Frost Wind Ensemble serves up world premiere and retooled Bob Dylan

By David Fleshler

Bob Dylan

Who could hear the words “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind” without thinking of Bob Dylan’s music?

John Corigliano, that’s who. The American composer claims to have never heard the tunes for this and several other Dylan songs when he decided to write completely new musical settings for Dylan’s words.

The result, Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan, was performed Tuesday at Gusman Hall by the soprano Amy Burton and the Frost Wind Ensemble. The University of Miami’s Festival Miami concert offered an evening of contemporary American music, with a world premiere, two composers on stage and Corigliano’s take on some iconic music of the 1960s.

It’s impossible to avoid the ghosts of Dylan’s music in these songs. As Burton sang Blowin’ in the Wind, Dylan’s gentle lyricism was replaced by dark and dramatic sounds, with thumping drums, repeated descending bass figures and a jagged melodic line. It was easier to accept on their merits the lesser-known songs, such as Clothes Line, where Corigliano’s dissonant setting gave the banal talk of a family doing laundry an ominous tone.

Burton handled the difficult vocal leaps skillfully, singing in a bright, light voice that didn’t make these songs jarringly operatic. Despite using a microphone, she was occasionally drowned out by the band.

Mason Bates (Photo: Mike Minehan)

The concert included the world premiere of Sea-Blue Circuitry by the young American composer Mason Bates, a man who travels widely in the musical world. Just 33 years old, He holds a degree from Juilliard, serves as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s composer in residence, and works as DJ at several San Francisco clubs.

Appearing on stage, the composer said he wanted to depart from his usual electronic music and write something “unplugged.” The sensibility of electronic music still infuses this restless, highly rhythmic work, an easy-listening piece of repeated patterns evolving into new figures, with rhapsodic sections that had the mid-century American tone of Copland, Hanson and Harris.

The concert opened with Cog, Toccata for Winds and Percussion by Scott Stinson. Although built around notes from the medieval Dies Irae chant, it was not a depressing dirge but rather a fast-paced work, pulsing with energy.

Led by director Gary Green, the Frost Wind Ensemble did an admirable job with this difficult contemporary music, handling rapid passages skillfully, maintaining firm tonal balance and, f0r the most part, ensemble cohesion.

Festival Miami continues at the University of Miami’s Clarke Recital Hall tonight at 8 p.m. with New Transitions, a showcase of the work of young composers. Admission is free but requires a reservation. Go to

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Wed Oct 20, 2010
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