If you've never heard of Giacinto Scelsi, you're not alone. Although he'd been composing since the 1920s, this ascetic, enigmatic Italian composer (1905-1988) remained essentially undiscovered in the West until the 1980s, when, just prior to his death, his austere, minimalist pieces were finally performed to wonder and acclaim in Europe, and he was hailed as "the master of the yet smaller transition." Known for writing music around a single pitch that expands by way of microtonal oscillations and changes in timbre and dynamics, Scelsi was inspired by both his mentor in Vienna, Arnold Schöenberg; the music of the Middle East; and Eastern spirituality. This week, fans have the ultrarare opportunity to hear one of Scelsi's most difficult, surreal works -- Canti di Capricorno (1962-1972) -- in the amazing REDCAT event, Michiko Hirayama Sings Scelsi. Now in her 80s, Hirayama is a Japanese vocal legend who met Scelsi in 1959 and inspired him to write the 20-song cycle expressly for her, probably because there was no one else who could navigate his arduous, microtonal terrain with such otherworldly finesse. Sounding by turns like a rumbling tiger, a wounded warrior and a mullah calling the faithful to prayer, Hirayama is more than a vocalist in the Canti. She is the only living link to a mystical musical world few have been allowed to enter.
Fri., April 2, 8:30 p.m., 2010

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