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Audiences gather in a tiny garage for Spectrum's Modern Piano (+) Festival / The New York Times,

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Chatter about the future of classical music tends to focus on major orchestras and opera companies, and how they can entice new audiences. But there has always been another layer of activity - call it the classical music underground - in which dedicated artists and curious audiences gather in small, offbeat spaces for adventurous programs.

One of the smallest and most offbeat is Spectrum, across the street from the Brooklyn Navy Yard; it still has the look and feel of the garage it used to be.

But with a Steinway grand piano and a high-tech sound system for electronic music, it has become a go-to place for contemporary fare. (Spectrum moved here last year from its original location in a loft on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.)

On Sunday evening, violinist Miranda Cuckson, a champion of new music, and pianist Ethan Iverson, also a composer and best known for his acclaimed work in jazz, played an engrossing program of duos and solos, as part of Spectrum's Modern Piano (+) Festival, running through Sunday.

There were just two dozen people in the audience. Yet I would argue that events like this one are essential, because they keep music focused on the essentials.

Of course, these two artists routinely appear in major halls, as well. Next month, for example, Cuckson will be the soloist with the Stuttgart State Orchestra for the European premiere of a violin concerto by Georg Friedrich Haas. Iverson has only recently stopped touring with the idiosyncratic jazz group the Bad Plus. But a tiny laboratory like Spectrum surely enables these artists to renew themselves and take chances.