Monday, May 25, 2009

Lucio Capece/Julia Eckhardt/Christian Kesten/Radu Malfatti/Toshimaru Nakamura/Taku Sugimoto - Wedding Ceremony (Cathnor)

A live recording, culled from two sets in Belgium, May 2007, and a rewarding and fascinating one.

Five pieces, four of them composed, most of the time freely admitting of the performing space ambiance. Christian Kesten's "zonder titel (schuif en ruis)" consists "simply" of lengthy sustained notes by the sextet tutti placed between extended sections of non-playing. The filled areas are made up of fine burbling with subtle, barely rising pitches. As with many works of this general form, its success relies, for me, on the natural deployment of the sound blocks, how well they "hang" in space. To my ears, this one does the trick and does it very well. It segues into a 20-minute improvisation, I assume from the same set though one of the effects of the ambient sounds throughout is to provide a tissue of sorts between the track. Quietly blistering. Nakamura (I'm guessing) inserts a few awkwardly loopy sounds, though even then if one listens in the context of the whole piece, they're more like brightly colored blips in a somber landscape--interesting to flip back and forth in one's head between the momentary irritation and broader scope. Overall, though, it's a fine and controlled piece; not dissimilar in most respects from other performances by like-minded musicians, but handled with great sensitivity. Much fun attempting, often unsuccessfully, to pick out Kesten. In my limited exposure to his work over the past year, he's become, with Ami Yoshida, my favorite vocalist in the music.

I've also been largely remiss in keeping track of Radu Malfatti's vast output over the last few years, but his composition here, "quartet + 2", seems to fit in comfortably with what I am familiar with, 27 minutes of sounds that seem more respired than played, like the breaths of some sleeping giant. There are enormously low tones in play (Toshi?), the other voices arrayed laminally, sliding in and out of unison, the background noises providing some salt. I do generally find this side of Malfatti's work to be transfixing and am again so impressed here. Hard to imagine tiring of listening to this; gorgeous work.

Listeners who've been unable to abide much of Sugimoto's recent composed music get another to chew on here, version 2.12 of his "doremilogy". A minute of room sound, a single clarinet note, three rising scale notes on the viola, three on clarinet, viola and guitar, five on another combination (I could be getting these wrong but they're additive), a full octave with everyone, etc. The salient aspect of this performance, clocking in at only four + minutes, is the timbral distortion applied to the notes in the scales, kind of like Richter doing a comfy mother and child painting then taking a board to rake the paint across the surface. I rather enjoy it.

This bleeds directly into the final and, arguably, most problematic work, an improvisation conducted by Capece based on his instructions which can be read here. As indicated, it's in two sections of equal length. The first is quite attractive, a succession of soft tones, gentle thwacks and high squeaks, having something of a ritualistic quality; very beautiful. Throughout this portion, Capece had been strolling through the audience, handing out bits of text. At the conclusion of the first section, Capece jarringly takes to the mic and asks the audience to participate (or not) as spelled out in his notes. There follows a couple of minutes of uncomfortable silence before one, then another few audience members recite the lines from Guy Debord, finally one in whispers. The awkward blockiness of this maneuver is, one supposes, an expected outcome, reinforcing perhaps the criticism of "spectacle" in the text. That tension comes through clearly; I imagine it did even more so in situ. Does it, that second section, "sound" great? No. Should the work have been included on an audio CD as opposed to having been simply experienced live? Not sure. I like very much actively involving the audience in unique ways which, I'd have to say, includes asking them to consider reading aesthetically and politically charged statements, as long as they decide whether or not to do so. The psychological pressure that may have been in play does provide tension; whether it's welcome or not or, indeed, verges on the oppressive...that's a question. Ultimately, I'm glad it's here, if only in the interests of fair representation of the musician's activities and range of investigations.

Many ideas packed in, several of them beautifully expressed.



duif said...

