AMPLIFY 2011: stones
September 1-15, 2011
The Stone, NYC
September 1 (Thursday)
8 PM: Antoine Beuger-approcher s'éloigner s'absenter (premiere)
10 PM: Michael Pisaro-hinwandeln, augen zu (premiere)
both sets performed by the trio of Barry Chabala/Dominic Lash/Ben Owen
September 2 (Friday)
8 PM: Bonnie Jones/Maria Chavez
10 PM: solo David Kirby
September 3 (Saturday)
8 PM: Graham Lambkin/Vanessa Rossetto
10 PM: solo Olivia Block
September 4 (Sunday)
8 PM: solo Jason Lescalleet
10 PM: Christian Wolff/Keith Rowe
September 6 (Tuesday)
8 PM: David Barnes/Richard Kamerman/Graham Stephenson (three duo sets)
10 PM: solo Taku Unami
September 7 (Wednesday)
8 PM: Keith Rowe/Taku Unami
10 PM: Toshi Nakamura/English (Joe Foster/Bonnie Jones)
September 8 (Thursday)
8 PM: The Dolphin (Joe Foster/David Barnes/Richard Kamerman/Graham Stephenson)
10 PM: Keith Rowe/Toshi Nakamura
September 9 (Friday)
8 PM: Radu Malfatti/Keith Rowe (composition)
10 PM: Toshi Nakamura/Taku Unami
September 10 (Saturday)
8 PM: Radu Malfatti/Keith Rowe (improvisation)
10 PM: solo Toshi Nakamura
September 11 (Sunday)
8 PM: solo Keith Rowe
10 PM: Radu Malfatti/Taku Unami (improvisation)
September 13 (Tuesday)
Radu Malfatti/Michael Pisaro duo (2 sets)
8 PM: Claude Lorrain 2 (Malfatti)
10 PM: Ascending Series (6) (Pisaro)
September 14 (Wednesday)
Gravity Wave festival (3 sets)
7:30 PM: A cloud drifting over the plain (Michael Pisaro, Greg Stuart,
Barry Chabala, Dominic Lash)
9 PM: Mind is moving (I and IV) (Michael Pisaro, Dominic Lash)
10:30 PM: fields have ears (6) (Barry Chabala, Michael Pisaro)
September 15 (Thursday)
Gravity Wave festival (3 sets)
A transparent gate with ten panels (Greg Stuart solo) (double length set, $20)
asleep, street, pipes, tones (Michael Pisaro, Katie Porter)
September 16-17, 2011
Issue Project Room, Brooklyn
September 16 (Friday)
Radu Malfatti/Taku Sugimoto
Takahiro Kawaguchi solo
Annette Krebs/Taku Unami
September 17 (Saturday)
Saritote (Moe Kamura/Taku Sugimoto)
Taku Unami/Takahiro Kawaguchi
Annette Krebs/Taku Sugimoto
$10 per set, separate admissions
In September 2011, Erstwhile producer Jon Abbey was invited to curate two weeks of shows at John Zorn's legendary Manhattan venue The Stone, which he used as an opportunity to invite many of his favorite musicians from Japan, Europe and the US to perform. A second three night festival at Issue Project Room was later appended onto the end, making the AMPLIFY 2011: stones festival a 35 set, 17 night extravaganza in all. Four of those thirty-five sets are available in the ErstLive series (EL009, EL010, EL011, and EL012).
concert photos (9/1-15)
concert photos (9/16-17)
Billy Gomberg, IHM
As a solo, Taku brought a real ease to his performance (an ease which cracks the window for humor...there was a lightness to his work, and my view is that this always provides a space for communication and "meaning"). Being that the venue wasn't packed to the gills as it had been (nasty weather yesterday), there was more an option to pick seating. Kamerman and I of course go for the front row, which I immediately refer to as the "splash zone." I had no expectations, and that is always exciting. Jon was a little more wary (especially as I was referring to the front row as the "splash zone").
Basically, he set up cardboard boxes with heavy string, tape, tape measures, and some errata from the venue (a fan, chairs, tables), slowly building (wobbly) structures. Unami didn't announce the start of the set, or ask for the lights to be dimmed - he just set to work, casually, over various conversations occurring in the audience. His implements were left about haphazard. If a structure collapsed (awfully close to landing in our laps), he paused, bemused, and started again. Turning a fan on (placed against a tower of cardboard, this maybe could qualify as the first "musical gesture" but I'm not taking that very far), he asked Jon, Richard, and myself (who were clearly getting a breeze), if it was blowing "too much." He continued to affix small lights to the towers, filling the space, and making his movements more awkward, lest he topple his creations.
Eventually Unami stopped his work, then handed one end of string to an audience member, walked back and around his structures, and handed the opposite end to another audience member, asking them to hold still. He moved out into the audience, and turned off the lights, showing a starkly light, barely fluttering sculpture of sorts. Several minutes passed, and he asked the guys holding his string to, on his "3, 2, 1, 0" count, pull the structure down. This happens, and Unami immediately begins a little rhythmic percussion ditty, which goes on for a minute of two. Finishing that, he raises the lights, and has a quiet conversation with Sean Meehan at the back of the house. Eventually, Unami says "gracias," and is met with applause.
I feel this set, more than the others I've seen, is worth a summary more than an analysis of any sort. Really "you had to be there" - Unami's movements, attitude, and approach to what could only have been improvised, contribute heavily to the experience. I could easily see people being bored, frustrated, or confused - even those who may be familiar with other musics going on as part of this Amplify.
