Archive for the “Exhibitions” Category
The pseudo-fact that we are ‘visual creatures’ has been drummed into mass culture for the past several decades. It’s pernicious pieces of propaganda, one of those marketing tools that is so pervasive and in-plain-sight that social critics and paranoids searching for subliminal messages and methods of mass coercion not only overlook it, they embrace it. We see and therefore we buy what we see is the way it goes, from artful design to pornography to fine art, where currently overcompensated rentiers pay immoral sums for works meant that, when hung on the wall of the McMansion, are meant to dazzle and intimidate with their pedigree and cost.
It’s bullshit, of course. Yes we see and are interested in what we see, but our most important sense organ is our ears, we are hearing creatures. Our eyes are promiscuous and fickle, what pleases them changes from year to year and culture to culture. But our ears are connected to our lizard brains and our souls. The thing that goes bump in the night is universal and eternal, the way it sets our hearts racing and sense on edge is as human as it gets, and the effect that sound has on us is exponentially more powerful than that of images. As R. Murray Schafer has pointed out, we can’t close our ears.
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Jennifer Dautermann of WOMEX (the World Music Expo) and project manager of Classical:NEXT, has succeeded in building a new platform for classical music professionals at Munich’s well equipped, easy to maneuver, cultural center Gasteig.
The long overdue launch of classical music’s first dedicated forum took place over May 30 to June 2, hosting live and video showcases, conference sessions and presentations by leading professionals of the press as well as music institutions, the likes of Carnegie Hall and the Bavarian State Opera.
The forum also included easily accessible trade-fair booths showcasing the recording industry, dominated by the Omni-presence of the large Naxos team.
Part of the excitement was the presence of the eminent, Hong-Kong based Naxos founder and self-made man Klaus Heymann, who chose this forum to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Naxos’s position as the largest distributor of classical music. This in itself may have contributed in part to the eager participation of many of the labels distributed by Naxos at Classical:NEXT. Regardless, Naxos has proven time and again that it is equipped with an innovative entrepreneurial approach and a foresight that has succeeded with great projects like the Naxos library. They have managed to connect culture and commerce and impressively demonstrate their development from a low-budget start-up into a world-wide classical powerhouse.
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For the next few months, The City of Angels is going to be the epicenter of all things Iannis Xenakis (1922–2001). That’s because the exhibition “Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary” will be on view at the MOCA Pacific Design Center from November 6, 2010 — February 4, 2011. The exhibition explores Xenakis’ wide range of sketches, scores and drawings, not only musical but architectural and aesthetic as well. Not always simply notes on score paper, many of Xenakis’ sketches and drawings conjure up artistic visions, in ways perhaps only matched by John Cage’s documents of his own explorations. Defintely a must-see.
But there are also a couple must-hears, happening right this week, both absolutely free:
Saturday, 6 November at 6pm, in L.A. State Historic Park (1245 Spring Street) a recreation of Xenakis’ legendary Polytope de Persepolis will be performed. Adapted by German sound artist and Xenakis electronic music expert Daniel Teige, Persepolis L.A. will involve six listening stations with eight speakers each. Persepolis was originally commissioned by the then Shah of Iran and performed as the opening event of the controversial 1971 Shiraz Festival that took place in the middle of the ruins of the ancient Persian capital. This performance will encompass more than 70,000 square feet of performance area within the park’s 32-acres, and will feature the recently restored multi-track music composition and computer-generated visual choreography, complete with laser beams, fire, smoke, and searchlights. The event will open with Xenakis’ first electronic work, Diamorphoses (1957), as a “geological prelude”.
Then on Sunday, November 7 at 4pm, The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts presents an outdoor performance of the final version of Xenakis’s only opera, Oresteia. This West Coast premiere includes performances by baritone Paul Berkolds, an adult chorus, a children’s chorus, and a chamber ensemble. First-come seating is on the lawn for this highly charged, brutally colorful piece.
