Dreaming in Technicolor: Nuiko Wadden, ICE Solo(3) at Corbett vs. Dempsey

Impressions from Row G
by Arlene and Larry Dunn (@ICEfansArleneLD)

ICE member Nuiko Wadden showcased her fierce harp artistry in ICE Solo(3) at Corbett vs. Dempsey art gallery in Chicago on Friday, September 14, 2012. In his opening remarks, gallery co-owner John Corbett said he had requested harp music for its magical qualities, as a fitting match to the striking paintings of Robert Lostutter currently on exhibit. In his catalog essay for the show, John refers to the vibrant, jewel-like hues Lostutter achieves, “. . . a Technicolor mix and match, genetically programmed for tripping.” Whether intentional or serendipitous, Nuiko offered a program of stunning works for harp, featuring Angélica Negrón’s Technicolor as its centerpiece.

Nuiko began the program with a brief incantatory piece from John Luther Adams’ Five Yup’ik Dances, capturing everyone’s rapt attention. Negrón’s Technicolor, for solo harp and electronics, examines the past through the present’s prism. The magic John spoke of craving was evident from the first notes. Nuiko’s jagged opening glissandos echoed the eerie prerecorded sounds, luring us into a dreamscape every bit as colorful as Lostutter’s unsettling images. She prodded, poked, plucked and slapped the harp strings to unique sonic effects. She stroked strings with spoons and bent notes with in-the-instant retuning. A young girl’s voice amid the prerecorded sounds echoed percussive runs. As Nuiko wove her playing to its conclusion, we heard the young girl as if down a long hall, “I found something!”

Next Nuiko turned to Ernst Krenek’s Sonata for Harp, op. 150. Composed in 12-tone serial style, the overall effect of this piece is a paradox. It is complex and abstract while also conveying a lush beauty in many of its lines. This thorny work placed great demands on Nuiko, requiring her to be as fleet of foot as she was of finger, as constant pedaling was required to flat and sharp notes in the serial sequence. She attacked the swift first movement with fingers that never seemed to stop moving, laying out an edgy, dissonant melody. The slow second movement was a maze of dreamy, romantic melodic threads, never quite reaching resolution. The final movement began with a brisk descending figure, cut to quick jumps from register to register, and ended in a flurry of loud strumming.

Nuiko described her final piece, Suzanne Farrin’s Polvere et Hombe, as featuring the harp as an inanimate object brought to life by the player. The piece was a study in every manner of glissando imaginable. Nuiko played with manic abandon alternating from feather-light touch to power plucking and everything in between. The piece concluded with repeated open-palm gestures rubbing softly against each other on either side of the strings, sounding as if the harp were now breathing.

Thanks to Nuiko, we heard the harp in exciting new musical contexts. It definitely was no dainty harp accompaniment for afternoon tea in some stately old hotel lobby.

Arlene (acornarlene [at] gmail [dot] com) and Larry (acornled [at] gmail [dot] com)

Listening/Watching Links:
Angélica Negrón’s Technicolor and other music.
Ernest Kerenk’s Sonata for Harp.
Suzanne Farrin’s Polvere et Hombre.