Something I discussed with Jon prior to Taku Unami's solo on Tuesday was how Unami was going to give six concerts. What was he going to do, how to approach his various duos and trios, etc, given that we had no real idea what he was going to do for his solo (much less how he was going to execute it in a new space). This narrative, along with Keith Rowe's many performances, are for me (and judging by our discussion, Jon as well), a very interesting point of tension in this series. Taku's six, and Keith's five, performances...that's just a lot of time on stage, with different improvisors, in different conditions (the weather and neighborhood alone can exert a heavy influence on proceedings at The Stone).
So, a duo of Taku Unami and Keith Rowe. I say, sit back in the splash zone. As with Tuesday's solo, I strongly had the feeling that Unami had begun performing before I arrived, sitting quietly, but not stridently, on stage, his materials neatly behind him. Rowe was opposite, with his table of instruments, flanked by two lovely Fender amps, and immediately jumps in by playing a text-to-speech reading of a text off of his Kindle (thanks for the hot tip, Brian). This played through pretty much the entire performance, the odd tics and errors of the text-to-speech algorithm playing no small part. The work being read was a critical examination of music in human culture, with detailed observations of differences in societal approaches to music, a very critical view of Western pitch structure...a heady text. Frankly, this was a bold, bold move - sometimes I loved it, sometimes I would rather it shut up. A voice speaking in English is going to fix a largely American audience's attention, and the content clearly reflected upon, and also refracted, my perception of performance. But I love bold moves, so hey, let's go with it. Over this reading Keith executed some of the best work I've seen from him in a live setting, with an ease of pacing and materials that matched and counterpointed Unami: raw for sure, caressing, tugging, and abusing the text, prone to an occasional outburst. If this was a Rowe solo, without the text it still would have been a favorite performance...with Unami and the text, it becomes something else, challenging surely, and I don't doubt that my reflections upon this performance will modulate with Keith and Taku's upcoming sets.
Taku Unami worked in a similar manner to his solo, working with new space and lighting restrictions (Keith taking up his portion of the room, and completely doused lighting). Again, cardboard boxes, arranged in towers. But the space was tight, and Unami's work had a more deliberate feel. The darkness highlighted his use of light, and also made his work feel a bit ominous...it was harder to see what he was doing, and from where I was sitting, the acoustic contribution of his work did fight for my attention. Eventually he looped string around and through his structures, walking the line outside of the venue, and as he related later, some ways west on 2nd st, slowly tugging at his towers, which didn't so much topple over as slowly collapse upon themselves, with real resistance (the line was quite taut, right at my feet), lurching forward, creaking and moaning, some clatter and crash, clearly a bit unhappy about it's fate.
Keith continued on his way through all of this, his Kindle chattering away. Unami returned and quietly crouched by Keith, who had been slowly fading the text. They exchanged a glance and big grins, clearly happy with their work.
This is going to get redundant, but come on check Yuko's pics. The last two nights I have sat next to Yuko so visually they are close to my perspective on the action.
What I'm really digging right now is the true changeup between sets. As with Tuesday, when Unami followed the Barnes/Kamerman/Stephenson "Three Duos" set, the trio of Toshimaru Nakamura and English (Joe Foster/Bonnie Jones), was different enough that I hesitate to even say it "contrasts" with Rowe/Unami. These three musicians set up their tables, well outfitted with devices, effects, mixers, cables, you know the score. The PA was going to get a real workout, and they dove right into it, an opening burst of action cannonballing into an unknown sea (whoa metaphor). Frequencies burst, wobble and throb, skirted by white noise, cresting with percussive thuds and taps...rich materials which eventually settled into something that would resemble stasis given the initial flurry of sound. and yeah how was the subwoofer doing? it was doing alright by me. but what about the tweeter, did it hold up? surely and more surely. Nothing too mellow, the more static passages were surgically opened by various contributions from each of the musicians, exploring what was really in there, or branding the surface with their own electronic graffiti, gestures ranging from barely perceptible to nice dramatic flourishes (especially from Nakamura, sending deep hits of frequency into tunnels of reverb), never lacking in a restrained aggression or true exchange between the participants.
I was early to the neighborhood yesterday, parked my bike by The Stone and was strolling to Kate's Joint for some vegetarian food, maybe a beer, and some reading when I ran into David Kirby, loitering, smoking a cigarette, taking a break from a rye on the rocks at this place called Idle Hands. I say "Put that cigarette out, and let us consume whiskeys, for I have not the time for this loitering." And tennis is on the screens down there. Great place, evidently has been the official Amplify watering hole and I had been out of the loop.
So I'm definitely feeling bourbon positive settling in the for the entirely unrehearsed debut of The Dolphin, the ad hoc quartet of Dave Barnes, Joe Foster, Richard Kamerman, and Graham Stephenson. With the exception of Richard, who exchanged his motorized percussion for a table full of electronics, all played with identical setups to their prior performances. This was rough-edged, barely stable stuff, each player jostling the others, feedback erupting, settling, then threatening again, punched in the gut by heavy tones, needled by high frequency skitters, delivered open-palm slaps by Stephenson's amplified trumpet. The Dolphin was busy but not hectic, and I get into the tension of a group trying to keep control over itself (and it's electronics) in real-time...the familiarity of musicians who know each other's work, but in this assembly haven't worked together at produced a pretty delightful result.