Capece's piece with audience participation was recorded the night before the Brussels gig, here in Ghent. I haven't heard it on disc yet, but you're right, it was very tense and awkward to be in the audience at that moment, and I think I mentioned on IHM or maybe on slsk chat the day after how uncomfortable that part had made me. Capece was staring feverishly from one spectator to the next, browbeating us all into timid silence. In fact I vaguely recall it was Kesten who approached people with little pieces of paper, while Capece remained seated on stage, but I may have misremembered that. I'm still curious to hear how that turned out, and at any rate I remember most of the compositions and the improv piece from Brussels being really beautiful.
for those who are wondering, "schuif en ruis" is Dutch for "shove/slide and noise/murmur".

RFKorp said...

I guess I'm not totally sure what Capece is trying to accomplish with this particular action, nor have I heard the recording yet...

but I'm generally of the mind that this kind of forced audience participation rarely serves much of a purpose.

Feels like a lot of schtick rather than an organic component of the work.

Brian Olewnick said...

Thanks for the clarification, David. I was wondering if it was Lucio, as there was reed playing occurring simultaneously; didn't sound as though it was moving through space, so it likely was Kesten.

I'm sure it *can* be shtick, but it can surely also be used in what one might term a Mattinesque way, not that doing so is likely to ingratiate one to any greater degree with many listeners....Curious if Lucio was intending the "browbeating" David felt or not.

Lucio Capece said...

Hi Brian, Duif, RFKorp.
The person that approached the audience was Christian Kesten. I was playing the bass clarinet.
It was not my intention at all to browbeat anybody. Things were done as kindly as possible. Neither the intention was to "force the audience participation". The audience had the option to stay in silence, or doing nothing, or doing something else. I find what the audience did, actually beautiful.
You have the right to think that is "shtick", for sure. I do not think so. All the best. lucio.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of how bad teachers ask stupid questions and then, when their students fail to answer, plead with them to say something or, even worse, say, "don't all speak at once!"

If musicians want to interact with their audiences in disregard for the performer-audience dynamic, perhaps they should do so when they're not performing. It is, after all, the default relationship.

God knows the music world would be better if these self-appointed audience-"liberators" would cease taking the stage...

Lucio Capece said...

Hi Anonymus. Im honestly sorry of irritating you or anybody. It was not my intention to “ liberate” the audience, as you ironically say. I do not pretend such a thing. Not to “interact with the audience”. I think that to consider the audience participation in a concert or performance is at this point as classic as a sonate, at least in several scenes or groups of people. I liked how it happened.The musicians, and Radu specially, were very positive about how things happened. I do not know if we interacted. Some people from the audience did that, and others did nothing. My pretensions do not go further the aspects that Brian mentions in his review.
I consider myself a musician. Usually I do not work into performance art but I decided to do it for this situation, for different reasons, and I think that it was a good decision. I do not think that is the case to explain what I think about the piece. Basically I would like to say, though, that is not the intention to provoke, or to make anybody get angry. Some artists may be happy with that, but is not what I wanted. Neither to be “talked” or to direct the attention towards me or the piece. Very honestly I say this.
When I brought the piece to the project I had in my mind Debord´s book, but also Alvin Lucier´s “ I´m sitting in a room”, as well as thinking about the effect that Radu´s music produces in me when I listen to it.
About Lucier´s piece. I wondered what might happen if instead of , given a sound element, a certain process puts in evidence the roll of the room, a piece would put in evidence the roll of the audience, after giving the audience certain elements. Sometimes I listen to Radu´s music while I play with my kid, and the room becomes nicer and the world a kind place to stay. Sometimes I listen carefully and I analyse the length of the sounds and silences, and the pitches, and when the beatings happen and I admire how he can build such a house with a few matches. But I stay impressed about the psicological and spiritual effect that this music creates in me, also how more things I can listen about what Im doing when I play with my kid. I was wondering how the audience may reaction nowadays, after Radu´s music, as a given sound element and Debord´s book as a text element. In this way I remember always “Empty Words” by Cage, and I always think what would happen if Cage could do that performance today. In this sense I enjoyed the musical reaction of the audience. Im conscious that there were some minutes of tension, and someone getting upset, others thinking what to do. But then some people did some loops, others took only some words. When I listen to the recording I find that is good music. Instead of being the room , or the things that I hear while I listen to Radu´s music, it s the audience, after those given elements.
About having it in the Cd.
The piece is part of the Cd considering that there is something like 60 minutes of music that I find beautiful before it. I think that it worths having it there and that it is coherent with the work we did. For those ones who are not interested in the voices it can be a one time listening piece,or at least the first 7 minutes of it can deserve repeated listening, and I like it in that way. There is the option of stopping the CD player or programming it or editing it with Audacity if you or someone who wants this. Sometime the voices by the end remind me when the people were singing “Oh, Oh Oh Oh Oh” in the recording that documents the Woodtsock festival, in this sense the voices can be considered a fade out.
Your last sentence in the comment, and the fact that you do not give your name, make me understand that you are really angry, Im sorry for this. But I wonder why something like this can happen. All the best. l

