by Jim Ridley
The Thrilla in Manila and the Rumble in the Jungle were mere dust-ups compared to the main event that'll have listeners across Middle Tennessee glued to their radios Saturday night: the Nashville Symphony Orchestra's performance at Carnegie Hall — or as we like to call it, "The Brawl in the Hall."
The "wonderfully weird" program, including the NSO and electric violinist Tracy Silverman performing the New York premiere of Terry Riley's The Palmian Chord Ryddle, will be broadcast live over Classical 91.1 starting at 6:30 p.m. and lasting approximately two hours. You can listen either online or at WFCL 91.1 FM.
For many, the night's big attraction is Charles Ives' rarely performed Universe Symphony, a crazily ambitious, clattering, exhilarating work that attempts to capture nothing less than the dawn of creation. (For some, it evokes just the opposite — one patron leaving Thursday's rehearsal wisecracked, "Well, that was the musical version of Melancholia." We're not sure whether he meant the movie or its world-ending agent of catastrophe.)
In last week's Scene, John Pitcher (who's embedded with the NSO in New York and reporting back over the weekend) did a great job of explaining the piece's complexity — which only starts with multiple orchestras under different conductors performing simultaneously in different time signatures. But if there's anything Country Life excels at, it's grotesque oversimplification. As a companion piece that will allow you to get the maximum enjoyment from this momentous performance — or at the very least, get seriously bombed — we offer the Universe Symphony Drinking Game, best undertaken at home, on a neighbor's floor, or in any sports bar where NPR simulcasts are played.
you hear a flowerpot solo.
you hear what sounds like competing people making the coconut-shell hoofbeats from Monty Python and the Holy Grail unaware of each other's existence.
you see maestro Giancarlo Guerrero calmly presiding over something that sounds like five orchestras falling down a flight of stairs.
you sense the piccolo tapping you on the shoulder.
you hear a gong when there's no gong.
you think the marble slab sounds a little flat.
you stop yourself before applauding the low hum of the air conditioning.
you get a tweet identifying the Times reviewer. (If it's Anthony Tommasini, the orchestra will drink.)
a sudden dramatic change in volume gooses you.
someone texts you they actually saw Alex Ross.
someone asks, "Hey, when's the orchestra going to stop warming up?"
you hear a bell. (Repeat every eight seconds.)