When Laurent Estoppey approached Rodney Waschka II about adapting a piece for him to perform, Waschka immediately agreed. Since then, the two artists have crossed global paths and sometimes landed in the same location. On this occasion, the virtuoso saxophonist performed on the Arts Now series, which is directed by Professor Waschka at NC State University. Waschka and Estoppey fashioned a creative and stimulating program that included “classic” electronic and electroacoustic compositions by Charles Dodge and François-Bernard Mâche; turn of the century works by Hiroyuki Itoh and Curtis Roads; and 21st century compositions by Laurent Estoppey, Nick Rich, and Rodney Waschka II. The concert took place in the Ballroom of the newly renovated Talley Student Center.

Estoppey broke the ice with Waschka’s PG-13 rated composition “CHATing Up” (2009) Premiered by Brooks de Wetter-Smith in 2010, this piece has staying power, especially for the college campus population. Estoppey spoke the pick-up lines with grace and played with great fluency; his Swiss accent gives the piece a wonderful lilt. And if laughter is the best medicine, I came home with a powerful inoculation.

“I Gotta Use Words” (2013) for tenor saxophone and electronics by Nick Rich (you can listen to an excerpt on Estoppey’s website) is a wonderful example of human speech as source material for electronic music. Rich’s piece calls for a live performer – sometimes in the foreground and in counterpoint with the electronic score. Estoppey played the often racing, minimalistic passages with amazing facility that made this listener sit up with attention. I give this performance five stars!

Laurent Estoppey also contributed his own 2012 work entitled “La rencontre de ľimmoble” (The Encounter of the Immobile). This is an ideal example of man + computer creating live music together. Estoppey (on alto sax) began with a “Feldman-like” sustained note that gradually evolved into pulsating layers of captivating sound. This is a smart, beautiful composition that pushes the boundaries of art. Estoppey recorded the composition on vinyl which includes work by visual artist Tristin Miller.

Estoppey also performed a beautiful work by Hiroyuki Itoh, “The Angel of Despair” (1999) and “Aulodie” (1984) by François-Bernard Mâche. Both pieces present technical challenges – multiphonics, wide-ranging trills and long-sustained tones that Estoppey adeptly met with rich, beautiful tone. In my estimation, Estoppey belongs on the top tier of contemporary players.

Waschka included two pieces on recorded media: Charles Dodge’s classic Speech Songs (1971-74) and “Sonal Atoms” (1998) by Curtis Roads. A graduating senior seated next to me enjoyed the program. When I asked if he favored one piece over another he thought that “Sonal Atoms” was his choice. A tip of the hat to Professor Waschka for bringing high level, thought-provoking art to the community; and bringing up a new generation of participants.

The next Arts NOW program will be January 27, 2015. For details, see our calendar closer to the event.