Imaginative and intrepid, the composers whose works were performed at the Cary Arts Center are young (well, mostly) promising composers. New Music Raleigh brought their works to a receptive, enthusiastic audience at the Cary Arts Center as part of the Cary Cross Currents Chamber Music Arts Festival. The featured composers were Gavin Bryars (b. 1943), Brett William Dietz (b. 1972), Judd Greenstein (b. 1979), Missy Mazzoli (b. 1980) and Tristan Perich (b. 1982).

New Music Raleigh, an ensemble dedicated to presenting challenging new works by living composers, presented five distinctive compositions for combinations of violin and percussion. Some of the pieces involved intricate rhythms that require precision and nerves of steel; others explored the most basic elements of sound — timbre and pitch (Mazzoli’s "Volume"). There were moments of diatonic lyricism and beauty, and Tristan Perich’s 2-channel 1 bit "Momentary Expanse" (2008) stretches our imaginations asking the question ‘what is music?’

Shawn Galvin and Dennis Hoffman opened the performance with Brett William Dietz’ "Street Fight" (2008). A dueling percussion piece, the performers played face-to-face on identical set-up (bongo, cowbell and splash cymbal). Immediately accessible, "Street Fight" was a captivating start. Galvin and Hoffman returned to the stage for Missy Mazzoli’s "Volume" (2006). Written for vibraphone, steel drum, two kick drums and suspended bottles of water, Mazzoli explores timbre, pitch (resonance) and polyrhythms. It’s mesmerizing.

Karen Strittmatter Galvin and Jacqueline Saed Wolborsky performed Gavin Bryars’ Die Letzten Tage (1992). The set of five violin duos were penned for an exhibition in Seville. “Prelude” begins with beautiful folk-like melodies on the G-string that reminded me of the Bartók duos. All similarities end here, however. The melodic lines in the upper registers of the instrument and the arpeggiated figures of the second violin of “Intermezzo I” create a dream-like stasis. Without change in tempo, I felt a gradual sense of urgency as the dynamic level increased and the texture thickened. With gorgeous tone, beautiful phrasing and perceptive communication, Galvin and Wolborsky’s performance was elegant. It is a well-crafted piece, but unlike some of Bryars other work, this one doesn’t break new ground.

The four players took us out on Judd Greenstein’s "III" (2002). Hip-hop inspired, this is a caffeinated, wild-ride-of-a piece commissioned for the Bang on a Can Summer Institute. As the audience testified, the unlikely pairing of violins, vibraphone and drum kit have the power to turn those black splotches on the page into a work of art. It was magical!