Music Festival finds harmony
by Chris Wilson
Onstage at the Saturday morning Ojai Music Festival family
concert, Marino Formenti twice invited young people to join him
so they could see up close how a piano, rigged with special devices
and doodads, can make intriguing sounds.
A nervous Ernest Fleischmann stood at the foot of the steps,
ordering all adults off the stage. Formenti, it was clear, was
there to challenge young minds, help them learn about the way
music is made and to show them the finest in performances
But as a result, he may have challenged and slightly frustrated
himself with a bevy of technical applications and stage changes.
Formenti, a master at the keyboard, himself admitted the pleasures
of performing for young audiences, even if their minds and eyes
do wander during the music.
"Their ability to concentrate is different from adults,
children are basically very broad-minded about the sensitive
emotional experiences they have," he wrote.
The four pieces he played, intended for kid's ears, challenged
even the adults in the audience.
Olga Neuwirth's "incidendo/
fluido" requires that the piano be rigged with bits of rubber
and plastic foam between the strings to muffle and alter the
normal sounds of the Steinway. Then, otherworldly sounds are
pumped out of a mini-compact disc player to lend even further
playfulness to the piece. The result is a space-laced piano piece
on the lunatic fringe of music. One concertgoer said it sounded
like a lot of banging.
Formenti showed that he has the talent and technical ability
to put on a show. Not only does he possess uncanny ability to
bang away at the keys, but he also can climb under the piano
and remove the foot pedal stops so the tones can sound without
interruption for the next piece.
"Homage to Ligeti," requires the player to simultaneously
play two pianos. One is tuned to the normal scale, the other
is tuned a quarter-tone lower. This resulted in a mad dash of
colorful sounds while Formenti sat bouncing between the two pianos
with keyboards set to each other at a 90-degree angle. Playing
both at once, he shows that he's holding a lot talent up his
Closing out the concert, at last there were some familiar sounds,
as Formenti launched into American composer Alvin Lucier's "Nothing
is Real," we heard a dramatically slowed-down version of
a popular Beatles tune, "Strawberry Fields." The piece
is intended to be recorded, then played back while being played
live again, to lend new and interesting sounds. But technical
difficulties, an hour into the show, had challenged many young
ears enough, and while Formenti called for a five-minute break
to try it again, some of the youngsters headed for the Libbey
Park swing sets.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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FORMENTI shares his love for music at the family concert Saturday,
inviting the young audience onstage to show them his tricks.