Notes on Experimental Warehouse Music

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

Published by Cecilia Gigliotti

Cecilia Gigliotti is a freelance writer/editor/musician/podcaster based in Berlin with a beloved ukulele named Uke Skywalker. Her free time goes toward dancing, reading books new and old, drawing cartoons, trying to finish her Netflix queue, and devoting too much thought to the foibles of her artist-heroes. Connect with her on Twitter (@CeciliaGelato) and Instagram (@c_m_giglio).

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