ICElab Confidential: Dehaan’s Sensory Illusions Permeate Constellation

Impressions from Row G

by Arlene and Larry Dunn (@ICEfansArleneLD)

[Ed: ICEfans Arlene and Larry Dunn’s journey following composer Daniel Dehaan through his ICElab experience has reached its destination.]

ICE closed out the 2013-14 concert season in stellar fashion with a tequila toast at Constellation Chicago on June 15, 2014. Tequila shots notwithstanding, the most intoxicating grog of the evening was the Chicago premiere of ICElab composer Dan Dehaan’s Trompe l’Corps. If Roulette in Brooklyn was an apt venue for the December world premiere of Dan’s piece, owing to its connotations of the chance nature of the cosmic forces Dan is reckoning with, Constellation was equally relevant for its evocation of astronomical phenomena.

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It’s not often we hear an ICE premiere a second time. But following Daniel through ICELab as he composed Trompe l’Corps collaboratively with ICE musicians, we had the pleasure to hear both the Roulette and the Constellation renderings. While we lost the element of surprise (something we usually delight in) for the second hearing, it was fascinating to hear numerous ways in which the piece had subtly morphed.

Of course the acoustic character of the spaces are different, creating significant challenges for Dan and ICE sound engineer Levy Lorenzo to reshape the sound of the piece to fit Constellation. In addition, all of the players were different except bassoonist Rebekah Heller. Katinka Kelijn took the cellist's bench (which she had occupied during development of the piece). The other instrumentalists were violist Maiya Papach and percussionist Ross Karre.

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The most striking change in roster was soprano Alice Teyssier replacing Tony Arnold for this second performance. The timbres of their voices are quite different and their stylistic choices emphasized different aspects of the score and this critical role in it. Alice’s treatment was brighter and conveyed a sense of amazed wonderment, where Tony’s approach felt earthier and expressed a more knowing acceptance of the cosmic mysteries Trompe l’Corpsassays. Despite these difference, each of them compelled our rapt attention.

Another revelation we had from the ongoing evolution of the piece was Dan’s further refinement of the realization of the electronic elements of the performance. In both cases we were overwhelmed by the sonic evocation of Jean Baudrillard’s “unbearable incandescence.” But at Constellation, Dan (in partnership with Levy) achieved a much more clearly delineated sense of individual components as we experienced aural stimuli coming at as from every direction until the multiple layers collapsed to a point of frightening chaos.

The Constellation performance brought the ICElab process for Dan and Trompe l’Corps to a close. Still unrealized is Dan’s full-scale vision for the piece in a multi-day, multi-room sound installation version. We’re hoping we’ll get to experience that sometime very soon. 

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