Wednesday, August 23, 2006

At Sea, Again

The myth began last summer...and now it is fully formed. Anne Hege and I perform Silver and Shadow next Saturday, August 26th at 8pm at the Giorgi Gallery in Berkeley. It will be a fabulous concert, and I especially hope that some local bloggers might make their appearances.

Shadow and Silver remembers the Barbary Coast and evokes Drake's vision of San Francisco bay. Pan sits on Indian Rock watching sunsets while Italians sing old time opera at Caffe Trieste. The neighborhood poets, prostitutes, seagulls and sailorboys (damn Sunday matinée crowd!) create a counterpoint of noise that only the fairest, dark-eyed nymph can appreciate. She sits in the far back corner, wisely observing the scandals and the silliness.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Carte Postale: Skoltz_Kolgen

Magic, in some ways, was dispelled for me at the Skoltz_Kolgen show Thursday night. In the first piece, the duo presented themselves as live performers, sitting at a low table in the middle of the room and occasionally tapping and playing objects (er, instruments?) in addition to the keypads of their laptop computers and sequence controllers. The video bloomed in digital black and white on all four screens of Recombinant Media Lab's performance room, quivering and unfurling around the audience with vegetative tendrils that seemed to respond quite specifically to musical events. The abstract visuals marked musical form in a pure and beautiful way. Dreamy, glitchy, pingy sounds and an oceanic harmonic underpinning tugged at the sensitive edge of my emotions but, though I'm easily won over by simple feats of sound processing, some of the pure representations of physics failed to impress me as a performative risk: Mr. Kolgen tapped on the body of the supine violin and a measured dribble of knocking sounds sent scientific spasms through the glowing designs on-screen(s). Well, ok, that's the computer for you. Make no mistake: the show was definitely one of the best sleight-of-hand collaborations between audio and visual I'd seen in recent weeks--subtle, spacious and surprising as well as clean and delicate--but at a certain point I missed that...elusive...quality of live, truly live, performance. In this situation, one might anthropomorphize the audio/visual and measure the collaborative efforts at that level (skipping right over the two individuals sitting on the floor) but for me, nothing approached the magic I've come to expect from collaborative performance. Even if it's Just Music playing with Just Video, both electronically created and offered on abstract, technological terms, I want some (personal? humanistic?) element of fear and trust, action and response, antagonism and agreement, independence and unity. That's the magic of performing live.

At intermission a curious truth came to light: the video was fixed (pre-made) and not triggered or affected by the music at all. Ah ha! The duo successfully made it seem like a real-time performance (kudos to them for what must have been diligent practice and rehearsal sessions) and yet I had felt, at some deep level, a hollowness.

For the second half of the program, Skoltz_Kolgen moved to a far corner of the room (not bothering to feign performance) and presented an exciting, driving, thunderous piece of physical audio (+ visuals). There is something to be said for "it's so loud you feel like you've been at the gym for an hour." Yes, indeed. My own personal goal, however, is to reach that level with the guarantee of no hearing damage. I'd like to make music that (whether from sheer volume or sheer astonishment) knocks you over, no earplugs required.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Out of My Mind

I'm a "beginner" currently immersed in a weeklong introduction to Max/MSP. I do hope to blog about all my recent creative ideas and projects but must wait for my brain to quiet down. More soon--yes, even a wrap on Barney! In the meantime, don't cry if you, like me, missed Ryoji Ikeda at RML; go see something at ZeroOne before it's over!

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

My Three Prophets

Arthur C. Clarke, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

RES magazine, "Any sufficiently advanced use of technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Michael Trigilio, "I hate it when people think, 'it's magic.'

I heart Mike. I always heart my teachers. (He's introducing me to FinalCutPro.) He's as engaging as mismatched socks and far more wry. Il est brillant.

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Barney at SFMOMA

In one of the many memorable images from Matthew Barney's magnum opus, an oyster diver opens her mouth as if to breathe, and pearls, numerous pearls, spill freely from tongue back to sea. There is little subtlety to Barney's work: he emphasizes and explores his theory of "restraint" by posing its opposite in viscerally evocative ways. From the collapse of solidifying petroleum on the ship's deck to the retching and spewings of a boy in the infirmary, Drawing Restraint is one long advertisement for entropy. In what leads to the film's climax, a couple (Barney and Björk wrapped as carefully and as beautifully as precious gift packages) begin cutting away all superficial restraints, freeing themselves from ritual and ceremony, clothing and adornment, flesh and desire. The themes, as I reflect on them two weeks after seeing the film, are good, solid, themes-for-all-time-themes, but they are nothing revelatory, and I have to question devoting an entire floor of a museum to what is little more than props and still photos from the film.

I have to question describing Barney's work as a Gesamtkunstwerk.

more soon...

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