Gigs, dance, art

January 29th, 2011: Ensemble Intercontemporain

@cité de la musique

I really didn’t like the typewriter sounds at the beginning of Pierre Jodlowski’s Is it this?, especially with the unsubtle title and text. But I liked most of the rest, the sand on green steel barrel, the violin, clarinet and drums at the end. I’m pretty sure I missed the point of the music, as I most often do, but I did enjoy most of it. (As an aside, a composer once told me this kind of music was meant to be read more than to be heard, and I guess he should know because he was writing it. I can’t read music, so I gave up there and then on trying to understand it.)

I really went for Thierry De Mey, because I genuinely like his work and I feel I owe a lot to him for introducing me to a lot of music through his association with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Michèle Anne De Mey. I really liked Light Music, especially for its blurring of the lines between sound, light and movement. I couldn’t really say which was responsible for what I “heard”, whether some rhythms or some progressions. A bit like in a film he made years ago with hands drumming on tables, the distinction feels besides the point. These basic gestures/sounds assembled into changing phrases share a lot with dance — especially De Keersmaeker’s — but to me it was clearly music and not dance, even though it was music I could see as well.

To my big surprise, my favorite piece turned out to be Pierre Boulez’ Dialogue de l’ombre double. I was surprised because I have basically stopped listening to his music for a few years for personal reasons. And I had never heard it live. It makes a huge difference, because the recorded clarinet moves around in a way that just does translates to a record. And some of the trailing echoes of the live clarinet are so much fuller live. To me it was a very intense performance, and my lack of understanding never kept me apart. Despite the visual progression, I was still surprised when it stopped, maybe it’s the pace but I didn’t feel it had been even ten minutes long even though it lasted double that. I may have to reconsider my avoidance policy.

January 30, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

January 28th, 2011: Emio Greco & Hanspeter Kyburz – Double Points: Outis

@cité de la musique

Maybe I shouldn’t have read about it before the show. Reading that Emio Greco might be triggering some sounds through movement distracted me and that made me think his extended arms and hands were a way to overcome limitations of the technology. The point isn’t that this suspicion was right or wrong, what was wrong was that I took my eyes off the ball. I came to my senses because he had something going in his sinuous leg moves, despite keeping them bent low at the time. And in his second danced part there was something about his tilting/hopping/bouncing that caught my eye — though the lights were in the way and I could barely see him.

Still, that’s not much, and the singing parts were not my kind of thing — I don’t like that kind of voice. Of course, I’m not trained enough to understand the music, which I guess proved to big of a wall for me to climb. No surprise I didn’t like this show much, as I missed more than half of the point. I can’t complain though: they did warn it was for skilled listeners; I’m just not one.

January 30, 2011 Posted by | Dance, Music | , , | Leave a comment

January 27th, 2011: Ryu Hankil / Choi Joonyong / Hong Chulki

@instants chavirés

Hong Chulki‘s set was my favorite, maybe because it featured the harshest sounds, maybe because it was the less showy. He used a turntable and electronics, with a metal plate at times that he put to good use on the turntable. I liked the diversity from low to high and quiet to loud, and the physical presence of the material, despite a generally slow, almost meditative pace.

Choi Joonyong‘s sound had a lot of mechanical elements, which I like a lot, for instance generating rhythmic cycles by taping bits of paper to CDs in open players. He almost moved his two amps around, even behind doors that he also played with. I was a bit put off by this part of the set — a little too much theatrics for me — but it was really done for the sound and a pointless pose at all. I really liked the beginning, but I didn’t really like the way the set unfolded for some reason.

Ryu Hankil had a typewriter that didn’t all that sound like one, or maybe one that was broken down inside with loose keys jingling. Nice, but a little gimmicky in my opinion. He alternated that with more run of the mill electronics. I liked some of his ideas, but I didn’t get into his set.

After a break they did a set together, and I didn’t like it much. I didn’t hear something more than in the solo sets, and the interactions felt more like alternating. Then again its a tough exercise in that kind of music.

I’m totally convinced by these sets, but they have interesting ideas, and I really like the concrete materiality of their music. I like electronics, but I’m very fond of having something mechanical in there as well. I think I’ll go and listen to some Kevin Shields again.

January 30, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

January 25th, 2011: Philémon / Dan-Charles Dahan – Q / Salmigondis / Benjamin Bret / Autruche Ex Makina

@instants chavirés

I like the beginning and the end of Autruche Ex Makina‘s set, but the middle part lost me somewhat. I liked the electronics best, and the early guitar was nice, but it got predictable in its ramp-up. When one guy took up a mic and came down from the stage, it broke that routine and made both more interesting.

Despite his banter, I wasn’t all that convinced by the first three songs of Benjamin Bret. These were too similar, when the guy is extremely eclectic in his output. The rest of the set restored the balance, and it was fun even though he seemed a bit too stressed-out at times and wanting to cram too much into the set. I think he settled down along the way, but anyway the best way to solve this would be more concerts. It’s not as if he lacked material, his production is in Manuel J Grotesque territory. I liked his nodding to this guy, by the way. He got a major assist from a member of Le club des chats, as well as from whoever was inside that fish costume — don’t ask — and I hope it went well enough to have him do more concerts in the future.

Salmigondis delivered a noisish set that somehow fit well with the kind of music often heard at this venue. Were they going native? Not what I expected from them, but I’m certainly not going to complain about that. Maybe a little long though, especially as they were foraying into a familiar restrained territory. Real nice electronics at first, then a little mushy but with things still going on most of the time. That was OK by me, but I was still felt something was missing.

Dan-Charles Dahan was processing Q’s sax sound to mostly good effect, but I think the set was a little too polished for the setting. Like they knew a little too much what they were doing, which felt a little out of place. I might want to give it another try in another place and time though, there were very good moments in there.

