Archive for July, 2008


New trends in what do with audiences are apparent; a visit to http://improveverywhere.com/ will reveal a whole new crew of artists – they call themselves “agents”, and a creative product between prank and happening – the piece with the cell phones ringing at the same time in the multiple bags checked at the department store counter is almost a chance composition. It’s a rethinking of the relationship between performer and audience. In the “improv everywhere” endeavor, the spectators are also the performers/composers for additional chance spectators, with no skill requirement whatsoever.

Anyone can be a rock star now, you don’t even have to play guitar; with the growing popularity of air-guitar contests, ordinary people with no musical training or technique can pretend to be musicians and that’s a complete thrill for them – which I take as a token of the power of music in people’s lives, as such a ridiculous premise is only based on the admiration for the musicians themselves. Actually, I believe that the practising involved in performing a good air guitar number relates the activity to choreography or performance art.

The new David Byrne installation project at the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan presented by Creative Time is another example of composition in action. Byrne carefully geared up an organ to the various noise-makers of the old building (was it some nostalgia about early 70s raw lofts that triggered the idea?…the rusty pipes?…no fixtures…) to be played by the visitors. It will be shown until August 10 so you can still go. Once again, the spectators are the composers and what the artists do is to come up with a fairly complex but inviting framework to someone else’s creativity, with no skill required. It does not seem necessary to realize the
idea musically in any traditional sense, but more important to have others have some form of interaction with what is being heard.

Interactivity is a real 90s concept but we haven’t even scratched the surface. Some of the techniques explored by John Cage are becoming mainstays of the new performing world, even though Cage is still being regarded by some as a prankster rather than a serious composer. But even that now seems cooler than being serious.

Is the way something ’sounds’ still an important element of these creations? I am not sure. I will enjoy a ’sound’ and have gone through many experiments to create something of a fresh sound, maybe through an unusual combination of elements. I am probably guilty of naively enjoying something that sounds ‘good’ or a pretty melody in passing.

Lower East Side Performing Arts had a summer solstice ritual on June 21st, where good cheer was accompanied by a few of my short pieces performed by my old friends such as Andrew Bolotowsky (flute) Rafael DeStella (contrabass) Julianne Klopotic (violin) Kurt Behnke (cello, pictured) and lyric soprano Mary Hurlbut in a room overlooking a garden. Here the separation between audience and performers was almost inexistent as they moved freely from one role to the other and all enjoyed the light socializing and bubbly is a very low-key fashion.

I know everyone who was into MySpace two years ago is now into Facebook – the freaky discovery is that I have so many friends I haven’t even met yet… but undeterred by the risk of ‘esprit d’escalier’, I just made a vocal music page on MySpace for practical reasons, so people can hear something in real time, real quick. Not hard to find…

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