Monday, October 26, 2009

Haptic - Trebuchet (Entr'acte)

I like the text that accompanies this disc on the Entr'acte site:

A trebuchet is a medieval siege engine. Trebuchet is a humanist
sans-serif typeface. A trebuchet is an instrument of punishment
consisting of a chair in which offenders were ducked in water.
Trebuchet is the title given by Marcel Duchmap to the readymade
sculpture that he created by nailing a coat rack to the floor of his
apartment. Trebuchet is an endgame position in chess in which
whoever is the first to move will necessarily lose the game.

I also enjoy the music, as usual with Haptic and its eternal churning. Three cuts, two from July of this year, one from 2007 where Salvatore Dellaria joins Steven Hess, Joseph Clayton Mills and Adam Sonderberg. "Counterpoise" is a miniature of soft, organ-like tones with subtle thuds and minimal percussive patter, very enticing and sadistically ended at 3:16. For shame. "Three" varies most widely from previous Haptic material I've heard though it's not so far away--the texture is thinner than the normal porridge, the sounds more gaseous. The earlier track rather resembles previous Haptic work; more of the same, in a way, but their "same" is very good: deep rumbles, dense eddies, the implied throb, the punctured steam vents, the escaping magma. Oh, and the helicopters [or not--see below]. Although it's my favorite piece here, I might have rather heard something at this level of more recent vintage. Minor carp, though; another fine release from these fellows.


Yôko Higashi/Lionel Marchetti - Okura 73˚N - 42˚E (Musica Genera)

Three pieces, one each by Higashi and Marchetti, one combined effort. "Pétrole 73", by Marchetti, based on experiences he underwent onboard a trawler, lies atop a drone that pierces and wavers like a set of bagpipes (though I don't think that's the source), encircled by creaking hull wood, radio voices and softer, more overtly electronic tones. It's something of a tour de force and very impressive as such, boring its way into one's skull. Higashi's "Okura" is gentler though not overly so, incorporating the kind of elements more commonly found in concrete works, including music recorded in Mozambique (with a balafon-like instrument prominent), electronically distorted voices, chants, etc., eventually some funk. It has more of a travelogue feel and, as such, is quite engaging, not asking for much more than for the listener to sit back for the ride. The pair join forces for "Pétrole 42",the radio voices and creaks reappearing, this time over multi-tracked, held notes (Higashi?) that grow gauzier as the work progresses, sort of enticing but maybe a tad too woozy. Attractive recording overall, though.

musica genera

Sunday, October 25, 2009

xxxxx - Is-land (Free Software Series)

Apparently Martin Howse, if it matters. The lengthy second cut is essentially a broad wash of white noise, shifting in volume and density every so often, some dimly perceived pops buried in the static bed. The third track (there are tracks, though the sound is continuous) ups the volume significantly and, as well, one hears more human interaction in an improv kind of sense, someone back there manipulating pedals or knobs; it begins to sound like a noise performance. Subsequent cuts (nine in all) vary a good bit, quiet down, incorporate recorded voices from bad connections in one fine piece, eddy back to the static. By the end, I found myself enjoying it well enough; it's uncompromising nature comes to the fore, nothing prettified, all sounds kind of "as is", if remote. Worth a listen.

Taku Unami - Malignitat 2 (Free Software Series)

...wherein Unami picks up more or less where xxxxx left off, a strong field of white noise in one's face. It lasts only a bit over a minute though, eventually (after some silence) followed by what sounds like a recording of rushing water, meted out in a kind of staggered rhythmic pattern, long/short bursts. More silence, then wind. The cliched nature of the sound sources is presumably intentional; you start ignoring their programmatic content and just consider their placement, the odd irregular clockwork way Unami has of distributing his stuff. Tap--silence--tap--wind--silence....sudden flutter. White noise patches, audience (?). It sounds uniquely Unami and that's enough for me; I like it.

Loïc Blairon - x/0 (w.m.o/r)

And then we have Loïc Blairon's "x/0". A half hour during which, every so often, one hears a sharp plink, something like a guitar string plucked below the bridge with no sustain though, in that Blairon's a bassist, perhaps it's from that instrument. (Richard has written in greater detail on all three of these releases in recent weeks, btw. I find, looking back, we make many of the same points) Several minutes of silence often pass between audible sound, making "x/0" eminently forgettable even as it's playing. Not a bad thing, necessarily, though I felt little tension in the waiting, unlike quasi-similar efforts from, say, Taku Sugimoto, who most will think of while listening to this. Plinks and silence, far more of the latter.

