Time Out New York reviews Ken Ueno: Talus

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Time Out New York
Steve Smith
September 7, 2010

In the early 1990s, when so-called CNN operas based on actual historical events became all the rage, you'd occasionally come upon a new classical CD stickered with a warning label due to bad language and racy situations. But Talus, Ken Ueno's recently issued debut album on the Boston Modern Orchestra Project's intrepid label, BMOP/sound, is likely the first classical CD stickered with a precautionary warning of its "extreme dynamic range." You're not kept guessing: The first sound you hear is a paint-peeling scream by Wendy Richman, the viola soloist for whom Ueno wrote the titular work. Shock wasn't the point; rather, Ueno wrote Talus for Richman after she shattered the talus bone in her ankle.

Ueno, a recent Rome Prize winner, similarly tailored the other works on his disc for specific performers and sounds. In Kaze-no-Oka, a tribute to composer Toru Takemitsu, the orchestra is first augmented, then banished, by soloists on shakuhachi and biwa. In On a Sufficient Condition for the Existence of Most Specific Hypothesis, the most prominent sound is Ueno's guttural overtone singing, inspired by various Eastern traditions.

That last mode will dominate Ueno's concert at the Stone, a mostly improvised duo engagement with versatile Boston percussionist Tim Feeney. Stone guest curators Joey Baron and Robyn Schulkowsky, two more exemplary percussionists, will also lend their hands during the show, Ueno's last before he beats it to Berlin for a prestigious DAAD residency.

— Steve Smith