[Ed. — After many years in NYC but fresh to my own stomping ground of Houston, Chris Becker has offered to write some semi-regular musings on the new-music scene down thisaway. His own introduction:
In its March 2010 Global Ear column, The Wire magazine described Houston as “the weirdest and wildest of (Texas) cities” with a “rich tradition of unofficial and DIY art.” Speaking as a recent transplant from New York City (where I lived for twelve years), I can confirm that our British friends were on point with their analysis of H-Town. I am in my third month as a native, and only just beginning to take in the breadth and variety of Houston’s cultural scene– especially its music. Although I’m also enjoying the city’s classical music (Houston Grand Opera, Mercury Baroque) each dispatch I bring to you from Houston will focus on contemporary composition, improvised idioms, and works that integrate theatre, the visual arts, and/or dance. Inevitably, my love for rock, folk, blues, country, zydeco, and all out noise (Red Krayola, anyone?) will creep into future writing, the overall goal being to expand peoples’ perception (including my own) of where one can find innovative forward-thinking music.]
2009-2010 marks the sixth year that Houston’s contemporary ensemble and presenting organization Musiqa has presented its “loft” concert series at the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston. Each concert program is produced in conjunction with and inspired by a different exhibition. In May, CAMH debuted the show Hand + Made featuring works that blur the lines between craft (crochet, pottery, glass blowing) and performance. As a composer who has collaborated with clay and crochet artists (often in combination with dancers and improvising musicians), I dug the curatorial concept immediately and looked forward to hearing what pieces the composer founded and led Musiqa would choose for Hand + Made’s corresponding May 20th concert.
The concert took place at CAMH with the musicians surrounded by the artwork on display – including several elaborately designed and decorated “sound suits” by artist Nick Cave (a former dancer with Alvin Ailey’s troupe, not the singer with the Bad Seeds). I was happy to see people of all ages and filled CAMH’s space for this concert, using up all of the available benches and much of the floor space.
The program – performed by three percussionists (Craig Hauschildt, Alec Warren, and Blake Wilkins) included Clapping Music by Steve Reich, Panneaux en acier by Marcus Maroney (a beautiful and relatively new work for percussion soloist on various metals), Vinko Globokar’s primal piece of solo performance art Corporal (bravely and convincingly realized by a half naked Craig Hauschildt who was required to – among other actions – slap and strike parts of his body), and Ohko for three djembes by Iannis Xenakis. The performances were incredible, blurring the lines between what was composed, what was improvised, and where “music” as one might define it begins and ends. Musiqua’s program illuminated the creative interzone that is “in-between categories” where many of Hand + Made’s artists (and many Houstonians) reside.
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Artist and performer Yet Torres is responsible for the handmade design and packaging of the new double CD Screwed Anthologies: improvised music under the influence of DJ Screw featuring David Dove (trombone) and Lucas Gorham (guitar, lap steel). David and Lucas celebrated this CD release Sunday May 30th at Resonant Interval – a concert series (“Sideways Shows For A Straight Laced City”) that features Houston’s experimental, electronic and improvising artists. David is the director of Nameless Sound, a presenting organization that, in addition to bringing experimental musicians from around the world to Houston, offers music instruction to young people in the public schools, community centers, and homeless shelters. Screwed Anthologies is a “disjointed exhibition” initially conceived at Labotanica (an experimental laboratory for art and performance located in the historic Third Ward) featuring music and mixed media performances inspired by the “screwed and chopped” music of the formidable DJ Screw. The venue for the Resonant Interval performance was an empty storefront located a few doors away from a cool wine and beer bar with its own show on its walls of lovely and haunting photographs of New Orleans. Once again, the space was filled with people ready to take in the music.
Throughout David and Lucas’ set, excerpts of DJ Screw’s music were cued and superimposed over the sometimes (but not always) heavily processed sound of David’s trombone and Lucas’ lap steel and guitar. “Under the influence…” is the tag to this project, but legacy or homage did not seem to drive the actual improvising in performance (although both David and Lucas created sounds that harkened to the slow tempos, shifted pitches and soulful timbres of DJ Screw’s mixes). The disparate qualities of each sound (including the stray transmissions of DJ Screw) hung in the air like parts of a mobile (or a collection of Duchamp ready-mades) creating an experience where one seemed to hear each component to the music as an individual entity sitting in its own time and space, even as the music unfolded in the context of a duo (trio?) improvisation. The influence of Houston-born Pauline Oliveros was apparent, along with the sounds of Houston’s birds, traffic, and weather. I am excited to hear (via bootlegging or perhaps another CD-R or two…) how this music develops on the road. David and Lucas are currently touring Screwed Anthologies throughout the South and East Coast. You can get the tour dates here.