The Free Software releases can be downloaded from its site. Normally, the same should be true of the Blairon, though the w.m.o/r site doesn't appear to have been recently updated.

Remember the Rowe/Wright performance that was released on three discs, recorded from three vantages? I got a good deal out of that by playing them simultaneously. Thought I might do the same here.....let's see....

Not bad at all! Did a 1/2 hour stint, that being the length of the shortest of the three, "x/0", balanced the sound...the xxxxx and Unami went together particularly well (the former got through three tracks and the loud third one coincided with one of the more high-volume portions of the latter), with the plinks from Blairon adding their pithy commentary every now and then. Cool.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sachiko M - I'm here...departures (2-:+)

I'm at something of a loss to say much of anything about this. I like it but after some 15 listens, I don't think I grasp it. Possibly because, unlike most of her work from the last few years, she doesn't concentrate on one sliver of a sound--sine wave or contact mic--but mixes in several here while still remaining spare to the extent of negating any idea of obvious structure. I found myself analogizing it to some of Duchamps' "Stoppages" where he dropped lengths of string from a given height, the patterns they formed on the floor becoming the work. There's a steady sine tone for the last bunch of minutes (with tiny bits of detritus sprinkled atop) but instead of being the kind of focus it was in, say, "Bar Sachiko", it feels more like a lopped off end of something, similar to the way Rowe enjoys catching just the edge of an object in his paintings. This piece was designed to be played in looped fashion as an installation, and I think it might work quite well in such a context, where one mightn't concentrate so much in a vain attempt to discern form. I still like it a lot on the home stereo, though I find its nature eely enough to defeat anything much of an attempt to say why. She's a step or two ahead of me, I think.

Filament - 4 Speakers (2-:+)

Somehow, a relative walk in the park after Sachiko on her own. Here, with Otomo (and "musikelectronic geithain" which are apparently the speakers in question), we're served a similarly diverse and spartan stew, also one intended for hearing as an installation, but the flow, interrupted as it often is with silence, hits me as more natural, less difficult to comprehend as a whole. Admittedly, there's more in the way of rustling going on, the kind of sound that ameliorates the sines and harsher contact mic scrapes more than a bit. There's also a beep of a malfunctioning fire alarm outside my window at the moment that adds its two cents every five or so seconds, not entirely missing the mark. Lovely overall though, with several episodes of low-level scuffling that are quite wonderful; a fine continuation of the Filament discography. (Love the physical filament attached to the disc card!)

Website for both of the above (in Japanese) here

Kato Hideki/Tetuzi Akiyama/Toshimaru Nakamura - Omni (Presquile)

Two tracks, @40 and five minutes, consisting of a kind of rough-edged, ruffled drone casting off shavings and shards. Somehow--and it's interesting to try to figure out how this is conveyed--I pick up a rockish undercurrent, I imagine due to Hideki's presence, which deadens the proceedings significantly for me. The phrasing, the effects, the timbres--I don't know, but it's distracting and unpleasant (not in a good way) to these ears, making the whole thing tiresome and obscuring whatever of value may have been contributed by Akiyama and Nakamura. It gets sludgier as it progresses, making it something of a chore to listen through, though if one perseveres, there's a patch or two of relative clarity. Not nearly enough.


nmperign - Ommatidia (Intransitive)

OK, gotta love the cover. Naked nmperign; it's been a while since I've heard them in such a format but their sound is unmistakable. The sounds themselves will be recognizable to anyone who knows their work, but the pieces, relatively short, are assembled for maximum impact and, to these ears, carry a higher concentration of mass and solidity than before. "Glass" begins in familiar nmperign territory, all windy, sandblasted breath sounds, slowly moving over its seven minutes to purer tones. Its elements might be familiar but the structure is just perfect: concise and sculpted, all curved angles. Several other pieces are more active, guttural...louder than one might expect, but the distribution of weight in each is almost compositional in character, really impressive how balanced they are. Great dynamic and, dare I say it, emotional range is covered over the course of "Ommatidia"'s 38 minutes. Excellent recording.


