In which I venture out alone in the dark
The other night I attended a performance by an international chamber group in a warehouse, complete with light installation and spaced-out seating. One of those true Artsy Events you would expect to encounter in an Artsy City.
And boy was I not let down. In fact, I was a little bit scared at times. Likely by design—the six musicians definitely used and interacted with their instruments with no intention of catering to the listener’s comfort. A pleasant listening experience—or at least one that relieved the listener from actively engaging their brain—was not the point.
Here follow some notes on what I saw and heard over the course of an hour-plus in a room with a smattering of masked people and little to no speech.
- Violin squawking, cello moaning, bass saxophone (?? I think this is incorrect—the instrument is quite long and tall and mounted on a stand—but I don’t know the names of other such instruments belonging to that family. Brian Wilson would know. anyway, woodwinds) grunting, flute skittering
- Cello grating, violin keening, woodwinds droning, flute insisting
- Cello and woodwinds intoning, violin and flute screeching
- Violin yelping, flute whining, cello battering, woodwinds hooting
- Move at will and let the act of playing your music take your body wherever it is going
- Players approaching and crossing into one another’s spaces—nothing is off-limits or out of bounds
- Stop playing when your pendulum stops swinging, or when someone manually stops your pendulum: forces of nature and man counteracting
- Emphasis on the exacting nature of repetition, the science (and mathematics) behind the ‘art’ of music
- Both sound and silence fill the space—positive and negative substances, presence and absence
- Instruments passing turns to one another in improvised phrases: key, tempo, rhythm all irrespective of one another
- Much owed to free-form jazz but just in the context of a classical/orchestral framework
- Intense, dare I say radical, interdependence among players: each one has to trust the others wholly and unhesitatingly
- Multimedia: faces, voices, bodies play off of, and participate in, sound created
- Not always easy to tell where one piece ends and the next begins
- I think I leave with a better understanding of what John Cage (and, later, John Cale) was getting at…
Image: somewhere in Lichtenberg, pre-show