Well Philémon knows what he’s doing too, but I didn’t mind at all. A very cool noise onslaught with an occasional drum kick, this set was a great way to end the show. I guess it’s the kind of music I like best in the lot, but I think it was a very good one at that, and sure enjoyed it a lot. Some fleeting beatish sounds and some layers of noise too, never dwelling too long on a single thing, that was a great set.

January 29, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

January 20th, 2011: Black Packers / Antoine Chessex / Arnaud Rivière

@instants chavirés

What struck me at first was the way Arnaud Rivière made more use of every surface at hand, in a more controlled and smooth way, a step into something different than usual, even though it had been way too long for me to call his performance usual. Of course, just as I was being impressed by his newfound smoothness, he proceeded to jolt the mixing board to the floor. Shows how much I know. He did recover nicely from the mishap, I hope I wasn’t fooled and it wasn’t intentional. Accepting it as genuine, I think he got even more interesting, his use of the full real estate of that (too) small table was great, and just expanded his range. Though I remain fondest of what he does with the ol’ mixing board.

There was a sparse attendance indeed, but somehow Antoine Chessex seemed to feed from that and put the emptiness to work as it enhanced his sax’ reverberation. I think this guy has an impressive relationship with the sound of his instrument, and how it can fill a room. This time was more minimal, but even more memorable because of his intensity. Perfect control and total engagement. I’m beyond impressed. This guy seriously rules.

Black Packers is John Hegre and Jean-Philippe Gross. For a while I’ve only heard Gross’ more experimental/silent side, and it was a real treat to hear him lash out for a change. Hegre is more of a regular in that field. I don’t think this set was a game changer, but it was a very welcome burst of energy for me, with enough twists to make it interesting. Maybe not that much, but it was just what I needed to hear after such a long spell of Xmas dreadful boredom.

January 24, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment

January 19th, 2011: Ea Sola – Air Lines


It had been so long I was starved for dance. I guess Ea Sola’s solo wasn’t the best thing for me in that state of mind. Because she seemed to falter in her trust in dance itself with all these flags and country names. Most of the time her dance and the single EU/US/Chinese flag in the middle was more than enough.

She was able to say a lot with just her arms shooting straight. From defiance to embrace to longing to struggle, depending on the moment. The flags kinda took something from the strength of her posture. And of course I had to throw in my own personal disconnect as well. As she donned a black veil and walked toward the American flag, I guess her intent had something to do with Afghanistan. But by then the mesmerizing waves of the plastic sheet had settled into hills, and all I could think about was something about her walking these hills in a long black veil, which was probably not the reference she had in mind.

I wish she would trust her craft a little more. I don’t think she really need those words or images to get her point across. To me the overkill blunts her message. And to me her slow beginning and end, and the progression through faster paces and a mixture of struggle and acceptance said much more. The more explicit images just got in the way. She certainly has things to say, I only wish she would not be so heavy handed about it.

January 24, 2011 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

January 16th, 2011: Tom Johnson – Christopher Adler – Brian Parks – Michael Winter – Steve Gisby – Samuel Vriezen

@instants chavirés

I happen to really like this kind of music, whether it’s labeled minimalist or process music, though I prefer the latter term. It’s a challenge as it has to strike the right balance between the predictability of its program and still being interesting as music beyond the score itself. Sometimes there’s only the former, and that can get boring in a hurry.

The show started with the six composers/players doing a counting voice piece, that struck that balance because some voices would skip numbers. There might have been a formula behind, but I don’t care.

Tom Johnson’s pieces are usually pretty blatant in how they will unfold. But it’s so predictable that his music leaves more leeway to whoever is playing it in my opinion. And there’s some playfulness  at work too. These two pieces were a case in kind. They both went just long enough to get into boring territory, but stopped before getting downright unbearable, and that’s part of the game with him.

The next three works were done on solo piano and were more on the listenable side, without a blatant process — though there was some of that too — and were surprisingly enjoyable for me.

The last piece of that set was something of an embarrassment for me. I totally missed the point of it, and now I’d like to hear it again. Michael Winter’s Maximum Change was all about timbral change, and I utterly failed to notice it, maybe because the extremely slow tempo had me thinking it was about timing. I want a mulligan for this, I just whiffed.

Steve Gisby’s numbers in the second set where more to my liking in an instinctive way, even though it got a little dry at times. Though I couldn’t claim to have understood what the process was.

Then there was a voice piece by Brian Parks that was my favorite of the show. There was something there about rhythm and tiling that really struck a nerve with me. Not really for the work itself, but I think this guy works with stuff I’m interested in. I’d really like to hear more from him.

This time around I liked Michael Winter’s piece much better, with its sudden changes of texture and suspended quality. To me it was about time — two words — and I needed that by then. Smart but not showy. It made me eager to hear more of his stuff, even though I may want to RTFM beforehand.

The third set had Samuel Vriezen perform his own work on piano. It was OK despite the programmatic dryness, because the unfolding was handling space and time nicely. But I had the suspicion he would do well to have someone else play this and maybe bring about something else.

That’s something I always have to think about with this kind of music. I think the only way to make sure it’s all nailed shut is to make it so closed it’s boring and dead. Otherwise there’s always a factorial explosion looming, so you might as well accept it.

I was struck throughout by how most of the younger composers seemed to have their silences come from Morton Feldman. That’s just one way in which the maths-heavy program has to fail for its own good. There are others though, as in Michael Winter’s program of timbral change failing to exhaust the possibilities because he left out time, which at least doubles these, probably the added wiggle room is much higher. But I like what they’re doing, and those I could talk with where nice and interesting people, and I think I need only more of them around. First and foremost I want to hear more of what Brian Parks is doing.

January 22, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment