Yesterday I was at the New Museum on the Bowery in the all-white (from seats to walls) auditorium downstairs, enjoying the sounds of Nick Hallet’s Whispering Exercises which staged four singers and a harpist (all young women) as if sitting on a cloud, surrounded by quickly evolving and contrasting light projections all around the theater’s inviting walls. With some of the tunes, one felt surrounded by nearly angelic sounds but there was an edge in the occasional slight dissonance, or the directness and simplicity of the vocal work, or the constrasting passages where the roar of an old analog synth or quietly cycling arpeggiator brought a man-machine element. In Nick Hallett’s through-composed world, the sweetness and the rumble get along and share the same universe, which adds a spiritual dimension to the statement; and one is aurally delighted and comfortable within a clearly defined, accessible esthetic. The piece, a work in progress to be completed by next year and presented at The Kitchen, weaves the stasis of whispers and breathing sounds that recur throughout, with short tunes with tonal vocal harmonies, sometimes reminiscent of early music, but beyond the purity of the voices there was the memory of rock music. The performers, Daisy Press, Rachel Henry, Katie Eastburn, and Rachel Mason (voices) and harpist Shelley Burgon were compelling and so were the visuals created by Seth Kirby and Brock Monroe. The music was wonderfully refreshing and reaching for its very own language beyond tonal minimalism.

Nick Hallett is continuing his residency at the New Museum for one more week with Voice and Light Systems Part Four: Auroville on Thursday May 28 at 7pm, a multimedia “ritual” inspired by Sri Aurobindo featuring Seth Kirby and Ana Matronic.
Visit: Newmuseum.org/events

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