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St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Festival of New Music Improvisation

New Music Circle, Graham Chapel, April 14

Philip Kennicott, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Classical Music Critic

LaDonna Smith of Birmingham, Ala., was the first muse among equals at the New Music Circle’s Improvisation Fest ’96 at Washington University’s Graham Chapel on Sunday evening. Smith was one of three visiting artists, who joined an eclectic mix of five local players for several forays into the realms of barely tamed chaos. Using a wide variety of vocal expressions and an even wider array of experimental violin techniques, Smith was the unofficial leader of the various ensembles that joined together and drifted apart during two hours of music making. Stage charisma, and an imaginative ear for the possibilities of timber, make Smith an appealing presence. In a solo set, she combined sawing on the violin’s open strings with a set of frenzied wails on the remaining string, over which she sang an eerie cantalina. The effect was an impressive complexity of texture, like some deranged nun chanting next to a devilish fiddler.”