Breaking Your Sound Barriers #2: The Unanswered Questions

Breaking Your Sound Barriers is a series of blog posts related to the upcoming Sound Edge Festival, which takes place from February 10th - 18th in locations all over Birmingham, including Seasick Records.

Tonight's the night: The Sound Edge Festival is here! It's all kicking off with NYCO and the Alabama Symphony Orchestra for ASO: Amplified. I suppose the first Unanswered Question is "If you throw a weird music in Birmingham, AL, will people come?"

I hope so: Because tonight's program is a really cool start. ASO Amplified: NYCO at Iron City - Sound Edge Festival features both a performance of composer Charles Ives' smoldering masterpiece, "The Unanswered Question", and the classically-minded (in the Brian Wilson / Beatles sense) power pop of Nyco. The Alabama Symphony Orchestra will be pulling double-duty, performing both the Ives' piece as well as accompanying NYCO. Together, these two performances encompass what this festival is all about -- the journey from weird experimentation to pop music. 

"The Unanswered Question" might not seem super weird now but it certainly was when it was composed in 1908... And in 1946 when it eventually premiered.  It might look a little out of the ordinary tonight, too: The orchestra, divided into groups, plays in different sections of stage. The groups also play in different tempos adding a strange sense of time to dissonant notes that shock after the piece's initial, slow-burning lull. The positioning is not just sonically interesting, but it also provides an extra sense of drama to the audience -- an early example of how 20th century music was ready to tear up the classical rulebook in search of the unknown. The result is a powerful, enveloping atmosphere that feels as powerful now as it must have a century ago -- a stark contrast to NYCO's sunny pop. It should sound pretty sick in Iron City.