Eventually the Dolphin found some composure, not resistant to interjections from Stephenson and Kamerman (at one point delivering a bit of abuse to the well-traveled IBM laptop which issues beep, whirrs, and accidents), small fireworks from Dave Barnes's mixer, and Foster's frequencies swimming around. Coming to a rest, Barnes continued for a short spell with small, twitching electronic frequencies like the bubbles breaking the surface, tracing the presence of a busy animal beneath, now moved beyond our view.
There was much anticipation and attendance for the duo of Keith Rowe and Toshimaru Nakamura, who have a long history of collaborative releases together, and the very occasional performance. I don't need to introduce these two.
As with his duo with Taku Unami, Keith opening assertively, laying a canvas of white noise, hum and buzz, amplified and modulated by his array of pedals, and barely perceptible interactions with what I can barely qualify as a guitar (but clearly perfect for Keith - it's about half of a neck - Brian O is probably the better source on Keith Rowe kit info), at one point simply caressing the air near the pickups to produce subtle fluctuations in tone and volume. Nakamura hung back in his usual posture, and for a good period of time, I could not detect any contributions from his table (Keith was stereo in the same guitar amps from his duo w/Unami, Toshi in the PA, nicely separating their materials). Toshi issues a few sputtering, scrawled digital interruptions, then, to my ears, there is a clear handoff as Nakamura summons tones from his mixer, and Keith's weather subsides, giving Toshi the room for a bit, soon returning, somewhat more settled.
I very much heard these two exchanging ideas and finding a balance, not illustrating the meeting of opposites, but a process rarely heard in performance. As the two met and continued on their way, I was particularly excited by Nakamura's contributions, elegant pulses, hung from the high frequencies, further noisy bursts, and solid tones like bands of light. As the set progressed, Keith's bleached canvas slowly came undone, punctuating by mic'd scribbles on a rock (thanks Brian for that enlightenment), and steel wool upon the string of his guitar, an almost readymade reflection of "Concret Ph." Having elegantly unwound their materials to just a few threads, the two met for a minute or so of silence.
"Hey Anne, Jon posted that Unami has procured a new instrument for tonight's duo"
"IT'S A BIGGER BOX"
OK not quite...it seemed to be the jawbone of a horse, from my distance last night and Yuko's photos, which throughout the performance, Taku used as a percussion instrument (in the way that he does, tapping, shaking, dragging on the floor).
The lights were left on, a change from previous sets which had been performed entirely in the dark or in dimmed conditions. Unami started right in with an insistent piano chord, played what sounded like a Casio-style keyboard, through a small amp on stage. Unami sat far to stage right, behind on of the speakers, almost hiding (at least from my vantage point), Toshimaru Nakamura in the center, from where he launched some intense, expressive salvos throughout the performance. After some repetitions, Unami halted his keys.
Here began what I heard as an exchange throughout the performance, each musician willing to diverge from the other's intent at that moment. Nakamura's sound was frankly muscular - big, loud bursts and harsh streaks, countered by Unami's tinny drum machine loops and wooden percussion. Everything punctuated by enough silence. As with Nakamura's duo with Keith Rowe on the previous night, I feel that an angular opening exchange led to more copacetic work later in the set, where Unami's drum machine was less upbeat, and his explorations of the space in front of Toshi, carpeted, prominently displaying the jawbone, produced excellent sounds from his current repertoire, no tape this time, just one box (placed with emphasis and certainty dead center), a large swath of black fabric (placed over the box, knocking it over, produced a great passage where Unami sorts this out), and his own delightful, if occasionally mysterious presence - somewhat climactically draping the fabric over himself, hunching, dragging the jawbone on the box, flattened on the floor. Here Nakamura countered with hard blasts into some epic reverb effects, and as Unami wrapped up his last gestures, sitting down, they met in silence (which sounds dramatic, but what else is going to happen, really).
In particular, Toshimaru Nakamura's work last night has me very excited for tonight's solo. The very expressive sound he has contributed in all of his performance at Amplify, while not entirely outside of his body of work, shows his continued development, beyond simply adding some new gear to the table. He knows how to use his instrument. In his duo with Unami, the micro-synth pedal (it's an Electro-Harmonix model - no I haven't noted the model yet, gearheads) has produced great, rough oscillations, muted off-kilter percussive blips, and who knows what else. Combined with "maruto," a work whose timbres he hasn't used at Amplify, but one that I hear as patently beautiful, I look forward (as with all of these performances) to great surprises, something that neither Toshi nor Taku Unami, in their variations, have failed to deliver.
I don't know what the mood at recent Amplify's has been, and recall the last ErstQuake only vaguely, but for most of the real regular audience at The Stone, things are getting a little silly. We are here to enjoy this music, and, with the exception of tonight's occasionally unruly audience, we certainly are enjoying ourselves as well.
Radu Malfatti has shown up just in time. Just because these fellows are serious musicians doesn't mean that they are entirely serious. Taking over MC duties for the first set, he gleefully stumbled over an introduction of his partner, "Keith....Richards?" following with "You can call me...Otto...well, good luck to us!" to which Keith rejoined "...and good luck to you as well, you need it!" Quotes aren't verbatim, really, but at this point, folks are getting pretty familiar inside the Stone Sweat Lodge (and outside pre- and post-concert). It's good mood, and last night's sets really capitalized on that.
Keith started in first (he has been aggressive at The Stone), the canvas of noise I described in an earlier write-up hung up against a pale light, much diminished in density and volume, barely able to hold itself up. Again, Keith set in with the abrasives, wearing away the surface just above Radu's silence. Over this initial volley, Radu patiently added a few taps on his mute, and a breath tone, and it was palpable that these guys were entirely on each other's level.
Coming up against Keith's increasingly threadbare sound were extremely quiet soundings from Radu's trombone; slow glissandi and quivering multiphonics - everything holding time in suspension, yet finding clear pathways through silence or the noisy obstacles set in the way by Ave C + 2nd st on a Saturday night. Keith summoned some wonderful low oscillations and radio emissions, whispers of humanity wrapped in noise and cresting feedback, again the steel wool on strings, contact mic'd taps and incoming buzzes. Towards the end, Radu set aside the mute, casting some real sub-woofer frequencies into the room, spilling all over the floor. Throughout the performance, Radu's tones had a psychoacoustic effect...I sometimes had difficulty localizing them to the casual gentleman sitting there in the center of room, as if he was drawing them out of the noise outside, using reflection to gain signal strength and modulation. Ladies and gents, this one was lovely, and left myself (and most of the other vets of this series) ready for Toshimaru Nakamura's solo.
As I wrote yesterday, I was very excited for Toshi's solo. Not that the Radu/Keith duo was a true undercard, but I had a cool confidence in them, whereas Toshi's contributions to previous sets, tempered by listens to "Maruto" and "Semi-Impressionism" had produced a wide berth through which his complex feedback network could sail. He didn't shy away from the event, starting loud (enough), using the PA and woofer for what it was truly worth. The material moved confidently along, propelled by labyrinthine forces of modulation, then finding stasis in extreme frequencies, slowing to barely perceptible motion, as if the whole thing has simply paused, only to be cut into by a change in the wind sending new beams aloft or sinking them deep, rupturing, then again held still as if these movements had never happened. Out of this second stasis, Nakamura, as he had in previous performances, opened wide the gates of reverb, cooking up slightly glitchy stuttering patterns, flickered white noise and distorted frequencies. As this washed away into a concluding movement, barely one half hour had passed. An incredibly expressive solo performance, taking hints of "Maruto," bound up with this week's confident collaborations, and beautifully brief.
In all, and gathered from discussions with many afterwards, this was a truly inspiring night.
I still have to get through the IPR concerts, a performance on Sunday, two more concerts and a wedding before the end of the month. phew.
I'm taking a bit of an Amplify breather...skipped the Malfatti/Pisaro concerts on Tuesday, and ducked out after the first of three pieces by Michael Pisaro last night. I've gotta sleep sometime (Radu, seeing me eating before the concert last night, queried "breakfast?").
Anyway, the first piece last night was "A cloud drifting over the plain," for pre-recorded material and four instrumentalists. As Pisaro explained at length before the piece, the playback material was constructed from 80 recorded performances of water dropped on surfaces (performed & recorded by Greg Stuart). Pisaro had produced 80 individual scores of timings, starting out very sparse, building in density, and dissipating. Last night, this recording was matched with the ensemble of Barry Chabala (guitar), Michael Pisaro (piano), Dominic Lash (bass), Greg Stuart (percussion), who were performing scores as well, which indicated grids of timings (play something within this period, not within this period, and so on - thanks Barry!). Chabala alternated with plucked notes and ebow (and as usual with this kind of material, displaying exemplary timing and expression), Pisaro worked the lower octaves of The Stone's piano (mostly inside), Stuart had a small array of percussion instruments (some bells, woodblock - which were mostly bowed or otherwise gently excited) and an iPad which was used to emit solitary high sines, and Lash his usual hushed double bass, arco and pizz.
Beginning in silence, Pisaro eventually became the first to sound, the rest occasionally contributing in a kind of scattered formation, very spare to start. The backing material began, first with the sound of waves (?), and slowly the water-drop-percussion, which over the next ~20 minutes, became increasingly aleatory yet quite expressive, the array of timbres illustrating a remarkably subtle colorfield, sometimes clearly percussive, but soon became otherworldly in its procession, even reminiscent of computerized material at moments (and I mean this in the best way). As the playback material gained in density (per Pisaro's briefing), the ensemble was pushed to silence, and as the playback began to dissipate, the instruments began again to find there place, outlasting the recording by some minutes, and leading everything back around to silence.
here's my last thought gathered up:
a couple thoughts on the Amplify nights at IPR, which, as I indicated earlier in this thread, were wonderful, and a fitting close to the previous weeks of concerts. For one, I was particularly exciting for Krebs and Sugimoto, not just in combination, but in there other performances. I think the last time I saw Annette was at least three or four years ago, and Sugimoto hasn't made his way to this part of the world in my time here, moreover, I have thoroughly, thoroughly loved the Saritote material.
Malfatti/Sugimoto was certainly anticipated by myself as "I wonder if they are going to do anything at all," and, by that standard, their duo was quite active (maybe b/c Anne + I were sitting as close to Sugimoto as possible). Yuko's estimation of Radu's taps is spot on...one of the most evocative sounds of this Amplify, used of course with perfect timing and articulation. But once Sugimoto drew the Ebow, I had further cause for concern...the Doremilogy series is really, really not one of my favorites. Thankfully Taku did not approach that territory, rather, beginning with low, exceptionally quiet swells, that, even just feet in front of the amplifier, were not easy to discern from the general hum of the space. As Mr Flaum put it, these notes became present only as they returned to silence. Radu issued his usual lovely tones...static, oscillating and breath tones, generally above the surface, but just. Towards the middle of the performance, Sugimoto's volume crested, his timbre gleaming with a little more brightness, meeting Radu in loosely entwined polyphonies. Could Taku have just turned it up a little? Just a little? Yeah of course, but he didn't. Like many of the performances I caught, it's beauty was matched by a degree of difficulty, a need to truly listen (this goes especially towards the sets with more visual/theatrical elements).