All of these also available through erstdist

Friday, October 16, 2009

Went to Roulette on Thursday for a set of solo piano works performed by the Belgian pianist, Daan Vandewalle. The program was in large part given over to pieces by Gordon Mumma but also included works by three lesser known (to US audiences, anyway) Belgian composers and closed with a composition by Alvin Curran. The music was part of Thomas Buckner's Interpretations series that Roulette has hosted for a few years now.

The performance began with Mumma's "Jardin" (1958-1997). Listeners familiar only with his radical electronic pieces from the 60s and 70s might be quite surprised at the delicate, romantic nature of works like this one. I pick up a good deal of Satie in "Jardin" and, to a lesser extent, in the other works of his presented on this occasion. The opening section here, for instance, has a similar rocking motion, soft low chords offset by high single notes, that you hear in the Gymnopedies but also an air of contemplation one hears in the Ogives. Mumma's harmonies are different, of course, but not so many steps away. A sense of gentleness is pervasive, sometimes lilting, often pensive. There's a casual use of repetition, but it's always fleeting; taking a cue from the title, you can easily visualize a rough-hewn garden, Mumma flitting from flower to flower, weed to weed. As throughout the evening, Vandewalle was superb, evincing an imaginative sense of dynamics, always modulating the touch and volume.

Of the three Belgian composers heard here, Karel Goeyvaerts seems to be the best known and his Litany series are widely performed there. "Litany no. 1" (1979) began with a heavy, brutal staccato figure that reminded me strongly of Louis Andriessen's blocky minimalism from around the same period. That basic framework remained in place throughout even as it was added to and subtracted from. I had the mental image of a kind of latticework; as you scanned from left to right it might become almost entirely obscured by lush vegetation at one point but erode away to only a handful of vertices at another. It was quite complex and energetic, Vandewalle's hands often suspended and quivering before resuming the attack. Its somewhat brutal character grew a bit wearing over the last few minutes and when it abruptly shut down, there was a palpable sense of relief. Impressive, though.

Announcing the three short pieces by Boudewijn Buckinx, the pianist said, "They sound tonal, but they're not." Well, they did. Composed as part of a project wherein one was asked to somehow relate the music to Ives' "Three Pages Sonata" and Schoenberg's "Opus 23", they presumably did so though at a level well beyond this listener's capacity to ascertain. What registered once again--and not for the last time on this night--was Satie, here more in the nature of the Sarabandes, though, in the first piece ("Three Penny Sonata") with Middle Eastern references thrown in to boot. "Forensic Waltz" indeed had a dance hall character while "Middle Way" possessed a certain bluesiness, languid, soft and nocturnal. All three works were stunningly beautiful. Vandewalle referred to him as the most prolific composer alive. Not sure about that but his homepage shows quite a few. I'm hoping to investigate further.

The first half of the concert closed with Mumma's "Graftings" (1990-1996), a more severe set of pieces whose nature derives from "the complex timbres of resonating partials". While more rigorous in a post-serial sense and more like what one might have expected from a composer of Mumma's generation and affiliations, the music was not very arid at all, largely due once again to the marvelously subtle use of dynamics and touch; whether credit goes to Mumma or Vandewalle I'm not sure. Again, the sheer delicacy and consideration in the array of sounds made for fascinating listening.

Mumma's "Songs Without Words" began the second set, a series of nine brief compositions, portraits, of various people including Christian Wolff, David Tudor and Jon Barlow. Aside from the odd, loud trill here and there, they were pretty much of a piece: calm, very delicate, fairly tonal ruminations, seemingly set down in an intuitive fashion with no preconceived formula. There was an interesting sameness about them, as though Mumma was saying, "The differences between us are subtle, really not so large." At several points there was a gorgeous tentativeness in play, the single notes placed with such caution and care, as though the composer was attempting to limn his subject with an impossible degree of exactitude. These were the most transcendent moments of the evening.

