Saturday, March 07, 2009
So naturally, a naked old man walks in.
I mean, I invite my friend Betsy to the event, who prior to a few weeks ago I hadn't seen for some 32 years and who expressed sincere interest in the music I listen to and write about (and who's a cellist herself), and I figure, "OK, The International Nothing should be a pretty safe option, not so off-putting, probably on the quiet side, even playing compositions." So we meet over at XI, go up to the loft. There's a pretty decent crowd on hand, many familiar faces, some I hadn't seen for a good while like Chris Mannigan (hey, Chris!). Kai had been feeling ill all day, so things were delayed a bit which was fine as excellent conversation could be had. Things are bubbling along when I notice out of the corner of my eye, back toward the entrance some 30 feet away, a gentlemen crouched over, seemingly divesting himself of some clothes. I figure I'm misinterpreting this and turn back to the talking. A few seconds later, I glance up once again, momentarily assuming I'm seeing someone in a costume of some sort that I just can't quite decipher--it's quite baggy and flesh-colored with hairy patches. Oh, it's a naked old guy.
Amazing what that does to the conversational noise level in a place. Utter silence, soon broken up by the odd snicker. I'm thinking, "Great, this is going to give Betsy a really good picture of the scene." The gentleman, who resembled an only slightly slimmer version of Sacha Baron Cohen's cohort in "Borat", wanders around, seating himself in several locations, causing others to seek purchase elsewhere, eventually, natch, depositing his carcass at the end of our row. I'd later discover that he'd graced the previous XI series with his presence, having first asked Phill if his comportment was OK with the house which, apparently, it was.
Not that all this should take away from the music, which it didn't really, but it's hard not to comment on.
Mssrs Fagaschinski and Thieke performed six composed pieces, pretty much the same program, I believe, that Robert reported on here. It was very much about control, of maintaining a lovely balance between the two reeds and within their own sounds, the split tones played with a fine combination of precision and fuzziness, allowing for accidents within a proscribed area. There was a nice breathing quality to the first couple of works, a natural kind of ebb and flow, the tones combining to form soft shimmers, then parting, back and forth, often with an implied, subtle melodic component. The second also contained a well-placed silence of a minute or so during which the loft's heating system played an excellent role, clinking away arhythmically. That melodiousness came to the fore on the very brief, but exceedingly charming third number, a bagatelle that reminded me of some of Howard Skempton's beautiful miniatures for piano.
The short second set opened with the Morse Code piece; interesting structure, one I'd like to here again, the dots and dashes bracketed by longer tones as though surfacing between periods of static transmission. The final work, "Sleep", was my personal favorite, making use of a descending three note figure, sending it through a series of relaxed, oneiric variations, really conveying a pleasantly drowsy sensation, delicately balanced between melody and abstraction, much as ones feels between sleep and wakefulness. Fine work, thanks gentlemen.