music has found energetic and talented people here, and they’ve been busy. It is now quite common for Atlantans to go out and hear music composed in the last 40 years. The local ensembles Sonic Generator, founded in 2006, Bent Frequency, founded in 2003, and neoPhonia New Music Ensemble are all very active in programming exclusively modern music, to local music lovers’ great gain.
The field has been so fertile that a new crop of ensembles is now popping up. Caleb Herron, a percussionist and former student of Georgia State University’s Stuart Gerber (a member of Bent Frequency), has founded Chamber Cartel, which will perform at the Rodriguez Room at the Goat Farm at 8 p.m. Wednesday, February 29.
The group’s inaugural season, which it has dubbed “NON STOP,” promises the daunting schedule of one concert per month. The debut concert was a New Year’s Day performance of Morton Feldman’s “Crippled Symmetry.”
On Wednesday, the group will again present a single extended piece. American composer John Luther Adams wrote “songbirdsongs” as his “attempt to bring something of the magic of the music of birds into my own.” French composer Olivier Messiaen referred to birds as “the first musicians,” and this song cycle of nine small pieces portrays various species, both their calls and surrounding landscapes.
“Listeners who are unfamiliar with John Luther Adams’ work will find a world of wonders within it,” Herron told me.
I visited with the ensemble during a rehearsal: four percussionists and two piccolo players in a tiny room.
This music is both highly descriptive and mysteriously evocative. It evokes birdsong not only by imitating the calls of birds but by creating a sonic landscape that feels like a place where one would hear them. Through marimbas and cymbals, one is aware of mesas and wind in trees. The magic of these pieces is less ornithological than textural.
Chamber Cartel is made up of Olivia Keiffer, Caleb Herron, Brandon Dodge and Mark Little on percussion; Teresa Feliciano and Nicole Chamberlain on piccolo; Mike Brooks on violin; and Ipek Brooks on celesta.