Thursday, October 07, 2010
(wondering if we're primed for a Michael Pisaro backlash...)
Well, not from me at any rate. Despite the seeming flood of performances and recordings (more of the latter in the pipeline around here), I remain eager to hear more and have rarely, still, been disappointed.
Last night at Issue Project Room, three works were presented, three duo pieces involving Barry Chabala (electric and acoustic guitars, sine waves), Travis Just (clarinet, melodica), Tucker Dulin (trombone) and the intersection of 3rd Ave. and 3rd St.
The first set was occupied by a relatively early piece (1996 or so, I think), called "Appearance (2)" for clarinet and acoustic guitar. Before performing, the musicians had gone through some random-walk exercises to generate the main structural components of the work: the number of sections, the number of iterations of the material during those sections, the length of the silences between the sections and perhaps more. Those "sections" consisted of a soft, held tone (10 seconds) on the clarinet and four single guitar string strikes that occupied about the first five seconds of that tone. This was repeated however many times the newly created score called for and was followed by periods of silence that seemed to range from one to six or so minutes. The pitches changed for each section. That was it, running some 35 minutes. I rather enjoyed it, finding myself visualizing it as akin to lying on one's back in a large open field, gazing up at a cloudless, blue sky, every so often catching sight of a jet flying at 35,000 feet, sometimes off to the side, sometimes directly ahead, sometimes audible, sometimes not.
After the break, the pair returned with Just wielding a melodica (an all too rarely glimpsed instrument these days!). He had also hung a mic from the window overlooking 3rd St. For those unaware, Issue Project Room sits in an ex-warehouse on a corner that's not so frequently traveled at night. The music was made up of wonderful, drawn out "breaths" between the melodica and ebow'ed guitar, often in harmonies that (to me) evoked a hymn-like feeling, even with the slightest tinge of gospel. Lusher that I expected. The serendipitous exterior sounds, more often than not, were vehicular noise, tires on road, that had just about the same aural span as those produced by the musicians and, texturally, fit in perfectly. There were a siren and a couple of jets thrown in for good measure. The piece ("e la fora" was the title) was gorgeous, one of my favorite Pisaro manifestations yet, an utterly natural melding of instrumental music and found sound.
For the final work, "Ascending Series (6)", Tucker Dulin joined Chabala who, in turn, broke out the sine waves in addition to the guitar. Barry explained a bit of the score to me and, iirc, it involved numerous retunings on his part, attempting to match those of the sine waves which were largely in just intonation; the necessarily inexact match would, I take it, create interference patterns. Almost throughout, there was a throbbing bottom, electronically generated, often (for a Pisaro piece) somewhat loud, providing a steady weave. Chabala would layer in his guitar, sometimes subtle, others almost piercing, while Dulin periodically commented with low, smooth tones, several seconds in duration, fluctuating in pitch. I take it their entrances, pitches and lengths of stay were prescribed in a typically arcane Pisaresque manner. In any event, the sum effect of the work was of a large, complex, undulating creature, more soft and billowing than not but with sharp bits as well--perhaps an octopus. (!)
A fine evening--no sign of a backlash in these here parts. Can't wait to hear more of Michael's work.