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Weekend Pick: Corey Dargel's Genre-Bending Art-Pop

By Alexander Hough in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 10, 2010 7:40PM

Dargel and ICE at the premiere of "Thirteen Near-Death Experiences" from (Photo by L. Gabrielle Penabaz via New Amsterdam Records)
There's a wide variety of classical music being written today. If you don't mind the use of the term "classical music" (which is more inaccurate but slightly less pretentious than the best alternative, "art music"), then you may also pardon the gross oversimplification that that music falls roughly into two camps: complicated, dissonant music from the 20th-century modernist tradition; and more minimalist work from the Steve Reich family tree branch. Composers of the latter group believe that music doesn't need to be harmonically or developmentally complicated, sensibilities that are aligned with other "simple" music.

It's at the far end of this spectrum where Corey Dargel's music lies. It hovers between classical and pop and, in large part, only gets the "classical" moniker because a.) it's written out and b.) he studied composition at Oberlin College's Conservatory of Music. "Art-pop" is what folks like to call it, which seems at least as precise as the other names we've tossed around already. The music is simple but not repetitive, with Dargel's slightly plaintive, round, almost Muppet-like voice singing touchingly straightforward lyrics.

This Saturday night at the Velvet Lounge, Dargel will give the Midwestern premiere of his song cycle "Thirteen Near-Death Experiences" from the double album "Someone Will Take Care of Me" due out May 25. "Thirteen" is about hypochondria, but like his music-theater piece about voluntary amputation "Removable Parts," which makes up the second half of the May release, the subject matter is more about the relatable underlying feelings - anxiety, vulnerability, isolation - than the condition itself. The goal is to make everyone feel a little less lonely.

"Thirteen" is Dargel's first entirely acoustic work since 2001; not knowing other musicians after moving to New York, he spent the intervening years writing music he could perform by himself. Dargel will be joined by members of the International Contemporary Ensemble, the new-music group that commissioned the piece, on piano, strings, woodwinds, and drums.

Saturday at 9:30 p.m., Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak, $10, e-mail to reserve tickets