Thomas Smetryns was a piano student of Vandewalle and, apparently, an awful one. In desperation, Vandewalle asked the 18-year old to write down some pieces so he could understand his ideas without going through the agony of hearing him trying to play them. The results astonished the teacher, Smetryns having clearly absorbed the concepts of composers from Wolff to Skempton at such a young age. (His site, in Belgian [which is to say, erm, Dutch], can be found here.) Indeed, Skempton was the composer that registered most strongly in the two works, "Brassens" and "Biermann", played this evening, along with a dash of Rzewski. The first was disarmingly "simple", with a steady, calm rhythm that was nonetheless surprising, the finely etched melody never going quite where you thought it would. Like Skempton's wayward son, maybe, very lovely. "Biermann" was darker, with a seesawing pattern of low chords and high, ringing notes but, as with almost all the music heard at this event, with a wonderful delicacy. More and more, I was assigning at least half the credit for this to the pianist.

The final piece on the program was Alvin Curran's "Inner Cities 5" and, well, I wish in some ways it hadn't been included. Part of a massive 4 1/2 hour cycle (which Vandewalle has recorded on a 6-disc set), it began impressively enough with Vandewalle very rapidly attacking the keyboard with the palms of his hands but not actually depressing the keys except, inevitably, accidentally. A wonderful effect, like a restrained Cecil Taylor. Little by little, more keys were sounded until, maybe two or three minutes in, the music abruptly shifted to a wild, maximalist stretch á la Charlemagne Palestine, bubbling and rumbling at a furious pace. I believe the pianist is asked to to negotiate the score in as fast a tempo as possible but the result becomes more of a pyrotechnic display than anything else. The transcendence that Palestine sometimes achieved via similar means was absent. One admired the craft (and endurance!) but left with little of substance.

Apart from that, it was quite a special evening, rehearing the Mumma works in a live context (I'd heard and greatly enjoyed the 2-disc set a few months ago) and being introduced to a couple of composers, Buckinx and Smertrynsm, who I'll look into further. Anything with Vandewalle will also be the subject of increased interest in the future. I noticed he had some early Feldman pieces in his repertoire; hopefully he comes to include the later ones as well.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Been skimping here lately, but reviews to come soonish...

Meanwhile, some nostalgia. On Sunday, I drove to Poughkeepsie to return my brother Glen's wallet, which he had left at our place the evening before. Was considering overnighting it to him, but that was an iffy proposition, it was a beautiful day and I felt a bit like a drive, so I tooled up on Sunday morning and made the hand-off. I asked him for a decent place to get a sandwich and he mentioned this wrap place on Raymond Ave, so I went, ordered a roast beef wrap, a blondie and some iced tea and sat out on a bench that was situated right about where the above photo was snapped.

What's now the Juliet Cafe had been the Juliet Theatre in my youth, right across the street from the northwest corner of the Vassar College campus. A little up the road was the Raymond Avenue School, where I spent first, second and third grade*. A block away was the small record store wherein I first heard Fred Frith, Dudu Pukwana, Xenakis, Crumb, many more in the early 70s. I saw my first in-house movie at the Juliet in 1960, 'Spartacus'. Not a bad choice at all for a 6-year old! Although the other early one I recall viewing there was of a slightly lesser grade, Jack the Giant Killer. Saw many a movie at the Juliet over the years, including Ken Russell's 'The Devils' in '71.

Aside from different businesses inhabiting the storefronts, the street hasn't changed much at all architecturally. Traffic circles have recently replaced lights from this point south along the Vassar street front; sitting on the bench, I noticed there were apparently still locals who have little idea how to negotiate these obstacles. Called Carol, with whom I'm sure I attended a movie or two here while in high school, had a fine conversation. I'd just seen Betsy and Emily, two dear Vassar friends, the night before so the nostalgic convergence at this particular bench was wonderfully intense.

Happy Glen left his wallet.

* My 3rd grade teacher was Mrs. Fratz, one of the two best instructors of my youth (the other, in 5th grade, was the beautifully named, hard smoking Sonia Brousalian). Mrs. Fratz (I remember "Mrs.", though I'm not sure) was overtly unattractive, looking very much like Max Patkin, the erstwhile Clown Prince of Baseball, with the added indignity of having severe elephantiasis in both lower legs. But what a teacher! Wonderful temperament combined with pushing this bunch of eight-year olds well beyond our supposed limits. I specifically recall learning 8th grade math, algebra, in her 3rd grade class. She retired during my senior year in High School, 1972, and apparently I wasn't the only one with fond appreciation for her toil, as our class gave her a nice retirement party. Thanks, Mrs. Fratz. Speaking of that gaggle of imps, if Martin Winn or Ronald May ever reads this, give a mail; always curious how you fared.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Lucio Capece/Radu Malfatti - berlinerstrasse 20 (b-boim)