Takahiro Kawaguchi's solo was a real highlight for me - one of a handful of sets that I found really exciting. Possibly because it contained the distinct possibility of a motor whipping something off of Takahiro's table and into my lap (front row at IPR was still, definitely the splash zone). This was a very engrossing performance; the more visual elements giving way to really captivating sound and a good sense of narrative and rupture. Flaum described Kawaguchi's performance pretty accurately - the wave of timer clicks that grew and slowly dissipated, a muscular, thudding motor (requiring two hands to control) casting green laser through the audience, fans starting up and stopping, lights here and there. Both Anne & I enjoyed it thoroughly.
For those of you who love to debate, Krebs and Unami's duo would certainly provide plenty of fodder. They started off in audible discussion about what exactly they were going to do, had they begun, etc, shot through with broken English. Radu made the first audience contribution with "Stop talking and play already!" Following Kawaguchi's solo, I at least went in with a sense of adventure, and it's a good thing that others clearly did as well. Kreb's suttering electroacoustic interruptions were riveting, but Unami did his best to distract...and once Unami got the audience involved it became very difficult to comprehend the entirety of what was proceeded, much less where it was going. I'm not big on audience participation, I think it rarely works in a way that is enjoyable, much less contribute to the character of the performance. Here, I think it worked out, mostly bc I think Krebs and Unami framed it well, with a lack of self-seriousness which easily dooms such ventures, a sense of giving in to this thing they had made. Yeah, it was silly, especially with an ad-hoc "band" "performing" on "instruments" which Unami scavenged from the recesses of IPR's space. Whatever, I found it exciting and entertaining.
Opening the second night was Taku Sugimoto and Moe Kamura's Saritote duo, whose two epic 11 or 12 minute CDs are some of my favorites, and this performance was really a highlight. The way each song, filled with silence, led so easily into the next created a beautiful arc. In particular, an interpretation of Erik Satie's "Vexations" just had me smiling - Sugimoto led with the first phrase (as scored by Satie), after a silence, Moe sang a verse along the melody, Sugimoto responded with the same phrase from "Vexations," this time modified with a beautiful series of chord voicings. This repeated once (with a new set of voicings from Sugimoto on the second phrase). By my count, that leave 995 more repetitions. This was really a magnificent set, and if you've heard the recordings, you've got at least an inkling of what you missed.
But quickly back to the splash zone for Unami and Kawaguchi. I didn't really expect them to shed much light on their recent Erst disc "Teatro Assente" (which, as I discussed with Jon on I think the first night of Amplify, and also evidenced on IHM, is nearly impossible to describe), and well, they didn't. Setting about their business well before the performance had been given the starting shot, the full array of IPR's miscellany came into play, along with Unami's now signature boxes (looking well worn), string and tape measures, Kawaguchi's timers and lights, then some candles, paper, who knows. I couldn't hope to capture every action, much less listen as a piece of music. While the temporal nearness to the Krebs/Unami duo begs comparison, I found these to be rather different performances, this one only addressing the audience in the performer's workmanlike movements occasionally brushing by, or just being outright in the way. There was a palpable awkwardness to their performance, their work setting up points of weakness or obstacles, full of immediacy.
Lastly we got the duo of Taku Sugimoto and Annette Krebs. I really had not the faintest idea of what to expect here, and was pleasantly surprised by the contrasts and angles, the consistent use of spoken word from Annette's desk and Taku's mic, differing lovely interjections from their guitars, electroacoustic noises and silence. Sugimoto's casual, offhand delivery gave me clues to the content of his speech (which others have detailed - basically small stories from his relationship and collaborations with Annette), and the whole thing put a nice signature on the very pleasant attitude surrounding this entire concert series - a casualness of exchange, a real openness in a space that could easily be too many serious dudes looking serious at desks of serious looking gear making serious sounding music. Obviously, if I could parse spoken Japanese or German, this duo did drop some real humor, but I wouldn't say the set was "funny." This is the kind of performance that doesn't seek to be ensconced in the language of history, rather it is of the moment, particular to Taku and Annette's long collaborative story and the mood of the series like this, where, especially by this last night, many of us between audience and musicians are quite chummy. The performances at IPR certainly showed a diverse group of musicians willing to push around an orthodoxy that they themselves had built, that what is most important is the exchange with each other, and their audience. (9/20/2011)
Mark Flaum, IHM
not having been to any previous shows in the stone i can't tell you how much more comfortable it was last night, but certainly the climate wasn't a disruption at all. the city itself was a little distracting now and then, but for the most part it was a serene and focused performance.
i find it a lot harder to write about composed music rather than improvised. so much planning and intention goes into the piece before the first sound is made and the temptation to try to interpret is much greater. it's still useful to be aware of this sculpture, because to some degree the piece is a aural rendition of the same structure, framed by silences, and the world around the door is a tiny club a block of east Houston street and the rest of new york city around it. the idea of a single image created by layers in relief in a signle material is also fundamental to the composition, as the sounds generated by greg stuart are performed over a score of those same sounds recorded previously, played through a set of eight small speakers set in a line in front of the audience. to some extent greg was a ninth speaker, though just by the nature of his activity he became the focal image, visually and aurally.
