Happening: Fringe

Founded in 2007, Fringe has strived from the beginning to present pieces from the classical repertoire in a new light, to move beyond the staid presentation of concert halls. To do this, Fringe did something very simple yet highly inspired: It added other media to the concert experience. And by doing that, the organization made chamber music—arguably the dullest of classical forms—hip.
This past Saturday’s performance entailed spinning from DJ Little Jen, paintings by Tiffani Taylor, two short films (2005’s “The Piano” and this year’s “Song of the Silenced”), Beethoven’s “Piano Trio in B Flat Major, Op. 97, ‘Archduke,’” and Brahms’s “Piano Trio in C Minor, Op. 101”—with the latter two musical numbers receiving introductory documentary films to help listeners to contextualize the works. Fringe mainstays cellist Charae Krueger and violinist Fia Durrett and newcomer pianist Robert Henry performed the musical pieces with as much verve and gusto as one might expect. The entire evening of experiential art went down at the quasi-new-age-y Church of the Redeemer in ITP Sandy Springs.
Fringe certainly is the most avant-garde construct in our classical music scene, and it may just boast one of the most avant-garde music trend in America, as the AJC once attested. However, as it enters its fourth season, Fringe needs to push further. Although I loved the multimedia approach to the evening (art installation, video projections, house music), they all merely buttressed the two main chamber music performances. They didn’t play together. Sure, the documentary films introduced the pieces, but there was no overlap. I would have loved for the electronic music to play simultaneously with the classical music at certain points, just to add a helpful counterpoint. Or better yet, to become a sort of cross-generational mash-up, or quodlibet as it were, that juxtaposed Beethoven with trip-hop. The entire evening satisfied, but if Fringe aims to hold on to a younger audience by appealing to the generation’s hypermediated nature, it needs to bring those flourishes of contemporary media to its main show.