It is understandable that we sometimes overlook the surge of innovation and experimentation that has taken place within live musical performance over the last decade. A culture obsessed with emerging channels of distribution and incremental software upgrades is almost predisposed to overlook the virtuosity (or lack thereof) that drives live performance. A pertinent frame of reference in considering evolving paradigms in musical performance is the MUTEK festival, a progressive electronic music summit that takes place in Montreal each spring. Launched in 2000, and having just celebrated their tenth anniversary this past week, MUTEK has consistently programmed dynamic lineups of luminaries representing various facets of global house, techno and experimental music communities. The festival has cultivated an idiosyncratic identity that references the pulse and dense revelry of the after hours scene while also showcasing more amorphous, adventurous multimedia and gallery-oriented projects. In addition to positioning Montreal as a key node within international electronic music networks, MUTEK has developed into a platform for showcasing integrated audio-visual performance.
e-flux's Lower East Side space will host a temporary record store for German electronic label Raster-Noton over the next two months. The record label came out of artists Olaf Bender and Frank Bretschneider's label Rastermusic and artist Carsten Nicolai's own Noton.archiv für ton und nichtton in 1999, and their individual sensibilities have shaped the minimalist aesthetic the label is now known for. Many of the artists who have releases on Raster-Norton, such as Ryoji Ikeda, CM Von Hausswolff and Marc Behrens, examine the materiality of sound as part of their visual arts practice. No wonder, then, that the label's short residency in Manhattan will take the form of an installation, titled The Shop, where none of their over 100 releases will actually be for purchase. Instead, all of their output will be exhibited as artifacts, with CDs displayed and recordings audible via listening stations. Some of these recordings will activate the movement of light in White Line Light, a work by Olaf Bender and Carsten Nicolai that will illuminate the installation. The Shop opens May 26th with a performance by Nicolai and Bender and runs until the end of July.
Mixology, the annual festival curated by the new music and new media organization Roulette, got off to a strong start last week with opening night performances by Pamela Z and Elliott Sharp, presented in collaboration with Harvestworks. Pamela Z demonstrated her use of gesture to control sound, which she produces with her own operatic voice as well as electronically. Elliott Sharp was a one-man noise band, playing both an amplified saxophone and a keyboard-based instrument while manipulating both on his laptop. The night ended with an improvised duet, in which Pamela Z played her iPhone like an ocarina.
Performances continued through the weekend and will resume tonight. Tomorrow’s program features Matthew Ostrowski, who will pick up themes of gesture and sampling with a new work titled “Patterns of Changing Light.” Mixology runs through May 30, concluding with a performance by downtown stalwart David Rosenbloom, whose piece Sound and Light I continues his thirty-year-long exploration of dense sonic textures with a more recent integration of video as the basis for an evolving score. The full program for the rest of Mixology can be found on Roulette’s calendar.
Any set has begin and end, but the Lucky Dragons played that down in a New York appearance last Saturday; they switched on some recorded sounds as the audience was taking seats, and demonstrated their equipment and chatted after the music’s long, slow fadeout. The structure suits the group’s hippie philosophy that doesn’t assign prominence to any musical moments, but treats all sounds (and people) equally. They also tried to erase borders between performer and audience by encouraging listeners to be mobile, approach the instruments, and improvise, although the narrow length of The Stone, crammed with folding chairs, made it tough for anyone past the two front rows to join in. Lucky Dragons stalwarts Luke Fishbeck and Sarah Andersen were joined by drummer Ches Smith and guitarist Grey Gersten, the curator of The Stone’s program this month.
Once everyone was settled in place, Smith and Gersten entered lightly, playing inside the framework of the electronic pulse already hovering in the venue. Gersten struck and dampened his instrument’s strings percussively, rather than playing melodies. Over time the drums and guitar settled into a hazy backdrop for electronic, pentatonic glissandos emanating from Fishbeck and Andersen’s hacked instruments. Later on they handed audience members a short-circuited wire—wrapped in a colorful knit cozy for safety—that played triadic chords when touched, varying volume according to intensity of squeezes and the amount of grounding (Fader recorded a demonstration of it). The accidental harmonies of that cord, like most of the sonorities in the Lucky Dragons’ music, seems to skip across the overtone series, as if the electronic tool is just picking up the natural vibrations hanging in the air. It could be the signature instrument in their wired drum circle ...
Our sister institution, the New Museum, will jump start a new residency for performance, RE:NEW RE:PLAY, tonight. The month long residencies allow invited artists to workshop works-in-progress at the New Museum's theater every Thursday at 7pm. Singer and composer Nick Hallett is the program's inaugural resident, and over the course of the next four weeks he will stage performances that connect the human voice to multimedia ritual in a series entitled "VOICE + LIGHT SYSTEMS". In collaboration with Brock Monroe, each performance will be set in an environment illuminated using interdisciplinary techniques taken from psychedelic lightshows and structuralist film. This evening Hallett will sing selections from Meredith Monk’s "Our Lady of Late", a cycle for solo voice and wineglass, written in 1972 and rendered as a concert piece by the composer a year later. (See the above video for a preview.) Hallett will be joined by Peter Sciscioli and Emily Eagen of The M6, who will sing duets from Monk's "Facing North Suite", as well as Miguel Frasconi, who will play glass percussion solos. Upcoming scheduled performances in Hallett's residency include Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Stimmung (May 14), a premiere of a new work from an opera-in-progress Whispering Exercises (May 21), and an "audiovisual travelogue, a tribute band" Auroville (May 28). Not to be missed!