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Student composer explores new ground in farewell show

Senior Recital

by Adrian Childs

Works by Child, Childs, Persichetti, Copland, Kabalevsky, and Bernstein.

Saturday, April 23, 1994.

Elizabeth Killian Hall, MIT.

By Craig K. Chang
Staff Reporter

The complexity of senior Adrian Childs' music cannot be documented here. But its qualities stem from so simple a virtue that only one word need cover the entire ground--expression. His every phrase, his every note projects some sort of swell in the imagination. To hear his music is to experience what goes on behind the mind of a great pianist and composer.

In a senior recital commemorating the people who have shaped his life, Childs showed the kind of emotional conviction that appears only after a lifetime of music making. His program was solely contemporary; yet, he managed to distill from complex shading and potential cacophony a pure stream of voice. However dense the palette of modern music insists on remaining, the world will forever need musicians such as Childs to recreate musical invention, to fill in that gap of communication between paper and ear, between ink and sound.

With the compositions of Vincent Persichetti and instructor Peter Child, Childs brought us to a whole different world, a world outside traditional sonority, amid complicated textures. The distinction Childs brought to "Calm, with dignity--Allegro ritmico" of Peter Child's Sonatina evaded typical fanfare, and seemed to reinvent the language of our thoughts. The movements of Persichetti's Fourth Piano Sonata evade typical labeling: for instance, "Broad--intimately--Broad" seem to beg artists to expand upon these suggestions to the extreme. Childs's performance thus grew stronger from these cues, these signals to use the imagination to the fullest.

But none of these works by other composers showed us who that performer on the stage really was as well as Childs's own compositions. Music composed for Professor Alan Brody's production of "Master-Mistress of My Passion" demonstrated Childs's skill for linking his musical imagination to drama and to his audience. Even without the theatrical connection on stage, Sonnets and Interludes spoke for itself in enveloping us in the presence and ideas he sought to create.

Still, the pinnacle of the evening remained the Sonata No. 1 by Childs, an incredibly charged work which drew from varying influences and yet maintained its own signature. The contemporary music of this composer and performer is not about tone clusters or other fancy tricks; it is a return to highly personal music. It is about the language of ideas unfolding before our ears. His music transcends the bulk of intellectual austerity flooding music today. This achievement undoubtedly roots itself in his unfailing attention to communicating to the audience. Just as he dedicated his program to the composers, teachers, and friends he admires most, Adrian Childs writes and plays to speak, above all, to people.