SRQ Magazine | March 2017
The Sarasota Pops closes out its 41st season in stunning style next month with a final concert, Out of This World, featuring experimental violist Martha Mooke. Armed with her custom-made electric viola and an array of technological enhancements, Mooke’s heavily improvisational performances bring the instrument to the edge of its abilities as she coaxes new sounds from the strings and composes onstage for all to see and hear. The result is something more akin to a “performance experience,” born of a moment that will never come again, than anything that can be captured on camera. The singular nature of a Mooke performance derives largely from two factors: the first is the technology amassed at her feet as she plays. With a rig comprising two multi-effects pedals and a looping pedal—her “stompboxes”—Mooke is not bound by the conventional rules of the instrument and instead can play with reverb and delay and create harmonies and echoes as she crafts layered compositions from her single instrument. The other departure point for Mooke’s style is the heavy emphasis on improvisation. Some of her work is printed out, some is not. Some pieces are heavily notated, others not so much. In each instance, Mooke leaves room for improvisation onstage, whether for a single player or a whole unit of the orchestra. These are the moments that make each show its own, distinct to that time and place and audience. “When I’m performing, there’s always that unknown, and that’s informed by how I’m feeling and how I’m sensing the audience is feeling,” she says. “It brings out that moment that will never happen again and makes it a special experience for everybody.”
Appearing with the Sarasota Pops at the Riverview Performing Arts Center on April 2 and Neel Performing Arts Center the following evening, Mooke will be performing two selections from her catalogue, including the premiere of her orchestral version of X-ing.