The Other Minds new-music organization is opening its 25th anniversary season on June 15 with a commissioned work that reflects its experimenting, adventurous ways.
Not an opera or oratorio or any other conventional composition, “The Pressure” is described as “a tale of gothic horror told in music, harking back to world of German expressionist silent film — a story straight from ‘The Twilight Zone.’”
Charles Amirkhanian, Other Minds’ executive director and co-founder, calls “The Pressure” a “modern masterpiece that points to a new direction in music theater.“
Created by Alameda resident composer and instrument-maker Brian Baumbusch, the evening-length work is set on text by his brother, playwright Paul Baumbusch, with evocative visuals by Federico Yankelevich, including projected intertitles used in silent movies.
“The Pressure” is performed by 24 musicians, including the Lightbulb Ensemble and Friction String Quartet, three keyboardists, a vocal quartet and the composer as narrator.
What is known about the story before the premiere is limited to Baumbusch’s cryptic introduction: “A snake oil peddler comes to town — a town suffering from painful barometric pressure — and promises a cure. There are unforeseen consequences…”
The work’s connection with early German expressionist horror movies, Baumbusch says, is that they “were created on the brink of the rise of fascism in Europe, and many of these films portrayed obsessions with an anti-hero svengali-like charlatan.”
He adds, “We later saw this fixation with charismatic anti-heroes play out during the rise of fascist dictators in the decades to follow. As we are now in a weirdly similar social zeitgeist, the story of ‘The Pressure’ similarly depicts an anti-hero charlatan.”
As some of the Bay Area’s prominent composers of contemporary classical music, such as the late Lou Harrison, Baumbusch is an aficionado of Balinese gamelan (gong) orchestras, and that’s one of the sounds that characterizes his works, along with the use of microtonality, of intervals falling between the black and white keys of a piano (semitones).
IF YOU GO
Presented by Other Minds
Where: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $32.50 to $59.50
Contact: (415) 978-2787 www.otherminds.org