Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Before the show last night, Michael Pisaro showed me part of the score of the evening's piece on his laptop. The electronic parts of the work--sine tones, samples and field recordings, were all set to trigger at certain times over its 65-minute length. On the screen I observed, there were about 20 rows, each row representing, I assume, a given sound-source, with bars at various points along the horizontal (time) axis. The visual effect was very lovely, reminding me of some of the scores for Eno's 'Music for Airports' in their implied gentle cadence, their sort of orderly floating.

I found myself thinking of those bars as sound lozenges, wafting across the listening space (Experimental Intermedia), sometimes with seeming regularity though I imagine even then the sounded portion might have emerged at slightly varying intervals, all with a wonderful sense of pacing. The piece ("asleep, street, pipes, tones" ) was for electric guitar (Pisaro), bass clarinet (Katie Porter) and electronics. Describing it will doubtless be futile but, among other things, its 65 minutes seemed to elapse in half the time; Pisaro had announced its length beforehand and I was surprised when it ended, not thinking the requisite time had passed. Generally, it was very quiet with discreet passages of sound emerging with the rhythm of calm breathing. Many of the field recordings were, if I understood correctly, sourced from the inside of pipes.

I'm kinda realizing the futility of attempting to describe this right about now...the sounds were held for relatively long duration, were fairly quiet for the most part, were sometimes isolated, sometimes in tandem, sometimes repeated with additive elements gaining prominence on each iteration. Many of the combinations were achingly lovely, certain delicate pitch-pairs of guitar/bass clarinet or bass clarinet/organ-sample or guitar/sine, etc. New elements arose every so often, providing an interesting forward push--the aforementioned organs (sampled in distorted fashion from a Wandelweiser release--I forget the name), what sounded like a corroded sample from a mass, automobile sounds (blending with car noise and occasional shouts from outside on Centre St.) piano (or piano-like) chords. Perhaps most surprising, toward the end, was a hint of a melody, Pisaro plucking a sequence of pure notes, a lazy, descending series like a feather dropping, as beautiful as it was unexpected.

But the listing of details obscures the effect of the whole which was one of sustained concentration and appreciation of sounds, their mingling with other sounds (and pausing to allow ample time for this appreciation), the artful pacing and the choices made of adjacent tones and beyond adjacency to the limits of one's memory.

A gorgeous piece (even if this mishmash of verbiage doesn't at all convey it); hope to hear it on disc one day.

7 comments:

Barry Chabala said...

yeah, really beautiful piece from Michael & Katie last night. brian, i think your confusion explained it just about right. i really just lost all sense of time during the performance - everything just sort of stood still for that 65 minutes. (and watching you squirm was fun too :) great night!

Brian Olewnick said...

I'm sure I have no idea what you're referring to with this nonsense about squirming.

hmmph

Michael Waller said...

I thought the piece sounded like a "melodic Lucier" with its "even-handed" alternation of silence and sine tones, overall very deep intonation and stunning openness in the moment.

Richard Pinnell said...

Squirm is one of my very favourite words, and Brian is one of my very favourite online people, So you can't mention both in one sentence without giving us more context... c'mon Barry ;)

Brian Olewnick said...

Ah, just Olivia (gently and with grace) giving me the business about my write-up of her show. I enjoyed every squirm, fine conversation.

Barry Chabala said...

well Richard, it was lots of fun watching Brian explain his not-the-most-complimentary-review-ever of Olivia's performance to Olivia herself the very next evening! It was quite entertaining - Olivia was great!

olivia said...

Hi Gentlemen,
I did make Brian squirm a little, I admit, but the only reason he squirmed so much is because he cares!
;-) He was a good sport about it all...