It's a trick of avant-garde storytelling to start at the end — thus, perhaps, the eschatological undercurrent to Sound Icon's season opener, also the first official presentation of Boston University's Center for New Music. The group, directed by Jeffrey Means, has become a prime local source for European musical imports, particularly larger essays opening out the nature of musical sound, pushing it to its limits; Sunday's concert coupled that to endpoints both psychological and existential.
Mark André's 2006 "ni" (the title is an acronym for the German "nach immer") in its American premiere, worked at extreme sonic frontiers, as if to see how long the 14 players could go without producing a traditional musical tone. Strained whispers of breath, key clicks, and scraping bow hair were the norm. (The performance had the full-immersion commitment of Sound Icon at its best.) André can summon lavish sounds as well; the outer of the seven movements encased those interstitial sounds in a more lush, otherworldly swirl. But the dominant mood was drawn-out and lean.