Monday, July 30, 2012
Ergo PhizMiz et. al. - Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon (Bôłt)
Were I mulling over a list of 20th century avant-classical works, choosing one to give a new rendition, I'm not sure Robert Ashley's powerful "Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon" would have ranked so high. Not because it's an unworthy piece of music--it's not; it's an amazing, disturbing work, imho--but just the opposite, that it would seem to be a pointless thing to attempt. The original, with the chilling, impossibly detached reading by Cynthia Liddell, is so sui generis that any attempt at configuring it anew seems to be a fool's errand. Under the aegis of Mr Phizmiz on voice and piano (admittedly, it pains me type those letters), Alessandro Bosetti (laptop), Maciej Cieślak (guitar), Dj Lenar (turntable), Lula (voice) and Julia Ziętek (violin) make a stab at it.
it begins quite well and differently from the recorded version by Ahsley, with several minutes of high-pitched eerie strings and electronics. Then there's an oddity. Ashley's instructions, as I understand it [see response below--I was mistaken about this], were for the speaker to recount an experience, a sexual assault, that actually happened to her, striving to omit any moral judgments or overt emotionality, instead describing the sensations, tactile, auditory, etc. that she experienced. Here, Lula reads part of the original text in Polish-accented English. This immediately pushes the work back from its normal extreme closeness to the listener, back into the realm of repertoire where it becomes much safer, and blander. Phizmiz then intervenes with text from another source, not one involved with the subject at hand as near as I can tell, though it does rather engage in food pornography. Lula returns, back to the script, as before sounding as though taped in a small room. So it goes, back and forth. Phizmiz sounds a little like Derek Jarman in "Blue" but, again, far less moving or troubling.
And that's the problem. Considered purely as a piece of text/music, it's fine and had there not been an antecedent, one may have been more affected by the content. But knowing otherwise, it seems such a pale shadow of the original. Ashley's work is everything a David Lynch could ever want, a pure evocation of the terrifyingly normal of a horrid substratum of sexual domination. Here, it's been neutered and recast as a somewhat edgy art piece. The original is something I'd be very hesitant about playing for friends, for fear of its negative impact. This one would not present any problem. I have to consider it a failure then, in that sense.
Jean-Louis Costes - Justine (Bôłt)
I'd never heard of Costes before now but a brief search revealed that he's considered by some to be the GG Allin of Europe. Photos depict as often bloodied. Ok, then.
A big caveat: There exists a loosely defined genre wherein a speaker declaims archly and histrionically, overdramatizing almost every word, adopting an extremely affected demeanor, adopting various voices from baby-like to pseudo-operatic to lunatic, etc., etc., few of which having much to do with how people actually live, talk and think but fit in perfectly with a kind of third-rate absurdist theater. I can't stand that stuff, just drives me up a wall. And Costes is about as perfect an encapsulation of that approach as I've heard in years.
So he reads from Sade's "Justine", in French-accented English sounding like Michael Palin intoning in franglais. I can't help but chuckle which I gather isn't the desired response. All solo voice with the odd hand-clap, usually spoken, sometimes sung, reading a text I guess Costes still finds transgressive which of course, it was when written and for sometime thereafter but, at least as acted out here, often sounds silly and daring only in an adolescent way. Shitting in Justine's mouth...yawn...I'd prefer to re-watch "The Aristocrats".
Hey, might be right up the alley of many; by all means have at it. Me, I'm hoping this before now excellent Populista series gets back on track....