RFKorp said...

Brian- I've gotta say, the majority of Mattin's performances that I have seen have felt quite forced to me. And his tactics in that case, tend to translate as a "schtick". Though I must note he succeeded magically at No Fun this year in flipping the audience/performer dynamic in his own special way. Still, I don't think it would make a worthwhile recording even though it was an exciting live event.

Lucio- Thanks for that clarification. Your notes here are definitely illuminating. But they make me curious: if the ultimate function is only as recorded music, what do you think was accomplished by having the audience speak the texts in this manner rather than specifically recruiting speakers in advance to sit among the audience and recite particular texts at scored timings?

RFKorp said...

I really wanted to ignore the Anonymous poster but it's just such an incredibly rude and ignorant comment that I'm ultimately compelled.

The "performer-audience" dynamic is anything but simple. A musician is always interacting with an audience. An audience, even by merit of the change in acoustics created by their present bodies - but even moreso by their degree and manner of attentiveness, has an effect on the music.

(much like, to address your whole post's content, the presence of one's peers in a classroom situation has great effect on how one responds to a teacher; how the size and behavior of a class changes how a teacher addresses them; etc)

To ignore the inherent give and take between performer and audience is to ignore much of the substance that gives life to many streams of art and music (improvised and otherwise).

Brian Olewnick said...

Thanks, Lucio, for your excellent post. I hoped I was clear, but in case I wasn't, I didn't intend to cite this particular incident as an example of "shtick" (I don't think it was), just that it's an inherent danger involved in that general area (audience participation), among many others.

I do wish people would have the courtesy to post their names, but my policy has always been to leave intact even the snidest of remarks (as long as they fall short of spam) in the interest of giving as full a picture as possible of the thoughts of this musical community.

simon reynell said...

I'm not a fan of the spoken elements in the (otherwise lovely) final piece, and have edited myself a version of the disc which fades out at the point at which the voices come in. [I've also edited out the short Sugimoto piece, which annoys me more somehow]

But I regret that so much discussion is focusing on this aspect of the disc, as I think the first three tracks are all very strong. In particular I think the 20 minute improvisation is tremendous, and certainly one of the best things I've heard this year. Toshi's playing is exceptionally good, though everyone is on form on this one. It's the first time I've heard Christian Kersten, and on this evidence I - like Brian - would rate him very highly as improvising vocalists go.

I've played my edited version of the disc a lot over the past couple of weeks, and it works beautifully. But I don't begrudge the other bits being on the disc. If nothing else, both the Sugimoto piece and the voices in the final track raise challenging questions about what we expect from experimental music. And these days virtually everyone must have the facility to do their own edit if - like me - they feel that they'd rather listen to a more conventional music cd.

Lucio Capece said...

Yes. Like Simon says we should non concentrate so much in the last track. Duif if you are interested in the aspect that you mention I can exchange opinions with you by email
Christian Kesten´s voice is gorgeous and his presence on stage, unique. Much much stays to be said about Debord´s work. But that goes far beyond our possibilities. Thanks for the exchange. best.l

ryan said...

just revisiting this post and the comments for perspective on the last 7 minutes from the disc. this may not be here or there as far as LC's original intentions are concerned, but those last 7 minutes really work for me, purely in a sonic manner, as does much of graham lambkin's work from salmon run onwards. muted, (sort of) mysterious, enveloped in mic gain, and punctuated by the sound of people trying to be quiet. nice. i find myself listening to the cadences and tonality of speech (or whispering) rather than what is said. all i'm saying is it works for me and provides a somewhat surreal end to a really fucking great album.