Contemporaneous Shines in Music At First Concert

by Sam Reising

For those unfamiliar with New York-based Contemporaneous, you need to learn about what you’re missing. The tenacious new music ensemble was founded in 2010 at Bard College by composer/cellist Dylan Mattingly and composer/conductor David Bloom with the mission of “performing and promoting the most exciting music of now.” They’ve stayed true to that statement, premiering over 30 new works by young and emerging composers. Their November 15, 2013 concert  at First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn Heights on their Music at First series, titled Breathe, featured another premiere, of Albert Behar’s piece The Beauty in Breathing. The concert, conducted by Bloom, also featured performances of works by Samuel Carl Adams and Mattingly.

Behar’s work is based on breathing and the heartbeat—his own breathing and heartbeat actually. During the performance, Behar wore a LifeShirt, a device invented by his grandfather that wirelessly measures the vital signs of the person wearing it. For The Beauty in Breathing, Behar used the LifeShirt to project his own breathing and pulse into a Max/MSP patch that was displayed on a screen behind the ensemble. Conductor David Bloom then followed Behar’s heartbeat, which was constantly changing, like a metronome. Behar’s piece, with its ebbing and flowing pulses and swells, was truly remarkable to see performed live. I hope it receives another performance soon.

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