I remain way, way behind in my grasp of everything Malfatti's been up to in recent years, but I think it's safe to say that, broadly speaking, this duo doesn't sound un-Malfatti-ish. The silences, though present, are of shorter duration than is found in much of what I've heard and the ancillary sounds--here, all manner of clicks and rustles--are also more in evidence. At heart, though, are the paired, quiet, lengthy breathlike tones from trombone and bass clarinet (a luscious enough sound marriage in any case). That dissolving of the borders between structure and pure sound seems to me, in part, to be what Malfatti's about anyway and this is a fantastic example of same. One's mind flits back and forth between these concepts; as soon as I find myself wallowing in the lush depths of Capece's bass clarinet, frosted by the trombone, I flash back to the layered structure that would be there regardless of the specific sound source and find that fascinating enough for me to forget the exact sounds involved. There's an utterly lovely sequence near the end where Malfatti taps a cadence with his fingertips on the trombone over a low, burred tone from Capece that's worth the price of admission. For all the glacial pace, one's brain is constantly active, slipping from one mode to another, maybe once in a while attaining some kind of illusory balance. Beautiful recording.

Should soon (?) be available stateside via erstdist?

Green Blossoms - Whiskey Leaves (digitalis)

Much of Anthony Guerra's work in recent years has trended toward the lush and melodic, often very attractively so. Here, as Green Blossoms, in collaboration with his partner Aiko Noga, he pushes even further in that direction, the pair compiling a set of dreamy songs over a mix of electronics and guitar-generated tones that range from delightful whimsy to gauzy evocations that all but evaporate. There are a couple of tracks that tilt too far toward the folky/poppy/woozy for my taste but there are also a couple, "Hana-Akari" and the title piece, that are just gorgeous tunes, catchy little memes that linger in the brain. Really nice closing track as well, a moody meditation on harmonium (I think) and guitar. Refreshing like lime sorbet. Nice work.

green blossoms

SLW - Fifteen Point Nine Grams (organized music from Thessaloniki)

The second offering from this high-potential quartet (Burkhard Beins, Lucio Capece, Rhodri Davies, Toshi Nakamura), recorded in 2007. One piece, though it falls into two sections. This first, lasting some 25 minutes, is wonderful, beginning in scrabbling fashion, mid-volume, then collecting itself, reducing things to strong, low hum, then gradually piling on sounds until a fine dull roar is achieved, Beins working up a fine lather. Not an unusual approach, but very subtly done here, with tones that often exist in a narrow range but are laid out with a sensitivity that allows each its space. I would have preferred it had ended at that point as the ensuing 19 or so minutes, while not bad, edges a bit into noodling territory and, to my ears, never quite gels until the very end, a keening sequence (I think Capece's buzzing soprano is the main element). Good recording overall, though, entirely worth hearing.

organized music from thessaloniki

Very saddened to hear of the death of Suzanne Fiol today. Apart from creating and managing the finest new music venue in NYC (Issue Project Room), the site of many a beautiful performance, I always greatly enjoyed talking with her, a very vibrant person.

Thanks for everything, Suzanne.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

OK, so in the course of sifting through ancient drawings and scanning some of same, I came across a bunch done while working at Environ (and a handful at other loft venues from around the same time). Figured they were worth posting here (and on fb). These would have been done between Oct. '76 and early 1980. I think there are more around I haven't unearthed yet. Lots of these are done on the back of concert fliers, in fact.

A couple quick sketches of Abdul Wadud to start:

On one or two occasions we had blues musicians up to the loft. I'm pretty sure Son House was there--would love to confirm that. But I clearly remember the Sunday afternoon we hosted Bob Gaddy and Sweet Papa Stovepipe.

Charles Tyler was often at hand, great guy and, as I posted yesterday, he wanted to use one of my drawings of him--one of those I can't yet find--as a cover for a solo album which, afaik, was never recorded. Here's another:

Some of the AACM school. Brings back strong memories of Muhal, often around, always up for a good conversation. Great man. Hopkins, Jenkins, Hemphill, all gone now.

(Fred Hopkins' bass)

(Leroy Jenkins' violin and set-up)

(Julius Hemphill)

Naturally, I also sketched the environs of Environ; here are a handful:

More when/if I run across them.