and the piece itself had ten panels. each focused on a single sound, though the sound from the previous panel also appeared in each panel and at times field recordings sine waves were also included in the recordings. between each panel was a minute or so of silence, something like a deep breath between sections. the sounds included a triangle, some bowed wood blocks, and a series of bells and cymbals both bowed and struck. every sound was gentle, careful, precise, and if i wasn't watching it was often difficult to determine which particular instance came from greg and which came from the speakers. the room was particularly generous to the striking sounds, giving them crystalline clarity and plentiful space. the bowed sounds (particularly the wood blocks), while warm and breathy, seemed to recede into the environment more readily. the final section, which i wouldn't hesitate to call my favorite, featured rice dropped carefully onto a sheet of aluminum foil. the sound isn't easy to place, something between two pebbles striking and a droplet of water. for me this was the panel where the progression across the relief speakers was most obvious, seemingly flowing from my left gradually across the room, and growing less sparse throughout.
the world around the gate also had a significant sonic roll during the hundred minute performance. sirens, horns, and voices were sprinkled throughout, sometimes hard to notice and other times a little distracting. my favorite was 'what is the world coming to!' declared with comically fake exasperation. i think overall the gradual and delicate nature of the piece was quite amenable to this sort of distraction - there was still plenty of music to re-immerse ones self in after being dragged away from the moment.
there was a second piece, of course. i'll get back to that one in a bit.
the second piece of the night was 'asleep streets pipes tones', for guitar (pisaro himself), bass clarinet (katie porter), and recordings. it was also long, just over an hour in total, and because it was less visibly structured it was hard for me to keep a clear mental record of the progression of the piece. the recordings started, with long breathy gestures that might have been air through a wind instrument. this framed the piece for me as something organic and breathing. soon the sound was turned over to the live instruments, consisting mostly of long, deliberate, gorgeous tones from the bass clarinet and subtle pure tones from the guitar that would glide under the clarinet, occasionally causing interference patterns with the broad overtones. sometimes the guitar tone would linger as a drone after the bass clarinet had gone silent, but otherwise only occasionally did the guitar play alone.
another aspect of this piece was the occasionally arrival of other musical sounds from the recordings. organ, piano and chorus all had appearances, in particular. musically they were quite pretty but i guess the thematic reason for their inclusion escaped me. hopefully someone who didn't lose their copy of the program can say more about it, as this is another situation where i lose my footing writing about composed music. if this were an improvised performance i would have taken those sounds as a challenge to the musicians, inviting them to change direction and incorporate this new information. i suspect that's similar to what occurred in this piece, but if so i did not grasp it at the time. in any event the delicate pairing of guitar and bass clarinet was really lovely and i'll be going back to the gravity wave cd soon to encounter it more, maybe then i'll make more sense of the other aspects as well.
overall a very beautiful and thoughtful night of music. i'm glad i caught a night at the stone, possibly the best venue i have been in for quiet music even with the city outside. looking forward to two more nights of great stuff.
issue project room is a much bigger space than the stone. particularly in a vertical direction, but there was both more space for seating and more space for the musicians to move around. street noise was reduced to the occasional louder car, but the room itself was a little less quiet - the seats creaked and the lights might have hummed a little. it wasn't distracting, but it came up in a handful of conversations (including one between artists) so it might have been an issue.
especially because the first set was radu malfatti and taku sugimoto. radu started off touching and tapping his instrument, small separate sounds that might have seemed accidental if i wasn't watching his fingers at the time. taku had an e-bow held close to his instrument and a look of concentration on his face, but at first i could detect no sounds from his instrument. after a few minutes of watching carefully and listening hard i was able to piece together that one of the whispery sounds floating in the room seems to stop just as his hand drew back. meanwhile radu began blowing slow muted drones at the bottom of the trombone's register, spacing them out thoughtfully and returning to touches and breath occasionally. several times he blew long, breathy slides perfectly matched to cars passing in the road, a convincing display of either prescience or really amazing hearing ability. gradually over the course of the piece taku's guitar became more audible, rising behind radu's drones to echo or build tiny interference patterns. late in the performance radu seemed to stop and just listen, eventually setting his horn on his lap as taku stayed focused a few minutes more, returning to the sounds barely separated from silence for a few minutes and the he too fell still.
the quiet throughout was deep but not tense. in fact the set was quite relaxing considering how much i had to concentrate to hear what i could. it does seem that i was well placed, however - people further from taku's amplifier reported not being able to hear him nearly at all. i suppose this set was exactly what i would have expected from the duo, but as such it was very satisfying and still challenging as well.
takahiro kawaguchi followed that set with something quite different. if you're going to see him solo in chicago you might not want to read about this, i'd hate to spoil the experience with too much expectation. but this was far from the care, delicacy, communication, and quiet of the previous duo.
he had no amplification at all on his table of half-assembled motors, inexplicable electronics, and flashlights. he started his set with a small motor and a stack of magnet segments, letting one segment attach to the drive shaft clicking against the body of the motor. then he used the rest of the stack to push the single segment around, changing the rhythm and timbre of the clicking and buzzing. eventually he set the stack down to keep the single magnet high on the shaft and turned his attention instead to attacking a plastic bag to a small vent fan on the floor. he set a flashlight up next to it but then left it on the floor idle, turning his attention instead to a second fan upon which he set some papers and then to bag on the floor. from the back he extracted 30 or 35 clockwork timers without faces, winding them one by one with pliers and setting them on the table to tick. he set a wine bottle among them with a flashlight balanced pointing inside, giving the clockwork a greenish glow as they clicked away.
