The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is continuing to dip its toe into the new music waters through a partnership with New Amsterdam, the Brooklyn-based "artists' service organization." Saturday's show was the first full concert of their new partnership; composers, arrangers and performers all came from the immediate or extended NewAm family.
The first half of the program featured genre-crossing performer Son Lux, who, putting to work his wide, vivid musical vocabulary, worked like a mad musical scientist over his keyboard and laptop, mixing sounds, beats and effects. His voice, at times sounding purposefully strained, was, much like his compositions, imbued with a strong emotional undercurrent.
Following intermission was Sarah Kirkland Snider's Odyssey-inspired song cycle Penelope, an organic, coherent patchwork of orchestra, guitar, drums, electronics and voice. Singer Shara Worden has a hauntingly pure voice that, perfectly suited to the work, struck both melancholy and hopeful notes - and all the emotional microtones in between.
Conductor Edwin Outwater, a perfect choice given his history of being involved with and creating similarly innovative programs, led the orchestra with great precision. The concert, unlike anything the ISO has done before - from the lighting setup to the quantity of new music presented - represents an exciting step forward for ISO, demonstrating the organization's sustained commitment to presenting new music alongside its typical offerings from the pre-1950 canon.