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An illegal immigrant with a civil engineering degree in Paris, fugitive from his native Greece for his WWII resistance activity (for which he nearly died, and lost one eye) Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) eventually found himself working for the famed architect Le Corbusier, first as one of any number of assistants but soon enough as collaborator. Yet he was always drawn above all else to the need to compose music. Nadia Boulanger, Arthur Honneger, Darius Milhaud –all were either rejecting or rejected. It wasn’t until Xenakis stumbled upon Olivier Messiaen that he found a teacher that saw past the inexperience and willfullness:
I understood straight away that he was not someone like the others. […] He is of superior intelligence. […] I did something horrible which I should do with no other student, for I think one should study harmony and counterpoint. But this was a man so much out of the ordinary that I said… No, you are almost thirty, you have the good fortune of being Greek, of being an architect and having studied special mathematics. Take advantage of these things. Do them in your music.
Thrown almost at once into the hotbed of post-WWII modern music, surrounded by the likes of Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, Jean Barraqué and Pierre Schaeffer, yet still working for Le Corbusier, Xenakis soon found ways to integrate his love of mathematics and architecture with new musical forms based on points and masses, curves and densities, later even physics and statistics — but somehow always tied to a deeply Greek historical and humanistic root system.
In the late 1950s Le Corbusier received a commisson to create the Phillips Pavillion for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Le Corbusier made a preliminary sketch, but it was Xenakis who would develop and see the structure through to completion. Not only that, Xenakis (along with Edgard Varèse) would create music to inhabit the space, complementing a multi-projection visual program by Le Corbusier himself.
While only standing a short time, the echo of that space, event and music would continue well past 1958; it was constantly mentioned in all the books while I was a university student, and the pieces made for it have become “classics” in the field of early electronic music, still listened to and loved today. (There’s a small documentary on the Pavilion that you can see on YouTube.)
The reason I’m telling you all this? Because from January 15th through April 8th, The Drawing Center in New York City is hosting the show Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary. And in conjunction with this show, the Electronic Music Foundation is sponsoring a number of Xenakis events, including on the 15th a virtual recreation of the experience of the Phillips Pavilion at the Judson Church (55 Washington Square South).
We’ve asked The Drawing Center’s Carey Lovelace and the EMF’s own Joel Chadabe to give us some background and info, which follows just after the jump:
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That’s what early settlers said about the wild mint growing all over the peaceful hills and oceanside that would one day be paved over and known as San Francisco. In fact, for many years starting in 1835, that’s what the settlement was called, only in Spanish: Yerba Buena.
History lives on in the name of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, located on 3rd Street between Mission and Howard. YBCA’s New Frequencies performance series, curated by Performing Arts Manager Isabel Yrigoyen, is well underway, and offers a couple of intriguing choices in coming days.
First on Saturday evening, August 22, we have local avant-cabaret luminary Amy X Neuburg, backed up by the Cello ChiXtet of Jessica Ivry, Elaine Kreston and Elizabeth Vandervennet. Their set consists of selections from The Secret Language of Subways, a song cycle for voice, cello trio, electronic percussion and live electronic processing which Neuburg conceived of while riding New York City subways. It begins promptly at 8:00 p.m. in the YBCA Forum, and serves as an opener for Argentine singer/composer Juana Molina, who’ll take the stage at 9:05. Tickets are $25 general and $20 for YBCA members, students, seniors, and teachers.
If visual art is your thing, you can have that plus contemporary music on the same evening on Thursday, August 27. Gallery visitors will find that’s one of the nights musicians have been called in to respond directly to the work of the eight visual artists commissioned for the Wallworks exhibition. The August 27th contingent will be composer, pianist, and electronic musician Chris Brown, Mason Bates (as DJ Masonic), and upright bassist David Arend. Their sounds are free with gallery admission: $7 regular, or $5 for seniors, students, and teachers. (And non-profit employees, KQED members, and folks carrying a valid public transportation pass or a public library card.)