at this point he busied himself with another motor set on a chair. while he was adjusting it, suddenly the two fans on the floor turned on. the paper covered fan turned on a lightbulb with it, making the moment more dramatic. the other fan slowly filled the plastic bag with air, revealing a full sized trash can liner that inflated into the audience. when it was filled the fan started to buzz with the strain of blowing into the full bag. as suddenly as it started, both fans and the bulb turned off and were again idle. the clicking of the clockwork continued, though by now the other motors were also quiet.
by now kawaguchi busied himself with still another motor, which when powered up revealed itself to be something of a propeller mechanism with a green laser pointer in place of the blade. it filled the room with slashing green light as it whirred loudly in his hands, shaking loosely. he held it close over the table, letting it bang against the other equipment and eventually knocking the clockwork timers loudly onto the floor. he was careful not to knock over the bottle. at some point during this the fans kicked in again, bringing more light along with the floating bag of air and the hum that accompanied it. this time when the fan died he began to unplug his other mechanisms, eventually only a single clockwork timer was ticking on the table.
he set a flashlight next to the timer and sat down to listen to it tick. it went on for quite some time as the only sound in the room, then eventually he rose to stop it (after one false start, apparently it wasn't the mechanism he'd expected that was still going) and just as he took it in his hands it went silent on its own.
this set was greatly entertaining, with great visual aspects and moments of possibly accidental humor. musically it's really hard to assess because i was too busy watching to really listen carefully. when i noticed the sounds they were interesting and surprising, but if my eyes had been closed throughout i can't say i would have enjoyed this performance nearly as much.
the last set of the night was the motubachii duo of annette krebs and taku unami, a highly anticipated performances for those of us enamored of that album. and the performance did not disappoint though my description of it is doomed to.
the set began with an argument. taku told annette that she should start first, and that he would join some minutes later. she declined, claiming she was shy and that improvisers should begin the performance together. he suggested instead that he could start first, and she could start some minutes later. she refused once again, claiming she was ready to begin. taku then announced that he had already begun, and that she should start any time too. she informed him that she, too, had already done so. then she admitted that she wasn't yet plugged in, did so and began to make sounds. hums, putters, brief sampled words, slow scrapes on the guitar strings. taku watch from beside her desk for a minute or two with a smile on his face, and then walked off the stage and around in the corner, quite reminiscent of graham lambkin taking a similar exit the first time i saw a show in this venue.
annette carried on unswayed, providing some excellent sounds and also some great humor - an extended bit in french about the dangers of galette des rois and cautioning that crowns on the teeth are very expensive and that is clearly preferable to have a crown on the head. taku meanwhile had wandered back to the stage on several occasions, first to set up two crumpled-paper microphones (he asked an audience member for advice on mike placement for recording), then to collect tape and scissors. just offstage he set to work cutting up a cardboard box, producing a single panel which he proceeded to perforate twice and set on a table in stage center. he threaded it with twine which he then attached to his microphones. he was ready to record. annette meanwhile had wrapped herself nicely in scotch tape and then returned to making sounds, returning to the long sample mentioned above and occasionally also to the single word 'ouch'.
taku next returned with the remainder of the box, which he taped up and set in front of the table. be returned again with a broom, on which he made a twine strap and connected it to the hole in the cardboard box, revealing the broom as a guitar and the box as its amplifier. annette spotted a missing piece and used her scotch tape to delineate the edge of the true stage, passing around the guitar and off into the audience somewhere. she returned to her desk and continued to make sound, now with a serious expression that occasionally appeared to be a technique of avoiding laughing. taku played his new guitar briefly and then invited a member of the audience (david kirby in a wine-colored three piece suit, you'll have to ask him about that part) to join the band as guitarist, donning the guitar strap and standing on a chair.
taku went on to assemble a drum set from a box, a highhat cymbal stand, and a trash bag. he again recruited an audience member to join the band, and annette provided a beat for her as she set to work dragging a card across her single drum. next taku fetched another broom and a bassist, then settled into the audience to watch. the guitarist and the bassist began filming the audience while annette provided more sound. taku then went to talk to annette, perhaps to ask if they were finished but she informed him that they had much work left to do, hurrying him off and then motioning the band to continue. taku went back off stage, while the bassist decided to use the broom more correctly and started to sweep the stage. he took his sweeping off stage following taku even as annette offered to keep him busier by throwing some of the extra gear from her table onto the stage.
when she had run out of things to toss, annette joined the audience and started clapping and stomping her feet excitedly. taku returned with an inflated trashbag, which he dropped onto the drumset. another audience member (cough, cough) threw a piece of annette's dispersed equipment at the guitarist, and taku announced the set was done. this time the whole audience provided the enthusiastic clapping. no stomping than i noticed.
once again i haven't any idea how much of that sounded. i've probably flubbed the order and missed a lot (likewise in the previous set i wrote up above) and i've certainly failed to convey the entertainment value of the whole affair. i started laughing somewhere around the tooth damage sample and pretty much kept it up throughout.
saritote is the duo of taku sugimoto and moe kimura. taku came to the festival scruffy and dressed dark with a half beard and a hat not dissimilar to the picture at the top of this page. moe was slight, looking gentle and fragile with maybe a troubadour touch. both had music stands with pages of score and guitars - his on his lap, hers in a case beside her. the started the show with eye contact, taku signaling with a full body not the start of their first piece. after that moment they seemed to work in a private space, acknowledging the audience only briefly, while flipping pages or a moment waiting for movement to die down between pieces. taku scowled a little but it wasn't clear if he was annoyed by audience sounds or just impatient to return to the focus of the music.
i don't know how many people have heard their recorded output, but they were certainly working in the same area. i'm pretty sure there were several of the same pieces, though i believe they played sligthly longer than both cds put together.