[Not sure why these images come out huge when clicked on...maybe someone with more knowledge on scanning intricacies can clue me in.)

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Testing my new scanner.....

Friday, October 02, 2009

Delicate Sen - s/t (Copy for your records)

This is just a really good, varied and strong live set by the trio of Billy Gomberg (synthesizer), Anne Guthrie (french horn) and Richard Kamerman (motors, objects), recorded in March of this year. I think they have a leg up with the delicious instrumental blend here: Kamerman tends toward the harsh and metallic while Gomberg has a refreshing tendency, when I've heard him, to linger in tonal byways. Add to this the all too rare, in this music, timbre of the french horn, beautifully deployed here by Guthrie, and you have a delicious prospect from the get-go. And then they construct this utterly captivating performance that wends its way through numerous neighborhoods, each of interest, almost never flagging over its 40 minutes. There's a point about halfway through where Gomberg adopts an almost church-organ kind of sound opposite Kamerman's jangling metal that's fantastic and when Guthrie plants long, burred tones in the midst, transcendent. Fine work. [from chatting with Gomberg a few nights back, I learned that there was in fact a loose kind of system employed to structure the performance, not one, I daresay, that any at-home listener is likely to discern]

Richard Kamerman - And She Sat Up In The Street In The Sun (copy for your records)

Kamerman's latest solo release is, not surprisingly, quite difficult to grasp in its entirety. It's very unwieldy in the sense of being almost impossible to have any idea what direction it's going to take though, those directions turn out to be generally both enticing and knotty. It begins fairly quietly, with hums, tumbled light metal, ratchety sounds for the first 15 or more minutes. Very attractive. Suddenly, there's a sequence of brutal, loud and "ugly" feedback-like tones that usher in a much more random and barren section, more open circuitry sounding with a fetchingly awkward sound placement. Kamerman, when I've seen him perform, often displays this attribute, which I enjoy very much. Similar to Annette Krebs, he manages to balance grace and imbalance, a tricky thing. Even so, he gets moving onto some wonderfully corroded terrain toward the back end of the set; it almost rocks. As said above, it's tough to put one's aural arms around the whole performance, but if you get over that (and why shouldn't you?) , it's a challenging, rewarding disc.

copy for your records

Marc Spruit - On/Off (CDR)

A 3" chock full with fairly harsh, loopy electronica that, overall, has the effect of being inside an old video game console, being buffeted around by every ping, explosion or chime. There's a prominent sound that reminds me of old, electronic scoreboards on pinball machines, a kind of brief, percussive throb, that's very alluring. I said "fairly harsh" but most of the music here has a feathery finish to it, enough that the aftertaste, if you will, is not unpleasant at all. Fun work, all 18 minutes; I imagine it would be quite giddily immersive live.


Once in a while, it pays off to be married to an Assistant Director of the OR at an Eye & Ear Hospital.

So, I'm at work, a little before 9AM. Yesterday, I'd had a slightly annoying floater put in an appearance in my right eye, a little larger than those that I'm sure we all get from time to time but nothing too bothersome, I was still there today but, again, I didn't pay it much mind.

Rather suddenly, it was as if someone had injected streams of black dye into the upper left side of my right eye. It flowed across making that half of the world resemble a monochrome Morris Louis painting. I kinda figured this wasn't good. So I did what anyone else would do, googled "floaters". Learned that what I was experiencing was not uncommon (the dark strands) and not necessarily a real problem but could be indicative or precedent to retinal damage. It dissipated over 15-20 minutes, leaving behind some stragglers and a fine mist of tiny particles that, I take it, were the remnants of the initial surge. So I called Linda who quickly scheduled me to see their best guy in this area.

Trundled down to 14th St, waited a couple of hours (the doc was doing clinic patients and couldn't, of course, bump them for an add-on), and eventually was examined. Lo and behold, I had a small retinal tear. "As retinal tears go," he said, "this is the kind you want to have." and suggested a laser surgery patch up. That afternoon.

So I did. Interesting procedure. I thought it might only involve a dozen or so zaps to seal the errant flap but it was more like 1,000. Very bright zaps. Very bright. Made for a rather psychedelic light show within my phosphenes. Some pressure/pain, but not worse than an average cavity filling. He explained that for people with extreme myopia, like yours truly, the tissue involved was stretched thinner than normal, making this kind of event more likely than in others. Something to look forward to, I guess.

