Friday, May 30, 2008

The Necks at the Sydney Opera House

One of the great fringe benefits of setting up our outpost in Australia was to see one of my favorite groups live for the first time. We caught the first night of a four-day run at the Studio Theatre at the Sydney Opera House. For those not familiar with them, the trio stems from a combination of jazz with an organic inclination toward minimal forms of gradual development over extended time periods. Most of their CDs feature single pieces exploring that length. These in turn vary from more traditional harmonic/melodic constructs to pure excursions into color and texture. They never fail to bring something new to wherever their interests are at the moment. There are no traces of systems though, being guided by their musical intuition
This performance definitely drew more upon their adventuresome explorations expanding more into texture and color than any conventional scheme. Yet these elements were there. From an almost Feldmanesque beginning, as it they were defining some environment we are all in, they quickly shifted to their own language and vision and built a series of waves that would slowly build and transform. There was a section of some kind of 5 beat feeling ‘ expanding out where I found myself counting a 17 in the bass. The music was not intellectually focusing on such details; these were more the outcome of a more driving force into a highly melodic texture lead from the piano. While the piano would possibly ‘lead’, it was not so much that the others followed, more like a whole wave together with maybe foam being pushed along on the top. Here cascades of weaving lines sometime blurred yet holding concise shape. The video paralleled the structure of the music, likewise coming from three locales, and like the playing, one was constantly surprised by where the next development would come from. In the second even more abstract set the video went from an individual in a pool toward more prominence of the bubbled turbulence they would create


This seems to be a better term and allows a certain distance from what is known as microtonal music. 'Meso' is in between the micro and macro. Many of my other interest also are. The areas between pitch and noise (or just sound), the areas in between tempo and non tempo, tonality and non tonality, between melody and long durations and maybe most important as myself as a human being between the infinitely small and large. Perhaps it relates also to the Bardo, that island in between and the realization that this state is always with us.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gendhing Popper

Pure form-
Imitate a swarm of gnats*. Players move in and out of being within the whole as they feel fit ( this can be physically but not limited to) . Being drawn back by some undetermined energy. It is understood that the group itself will transform, as is not a static entity

Translation A (for percussion)
'Tempo' becomes initial center of gravity. This works best outdoors where distance influences the ability to synchronize or not

Translation B (possibly for rock/jazz or other improvisers)
Let a groove (probably scale/melodic ideas as well as tempo) start the initial gravity within a group then each exploring moving away and towards as one wishes

Translation C (Microtonal)
Pitch (consonance/dissonance) becomes initial center of gravity. A grid is agreed upon before hand, although the application to Harrison’s concept of intonational ‘free style’ would be quite in keeping. Likewise, Diamonds, Lambdomas extended matrixes, combination product sets etc. all possible. Each ventures closer of further way as one wish. It might be conceivable to have central set in which is ventured from in unique individualistic ways an/or methods

Translation D ( any ensemble used to playing music based on a nuclear melody)
Keeping the above in mind. A pitch is chosen in which all player play at the same time with each recurrence being twice the length what it was the time before. In between, each player to free to play anything. Each duration or group of, or progressing sequences can be implemented or repeated in some predetermined manner. The progression should remain outward in time length and should not reduce.

Translation E (Psychological study )
Keeping the above in mind. Players move toward or away from the others by degrees of camouflage, in other words hiding their relationships with others by disruptive patterns.

Any or all of the above can be combined in any fashion even within a single performance. Other translations welcomed.

*Karl Popper used this image to describe an example of a working anarchistic system.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Uzawa Noh Troupe in Wollongong

It was a great pleasure to be able to represent Anaphoria Island during this groups three-day presence in Wollongong sponsored by its sister city Kawasaki. Ms Hisa Uzawa heads the troupe, maybe the most highly respected female Noh artist today. She is, I believe, the second female to have made this end road into one of the most exclusively male professions. For this visit, three other females joined her, including her daughter, Hikaru Uzawa, a very accomplished actor herself. The other two actors performed the role of the chorus. I was struck how the chorus commanded that role equal and quite fitting to any that I had heard. The musicians were male, and a very tight group that acted as one but there did not seem to be any real separation of energy between any of the sexes.
The evening performance of “Hagoromo” was to a sold out audience at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre. This was only the second time in my life I have seen Noh Theater live and while I have many recordings, I walked away with some new understandings. One was deeper how the drama builds in a way unlike western theater. Besides the restraint of it all, any increase in musical thickness and/or stage gesture, is seldom static for much longer than needed. It struck me with the similarity it has with various shamanistic practices of circulating around some point without going at it head on or it so not for long. . It is quite remarkable about how some small detail will be removed and only then do we realize how much of a ‘pillar’ it might have been acting as. Or in an opposite case, the lowest drum, the Taiko did not enter until the it seemed the halfway point and the when it does come in, it is hidden and done lightly and immediately covered but the two others drums who stood in force. Maybe others did not notice it, but it was still very dramatic and one could immediately feel how change became immanently implied. The complexity of the music is achieved by simple means, almost like chameleon adapting to the shifting energy at hand. Nothing is repeated very much or does not appear in the same way.
I had had a conversation with the Hip drummer about the use of the vocal sounds they intone before they strike. I had understood this as being the sound of a spiritual energy descending to our material world with the actual strike being the arrival. He stated that Noh represents reality and does so by using unrealistic means. Already in the previous days I had occupied myself with the relevance of ‘camouflage’ to music. As an aside it was a word that had been imposing itself upon me for some reason I could not explain. Here it seems to be one of the higher incorporations one could have of this idea.
I still remember my other live Noh encounter that included Maki Ishii’s piece for a single masked Noh actor who had to change expression in response to two recordings on separate speakers of a person laughing and crying but alternating in volume. It showed the power and capability of an actor to use the same mask yet change the expression. The day time performance of Lady Aoi, has a demon, and miraculously Ms Hisa Uzawa manage to invoke much beyond the initial horror, to where one could see how the demon was eating itself up and became almost pathetic. Here one could see how it represented many of human weaknesses that effect so many if not all of us, and what it does to it owner.
I was able to participate in the workshop where Hisa Uzawa quickly through us into quite a bit of detail and movement. This quite put me into a trance state that I immediately recognized as what is conveyed to the audience.