I’ve only been living in New York City for a few years, but I already feel like there are times when I just simply take the city for granted. Or worse, I don’t take advantage of all that it has to offer. But I think what makes living here so exciting is the opportunity to accidentally stumble onto incredible events, or to go places expecting one thing and end up (pleasantly) at something totally and completely different.
This is exactly what happened yesterday afternoon as I wandered in to the World Financial Center Winter Garden during the third hour of “I Write the Songs.” All I knew was that the event was a drawing installation created by Suzanne Bocanegra, in collaboration with the Drawing Center, paired with spontaneous music composition featuring the FLUX Quartet. Even though I really had no idea what this description meant or what it would look like when I got there… it still sounded pretty cool.
I’m still so impressed with this brilliant idea; let me try to explain how it worked.
Walking through the Winter Garden, you went to one of several drawing stations, each equipped with loose sheets of printed music and colored pencils. You picked a page of music and colored or drew or wrote whatever came to mind, in any way you wanted. When done, the music was handed to a person on a ladder, who handed it off to be clipped to a high strung clothesline, which transported the pages to the stage.
Once on stage, the music was distributed to a member of the quartet, each of whom “played”/improvised what they saw on the page. The added bonus was that each musician had a TV monitor facing the audience, displaying the current page of music on their stand. Everyone could see what the performers saw at any moment—many people waiting excitedly to see their page played… Brilliant!
The sound for four performers playing this music all at once was not as cacophonous as one might imagine; and some clever “composers” asked quartet members to sit quietly and take a break, or to observe the player to their right. Once performed, the music was returned to the person on the ladder to be sent away on a different clothesline. At the end of the line, volunteers from the Drawing Center collected and hand-bound the music into books.
Suzanne’s installation created a 5-hour constant loop of new pages of drawings/music, traveling from “composer” to clothesline to performer and back to clothesline. I have no idea what Suzanne will do with the bound collections of music, but I’m sure she has thought of something fascinating.
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Last year I mentioned seeing an exhibition here in Houston, “Every Sound You Can Imagine“; a compilation of all kinds of newer musical manuscripts and scores. Then just yesterday I was reading of a show at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, “Notation, calculation and form in the arts“. All, of course, continuing the tradition of John Cage’s and Alison Knowles’ seminal 1969 book Notations (available complete online right now as a PDF download).
Which seems all the more reason to mention the long-awaited Notations sequel just released: Notations 21, brought together by Theresa Sauer. Besides the book, the Notations 21 project has its own website with even more information. Between all these links you can feast, gawk and marvel at snippets of the highest, subtlest, strangest and most elegant musical and extra-musical explorations of the last 50 years.
My first year in college (1974-5), we were treated to an exhibition of the original score pages selected by John Cage and Alison Knowles for their highly influential 1969 book Notations (currently available as a free PDF download at UbuWeb).
For young composers at the time, these bits and pieces of anything-but-standard notation were eye- and ear-opening, sent us scouring the library stacks for more, and led us all to go a little crazy trying to mimic or out-write what we saw there.
Then as sequel this year, Theresa Sauer carried the idea up to our own time with Notations 21, an updated compendium of all the fruit that’s come from those first flowers.
I’m mentioning this because down here in Houston I just received a little whiff of that wonderful déjà vu this afternoon. The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston has a show up and running through December 7th, titled Perspectives 163: Every Sound You Can Imagine. It’s kind of a mix of both Cage/Knowles-old and Sauer-new, with a scattering of more traditional scores by some of the recent “big names” (Lou Harrison, Rorem, Glass, Reich, Riley, Dresher, Adams — John and John Luther –, Bryars, Crumb, Nyman, etc.).
The list of old mingling with new is long: Steve Roden (image above right), Wadada Leo Smith (image left), Cage, Brown, Bussotti, Feldman, Ashley, Mumma, Brandt, Stockhausen (dad and son), Xenakis, Wolff, Dick Higgins, Knowles, Yasunao Tone, Subtonick, Cardew, Curran, Per Norgard, Phill Niblock, La Monte Young, Stephen Vitiello, Kaffe Mathews, Maja Ratkje, Nancarrow, Daniel Lentz, Elena Kats-Chernin, Jennifer Walshe, Stephen Scott, Wallace Berman, Marina Rosenfeld, Christian Marclay… etc., etc…. If your travels take you down this way, be sure to make room for a visit.