Unhappily, I wasn't given a pirate eye patch to wear home and things seem to be operating as usual, though those floater remnants are still there and will, I imagine, take a few days to either disintegrate or settle.

Not quite the day I expected when I arose this morning....

Thursday, October 01, 2009

There was a whiff of the Scratch Orchestra at Listen Space last night, something of a similar spirit (though in an interior space, not "in public") that several times evoked the same kind of smile I imagine I would've shown back in London, 1969.

The evening presented four pieces conceived and performed by James Saunders, John Lely and Travis Just. Upon entering the white-painted room, a former funeral parlor, I saw that the central area had been opened up, chairs lined up against one wall. On the floor, toward the middle of the room were a couple dozen common household objects, more or less aligned athwart the space. There were several stones roughly three or four inches around, a couple of kitchen utensils, a toy or two, a ruler, two plastic bags, a small cardboard fruit container, etc. Each had a string tied around it leading off to one end of the room or the other, the strings bearing colorful little flags, three or four each, of the type used for notebook dividers. The piece, by Just, consisted simply of the three musicians dragging the objects--usually slowly--toward themselves, sound resulting from the friction between them and the painted, slightly rough wooden floor. I'm not sure if any set sequence was involved or if the flags carried meaning beyond the decorative, but it was a lovely work, calm but with subtle agitations, the varying textures of the objects combining really beautifully. Very quiet (some of the objects were quite light), very satisfying.

Next up, a piece by Lely had the three sitting around a small table, iphones (or the like) in place, grasping a mallet, five various objects in front of each. They played some kind of metronome app (unheard by the audience, which numbered all of a dozen) and struck their objects in the same regular rhythm, though off from one another. When they switched objects (not at the same time) they also restarted the app, enabling a different combination of the tempi. It had a kind of playful Reichian aspect and one could easily appreciate the irregular triplets that emerged, but one also quickly grasped the essential nature of the piece, leaving relatively little room for surprise. One of those works that would have been fine at five minutes and became overly drawn out at 15-20.

Remaining at the table, newly armed with pencil and scissors, they proceeded to a piece by Saunders. The score consisted of about 20 sheets of paper per performer, each containing a drawing of some kind and, as I would later on discover while talking with the composer, specific instructions on what to do with it. These included various kinds of drawing with the pencil, cutting with the scissors or touching with their fingers, the resultant sounds ranging from the almost inaudible (rubbing fingers on the paper) to, well, as loud as scissors get. It seemed that there were only loose guidelines as to how long to spend each sheet; though they finished within a page or two of each other, there was never any group shift at the same time. It did have in common with the previous piece a bit of excessive length (if it lasted 20 minutes, I would've pared it down to 12 or so), the inherent sounds were much more fascinating and complex, rustles to snips to crosshatchings to flutters, the table acting as a good resonator for some of the long drawn lines especially. Really very nice, inevitably reminding me of Costa Monteiro's paper explorations. As with every piece this night, it was rewarding to watch as well as listen.

The last work was again by Lely and quite the capper. Saunders sat at the left end of the table, equipped with a floor tile and a chopstick. Just was at the right, with an old, thick book and a chopstick of his own. Between them sat Lely, his hands on a glass brick similar to that shown above. He slowly slid it toward Saunders. When it touched the tile, Saunders began, apparently as rapidly as possible, to thwack the brick and tile in a single motion, producing a quick double tap. Lely then moved the brick away, slowly, toward Just. Saunders' strikes began, necessarily, incorporating the tabletop as well so his sound now had three elements and those elements became more and more drawn out as the brick receded from him. When it touched Just's book, he started in on the same action (Saunders' arm now extended the length of the table--fatigue was becoming a factor!). Lely then slid the brick between the two poles, the resultant set of double rhythms expanding and contracting elastically. It was a rare display of (semi) athleticism in this music! Eventually (after messing with the two players a bit, I think) Lely's brick once again abutted Saunders' tile and he was "allowed" to cease, sweating and shaking his arm. It moved, ever so slowly, back toward Just, none to soon caressing his book, bringing the work to a close. Really fun, only about 5 minutes total, perfect length. Wonderful piece.

Satisfying evening, thanks gents.