Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Post 1

In unrelated news, I caught the culminating concert of the Spark Festival of Electronic Music and Arts at the Ted Mann Concert Hall last night. I missed the late show at the Bedlam Theater, with famed electronic act Pole headlining, and that would certainly have been the more instantly gratifying performance to see. The concert at Ted Mann was a more formal and traditional setting, though musically unconventional, for “serious” electronic musicians to showcase their work.

Keir Neuringer

The highlight for me was in fact the most conventional piece, Josh Clausen’s “she quietly enters and leaves the fray.” It featured a pianist playing Tori Amos-esque (since she’s on my mind) trills and runs against a glitchy soundscape that was a pale (but still solid) imitation of prime Autechre.

Another performance, Lorenzo Bianchi and MK’s “Comfort,” featured dancers engaged in strange rituals even more baffling than the description in the program: “The dynamic of exploration is set up through a permanent decision-making. Forms are crossed in view of constant mobility. The choreographic identity of the performer is entrusted to the ‘other’ as a continuous removal of the self.” Worst abstract ever! The only high point of that performance was the inexplicable blasting of Underworld’s epic “Mmm Skyscraper I Love You” (unattributed in the program) through the concert hall’s glorious soundsystem, followed by a Tim Hecker-esque drone that was probably just a Tim Hecker track, also unattributed.

The night “climaxed” with Joel Ryan and Keir Neuringer’s “OrAir,” composed entirely from live saxophone, processed mostly with delay effects. I agree with the general consensus that the piece was masturbatory and musically unintelligent, though there was a brief moment when something uncanny happened. Neuringer’s movements—frantic and deliberate noodling, especially on the saxophone’s mouthpiece—seemed to have merged so completely with the processed sound that it became unclear who was leading the performance. By controlling Neuringer’s sound with his computer tweakings, Joel Ryan seemed to be controlling his body by extension. Was this an intentional optical trick? Watching Neuringer’s jerky fast forward motions, I felt I had entered a twilight zone, or like I was watching a movie in which the gaps between frames were visible, or like Neuringer was illuminated with a strobe light. There must be a neurological explanation.


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