August 16, 2014
Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, Seattle
It is commonly perceived that the rather static theater of performers standing behind tables twiddling knobs is a problem for the audience.There's a bunch of noise coming at us, but those responsible don't appear to be doing anything, or at least they don't seem to be doing anything commensurate with the sound. There is a disconnection between the visual and audible. When a pianist is performing, for instance, there is a clear correlation between keys we can see being pressed and the tunes we hear, and to a certain extent, between the range of motion of the pianist's arms and wrists, and volume of sound. A certain amount of this is necessary just to play correctly, but if truth be told, much of the flamboyance seen on the regular concert stage is unnecessary and frankly kind of icky.
So what's to be done if you're a knob twiddler? One option would be to do nothing at all. Another would be to dress in costume and/or incorporate a dance routine like a big name pop act (please don't). Or, as done on this night, one could provide a video back drop, a new-fangled light show like a 70's prog rock outfit. The problem then is that we read it as a film, and we want it to be at least as interesting as the sound we're hearing, or perhaps to offer a salient comment upon it, give us some reason to be seeing what we're seeing other than to distract us from the people on the stage. I really tried through a good part of the show to find such a reason for the video to be, but in the end it just looked like a souped-up spin cycle and I would not have missed it.
Complaining is now done. Each of the groups or acts or collectives or whatever they call themselves was a different take on playing with synthesizers, and enjoying the hell out of filling the space with high definition bigness. A real ear scour. Next time I'll just keep my eyes closed.
August 22, 2014
(The) Nature (of) Sound - S. Eric Scribner
Jack Straw New Media Gallery, Seattle
I played a small part in this production. If you listen closely you may occasionally hear the sound of a toy steel drum. That's me.
None of this should work at all. A quiet sound track of birds and such with an oh-so-careful overdub of instruments all spaced out wide. And on the screen what is really just a pretty slide show with an achingly slow fade. But the effect is complete magic, as though one were plunging vertically through the experience of dawn in an alien geometry. Up, down, left, right, fore, back, all gone or rather never been. This is not a new planet, it is in (if there is anything like 'in' here) some radical cosmic otherwhere (if there is anything like a 'where' here).
The installation will be up through October 24. I have linked to the gallery above for details.
August 19, 2014
Symphony in C "Leningrad" - Shostakovich - Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Berglund
The concern here is the mediation of the personal with the public. The cumulatorific set-piece in the first movement notwithstanding, the most typical gesture is a retreat into isolation. Very slowly it is acknowledged that we are, after all, in a public space together. And so, each of us takes what we are given, transforms it a bit, and passes the baton to the next of us. The musical material itself, for all its coloristic shenanigans, is as abstractly functional as could be. This little theme takes us up a Major 2nd. This one shifts the focus from the 3rd of a harmony to the 5th. They are bricks.
August 20, 2014
Concerto for Oboe - Strauss - Staatskappele Dresden, Rudolf Kempe, Manfred Clement
A bit more complaining: this recording is engineered so that the solo oboe has the sheer volume to be in front of anything and everything. This seems to my ears to be a gross exaggeration of what I hope was intended to be a more subtle play of balance between the forces.
Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Youth - Howard Hanson - New World Chamber Orchestra, Gerard Schwarz, Carol Rosenberger
The material is packed tight, trunked for decades. The creases have become permanent.
August 21, 2014
Maybellene - Elvis Presley [from The First Live Recordings]
Lover's Island - The Blue Jays [collected from Dave Marsh's The Heart of Rock & Soul]
The line between doo-wop and barbershop is nowhere thinner than here.
The Owl and the Pussycat - Stravinsky - Adrienne Albert, Robert Craft
As perfect an art-song as there could be. It is utterly endearing but eschews sentiment or word-painting, focusing the sing-song rhythm of the text, illuminating coolly, just enough. All that and a contrupantal accompaniment as runsible as could be.
The Line Between Love and Hate - The Persuaders [collected from Dave Marsh's The Heart of Rock & Soul]
In Session at the Tintinabulary
August 16, 2014
Like a Bird on the Deep - Karen Eisenbrey, Keith Eisenbrey
Karen and I recorded a version of my hymn tune composed to a text by Fanny Crosby. We did this partly as part of a project to record all my hymns and partly as a 90th birthday audio-card for our Aunt Mary Ellen Juhola, who so graciously passed her beautiful old pump organ to us recently. There is a bit of wheezing and creaking but Karen and the harmonium both sound pretty good.
August 18, 2014
Gradus 249 - Neal Kosály-Meyer
In time past great effort was placed on transcending the bar-line. These days we are struggling with the metaphor of the singular note, with the irreducible token of information. Dissection is a common strategy, or we might collide them like protons.
The second half of the session was a cat's cradle.