the music of saritote is extremely gentle. taku's opposite era is an inescapable signpost - calm gentle tones placed with perfect delicacy and care. moe followed his notes with vocals, one syllable at a time building phrases carefully spaced in silence. a times it seemed almost too careful, though later in the set moe showed a confidence and strength that belied her frail form without overturning the serenity of the songs. at some point she picked up her guitar, first holding it vertical on her knee and playing a single-note accompaniment to taku's careful chords, later harmonizing with chords of her own.
this was their first performance outside of japan, and the room wasn't as quiet as they had been the previous night. none the less the sense of tender intimacy was well preserved.
the next performance was the duo of takahiro kawaguchi and taku unami, perpetrators of the 'teatro assente' album recently release on erst. i have every reason to believe this represents a similar modus operandi to the album, and in fact at times it might have sounded similar. sound was, however, only a small fraction of what happened during this set.
the performance began with a ladder.
or maybe the performance began with the musicians crashing and banging in the back corner of the room. hurling boxes and detritus as they collected mic stands, extra chairs, cardboard, and other debris to heap on and around the ladder. the light was low, and kawaguchi placed flashlights to build freakish shadows on the walls. the ladder itself has something taped to its topped that created what might have been a nightmarish grimace on the ceiling. both operated with a firm sense of purpose, marching up the growing pile, firmly placing the pole or plank they had collected in the back, and then marching to the back without any signs of communication between them. unami tied his string to the top of the ladder and abandoned it, so later when he return to retrieve it he had to step over a heap of chairs and a pole without hesitating. with it he strung a line from the ladder to the back of the stage, which he proceeded to hang with garbage bags like laundry.
meanwhile kawaguchi build something of a shelter on the other side with brown paper taped between a broom handle and the wall. he placed a fan and a flashlight beneath it, and when the fan started it rippled through the paper and pulled it from the broom. he had to crawl under the latter to the back side of the heap to reclaim his tape and restore the roof of his shelter, which continued to billow. he hung a trash bag from one of the hanging poles and began to fill it with the clockworks seen in his previous set, cranking them once again with a pair of pliers to set them ticking away.
he tried to put more in taku's laundry, but found the bags hung upside down and instead hung another himself. when he was finished with his clockworks he used his pliers to poke several vicious holes into the brown paper billowing in the fan, spilling shadows across the room. satisfied with his work, he settled behind the ladder sat still.
largely overlapping with kawaguchi's activities, taku unami had wrapped a black cloth hood over his head and set about flicking a lighter and trying to light a candle blind. he eventually succeeded and set the candle at the base of the ladder (kawaguchi stepped over it several times without giving it a moment of attention). he then moved back to the far side of the stage from kawaguchi's activities and busied himself on the floor. he was largely shielded by audience members, but when i stood up (as most people were doing eventually) to see over to that side i saw he had surrounded himself with lit candles and extended tape measures, building a sort of ritual circle on the side. still hooded, he began to cry and whimper to himself. the crying continued, and at some point kawaguchi emerged from under the ladder, shoving various unstable pieces and tossing a box at the ladder. he then stalked off to the back of the stage (again ignoring unami completely) and started yanking on the laundry line as if to pull the whole structure down. unami continued to whimper until suddenly a cheesy cell phone ring sounded. there was an awkward moment where everyone looked around to see who had just interrupted the performance, but then unami pulled the phone from his own pocket, and stage-whispered some sort of promise to finish the set soon into the phone. both then got to work on an amplifier and other electronics that had been sitting largely unnoticed in that far corner of the stage, and soon heavy rhythmic noise was crowding the room. unami and kawaguchi returned to their purposeful march but this time straight through the audience and out of the room.
the noise continued for a few minutes and then kawaguchi returned to turn it off and the thank the audience for their attention.
so there was sound. if my eyes were closed i can only imagine it would have been quite similar to the content of the album, filled with thuds buzzes and clicks. not to mentioning the crying and the noise. but to be honest it was very difficult to process the sound with my attention captured by the rest of the performance.
the last set of the 2011 amplify festival was the duo of taku sugimoto and annette krebs. annette sat behind her table of with laptop, mixer, guitar, and accessories, while taku was armed only with his guitar, a handful of papers, and a plastic cup of wine.
it was a set that touched upon several decades of this duos work in more ways than one. taku played some of the sparse, delicate notes he was prone to when they first collaborated, and annette also touched upon drones and buzzes akin to her earlier recordings. she also played sound recordings, at times quite length sections of voice. he mood for the recitations was cheerful, like a man in a bar who knows he has a story his friends will love. he would play for a few minutes, drop into concentrated silence, and then a fraction of a smile and he's start telling a story.
when annette recognized the mode taku was working in, she started to play against it a little. she would fade in her own monologue samples just as he was talking. or she would give his stories a drifting and creepy sound track. even if she couldn't understand anything he was saying she seemed to sense something of the humor of it, and that spurred her to bring her own comic sense to the performance.
i lost count of how many anecdotes taku told. some were clearly funnier than others - unami laughed freely, but only one made kawaguchi break into laughter. the good natured humor of the whole was infectious so even though i understood nothing the set left me smiling. or maybe that's just because the music was excellent too.
jon's mentioned above that the stories were tales of annette from the long friendship and collaboration she has shared with taku. in a sense it was a story about the music too, how many things have changed and how much is still founded on shared senses rather than shared language. it was a very warm closing to a fine set of performances, only a few of which i was able to catch myself. (9/19/2011)