Bay Area Now (BAN), the signature triennial of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) is now in its seventh edition. It was launched with an exhibition that opened on July 18 and will run through October 5. Between August 7 and August 10 the BAN 7 Performance Festival will present a series of four concerts, each with a different theme. The second of those programs, entitled In Search of Sound and Light, will showcase two performing ensembles both known for making adventurous choices in programming.
The first of these is sfSound, whose repertoire extends from the work of leading pioneers of twentieth-century modernism to contemporary composers and extended experiments in improvisation. Their contribution will be the premiere performance of a composition for amplified acoustic instruments that explores the psychoacoustic phenomena of difference tones. The physics behind these phenomena involves what happens when two pure (sine) tones sound at the same time. In addition to detecting those two tones, the ear may also hear tones from either the sum or the difference of the frequencies of the source tones (sometimes both).
This past March the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players presented a program (also at YBCA), which also explored this fascinating property of acoustical physics. Clarinetist Jeff Anderle gave a superb performance of Alvin Lucier’s “In Memoriam Jon Higgins,” in which he played against the sound of a sine wave oscillator going through a gradual ascent over the course of twenty minutes. Anderle then played steady tones through which he could induce the sounding of these difference tones. By way of contrast, all the sounds in the sfSound performance will be produced by instruments, without the addition of any electronic “abstractions.” These “ghost sounds” seldom register on recordings; but, when experienced in performance, they can be quite stunning.
The second ensemble to perform will be the ZOFO Duet of pianists Keisuke Nakagoshi and Eva-Maria Zimmermann. They have recently begun to focus their repertoire on very recently composed works, many of which they have commissioned. They will perform two of these pieces, “Milky Way” by Umas Sisak and “Hard-edged” by Allen Shawn. (They will also be playing the Sisak composition, along with the United States premiere of another Sisak piece, at the fifth Salkind International Piano Duo Festival, which also begins this coming Thursday.)
In Search of Sound and Light will take place on Friday, August 8, at the YBCA Forum. The performance will begin at 8 p.m. All tickets are $25 and may be purchased online through an event page on the YBCA Web site.