Here's the reason why concerts of new music are usually much less enjoyable than programs of older music: The latter get screened for quality by time. That makes yesterday's concert by the New York New Music Ensemble at the Baltimore Museum of Art all the more remarkable. Three of the four pieces on the program, which was presented by the Chamber Music Society of Baltimore, were genuinely enjoyable and promised to reward repeated listening.
Perhaps the most intriguing was Stephen Mackey's 23-minute "Indigenous Instruments" (1989). In his program notes, Mackey speaks of this piece for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano as "ethnic music from a culture that doesn't really exist."
The young composer -- he was born in 1956 -- must have his tongue in his cheek. This is music that could only have been written by an American. The elegiac slow movement was filled with echoes of Copland and Bernstein, and the jazzy final one suggested a space-age version of Charles Ives. Although there were several nods in the direction of minimalism, this music spoke with a dazzlingly irreverent, absolutely fresh tone. I suspect (and hope) that we will be hearing much more from Mackey in the future.