Monday, October 13, 2008
[photo: Yuko Zama]
Went to Listen Space in Williamsburg on Saturday, a nice, new-looking white room, for three sets of music. First up, Tucker Dulin (trombone) & Barry Weisblat (electronics). I'm partial to Barry's science experiment approach; it rarely gets too dry for me. His manipulation of small fluorescent tubes and (I'm guessing), their barely controllable reaction with the surrounding devices is fascinating on its own, for me. Whether it integrates with a musical cohort can be another matter and here, Dulin's trombone playing didn't do anything for me, a routine selection of extended techniques, often drone-oriented. Overall, not so satisfying except to the extent I concentrated on Barry's activity.
Dave Barnes and Richard Kamerman up next, the most enjoyable, engaging and thoughtful set of the night. Very difficult (for me) to really grasp while in progress, all to their credit. Kamerman takes the interesting tack of powering his equipment via small batteries and, indeed, makes the act of hooking them to his devices part of the performance. One of the things I most enjoyed was his habit of being matter-of-fact in the transparency of what he was doing. When he placed a metal plate on the board he used as a table, intended as a resonating surface for subsequent activity, the thwack of its placement was just as much a part of the sound. Taking more than a cue or two from Taku Unami, he placed one end of a metal rod on a vibrating engine (?) allowing the opposite end to caper over the board or metal, buzzing about under varying degrees of control. Vibrating surfaces of one kind or another made up the bulk of his goings on and provided something of a visual focus, enough so that Barnes' equally interesting noises, generated from a small mixing board, were too easy to lose track of; better to appreciate with eyes closed, probably. Either way, the music was spare and uncompromising, building "meaning" as it progressed, so when they stopped, I oddly had more understanding of the set as an entity than I had while it was occurring, a rare enough experience and a happy one. Good stuff.
Last up was the trio of Mike Bullock (bass, electronics), Jonathan Zorn (computer) and Bonnie Jones (open circuit electronics). I like Bullock's work that I've heard recently; he's a fine listener and an imaginative player. I enjoy Bonnie's work that I've heard, in its unusual combination of subtlety and rawness. But both of them were cast into somewhat hopeless roles due to Zorn's playing. He was apparently using a program called "supercollider" but whatever, there was no excuse for the kind of banal, ray-gun, bloopy sounds it emitted more often than not, making it all but impossible to listen to Bullock and Jones (which I nonetheless attempted to do). Really baffling, the level of insensitivity at play. Several times, they coalesced into very attractive zones, including the last several minutes, only to have Zorn inject some silly sound. (And no, I didn't get the impression that there was some kind of John White inference). Frustrating.
But these days, one outta three ain't bad.