Two distinct catalysts went into the creation of violinist Tim Fain’s multimedia project, “Portals,” which comes to the Gardner Museum on Thursday. One is his enthusiasm for American composers; the concert includes music by Aaron Jay Kernis, Nico Muhly, William Bolcom, and others, and at its center is a solo violin piece, “Partita,” which Philip Glass wrote for Fain after the latter’s performances in Glass’s song cycle “Book of Longing,” on poems by Leonard Cohen.
The second motivation is more ambiguous: Fain’s fascination with the digital era and its effect on social relations. This is hardly a new theme; we are continually fretting or exulting over the effect that social networking and new communication tools have had on our interpersonal lives. That revolution, though, has left classical music, and especially its concert rituals, largely untouched.