Wednesday, September 14, 2011

MUSIC AFTER - the anti-9/11

Eleonor Sandresky and Daniel Felsenfeld, co-producers and artistic directors Music After is presented in association with the Joyce Theatre Foundation.
And in collaboration with Vision Into Art, September 11, 2011, 8.46am - after midnight
Joyce SoHo, 155 Mercer Si., New York City

Some people have short attention spans. Others incredibly long ones. Patience probably serves the latter best, but consider that, if of the former stripe, what could be better than something new every 15-20 minutes? If you have endurance, then it is then not a question of ADD as much as adding up.

As the St. Marks Poetry Marathon has been covered at some length here previously, it should come to no surprise that one might find a similar passion for the event above-captioned. If you have not noticed the date, you are among a very few. It ill behooves me, or even moves me, to comment on the national threnody associated with this; suffice it to say: having lived through it, here, I have no need to have my memories stirred, nor feelings repackaged with lap fades and so-mo-focus and lite arpeggios of mourning and renewal.

So this is something brand new, and guaranteed to please. And definitely not rehashing the past, as much as inviting it in and offering it a seat on the couch to have a bit of art and entertainment.

DISCLAIMER: At times in the past, there have been some unwelcome comments on the inaccuracy of items masquerading as “journalism” from this author. What the following represents is as much sense as can be made by someone who is a compulsive note-taker, scribbling in the dark on very cluttered handbills. Do that as thou wilt.

Set A: 8.46am - noon
At approx. 9:15am or so, totally delightful squee-scree-&-squawk set which was probably Daphna Naphtali on f/x and vocalisms and Hans Tammen (probably) doing Cage-like stuff to the guitar on the table)) doing her music…but it’s difficult to say, except the title “Mechanical Eye” seemed fitting. David Del Tredici’s contribution was “My God or Tres Gymnopedes” with Blair McMillen on piano, and did it remind of Erik Satie? Well, enough of Del Tredici does that so I’ll say so, without actual notation of same. Phill Niblock handed in a tape piece—which fit his oeuvre as well as the day: “Parker’s Altered Mood.” Ostensibly for saxophone, it might as well have been for a hundred harmoniums in the wash of single tones, only slightly interrupted by overlapping harmonics, which actually added a lot of texture for the listener, like trying to find the flaw, or even a brushstroke, in a monochromatic painting…and ended close enough to the feeling you get when the “all-clear” siren sounds.

Therein followed The Universal Thump (Greta Gertler and Adam Gold), who did one of the very few “rock” sets. I forgot to write down the name of the other tune, which was one by Rufus Wainwright, because I was so happy to hear “Information Rain” by Judy Nylon. And I was not the only one: co-producer Daniel Felsenfeld: “You know, we don’t hear enough of Judy Nylon these days. So I’m going to ask them to do an encore of it.” And they did! (Remember when a line from and Eno song could be so influential you’d make a whole number out of it?)

Not quite in the place of his name, David First went fifth, with Ahmed Abdullah (I think) on trumpet and Tom Chiu on violin. As soon as he picked up his guitar and laid on the e-bow, I recognized him from the old days; the somewhat American Eagle profile, though, wasn’t part of the memory. (Ah well, we all change.) That device on the fretted strings produced a semi-Frippertronic infinite sustain, aided by the organ-chord tremolo, and the ghostiest part came from the muted horn, like “Taps” from the fourth dimension.

This was the only set to end early. (Later, an explanation was offered that, due to the occasion, a lot of people were having trouble with trains. Including this reporter, who had to walk over from the East Village—a whole 10 blocks and 5 Avenues!)

Set B: noon-3pm
The notes are so scrambled on this set, only a few are dead certain, but best guesses are provided as well.

David Linton (‘80s drum luminary and tech-experimenter with so many bands I refuse to consider looking them up) kicked it off with a completely electronic piece (excepting a few strums of an autoharp, I believe) which was likely “from the Bicameral Research Project” (See? What’d I tell you? Math rock be damned.) as he warned us in advance “there’s going to be some flickering lights as part of this so if you’re susceptible to that sort of thing, you might want to step outside.” What was thrown up on the wall (the only one who used any visuals) was not dissimilar from old TV interference patterns of zig-zag jags when it was like a digital Rothko, and no—no one had any seizures.

If there was a “star” of this set, it was Annie Gosfield, if only that she had two pieces performed. The first was Blair McMillen returning to the Steinway & Sons for “October 5, 1941”—titled after the first Subway Series (between the Yanks and the Dodgers) wherein, upon this date, a fatal error cost Brooklyn an out, a game and the whole shebang. Humorously enough amid the sturm-und-drang of the Rite of Spring-like forte, the full count came from him leaning in to caress the strings with a couple of horsehide pills before donning a mitt and bashing the keys with it. (Why are so many composers baseball fans?) As for what came next? Too many scribbles. It may be that there was a Carter Burwell piece entitled “On Judgment: Human and otherwise”, but whoever is the author, the MIVOS String Quartet performed it. (Probably.) All that is certain is that the rumble of car wheels on cobblestones outside meant that it was probably not a very loud piece…or that I like the sound of car wheels on cobblestones.

Somewhere in here was an unannounced gem. Jonathan Hart Makwaia (pronounced almost British, like “McQuire”) may have been on the front of the program, but he was most likely on a contingent basis. (Remember the trains?) What he does is play the piano and vocalize—and while the first one was possibly Swahili, it didn’t matter if there was any Randy Weston or Abdullah Abrahim in him—it was great: pseudo or voodoo. The second was too charming for words, literally. If you could label it Call-&-Response, it would be the piano setting the joke, and Jon laughing at it: trills, arpeggios, hammerstrokes and clusterchords all repeated in giggles to titters to guffaws to barks and howls. There was a third piece as well which may or may not have been notated as “sun ra w/better cartilage” but whatever; this guy could be a heliocentric Victor Borge, no lie.

It is certain that Lisa Moore played the music of Don Byron, also on the ivories. These were entitled “Mad Rush” and “7 Etudes”. I’m pretty sure Eleonor Sandresky, the other co-producer, did a Philip Glass piece…but she did one piano performance per set, at least, and so it might as well as have been her. There are no notes on what it was but if you’ve experience one Glass piece live, you will know it by how clean you feel after. There was a tape piece by Tim Mukerhjee called “Heat Multiplier”. And then David Lang’s interpretation of the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” as a recital piece by Anne Hiatt and Kate Springarn on vocals and cello…which is in itself kinda stunning: late ‘60s NYC drug-nihilism retooled for a garden party?

Julie Heyward is fondly remembered as one of the leading lights of tech savvy performance artists who could make concepts into theatricals. (Think first time I’d seen her perform was with T-Venus on the Kitchen Midwest Tour launch party on the Staten Island Ferry. 1981? Memory does not always serve.) Here it was four songs. “This is the audience participation section and the question you have to answer is ‘Do You Believe?’”, and ended it with “please leave your questionnaires with the usher at the door.” Pretty cute still. The others were “Body on the Bayou” (“written 15 years before Katrina” she’d have you know), “My Mind Likes to Take Little Trips on Its Own” and the fourth passed by because the third title took too long to write.

Jon Gibson had two numbers performed but I only have a scrawl on the second, in which the composer himself came out to play an alto sax solo.

Set C: 3pm-6pm
It is fair to say that, by this time, it had occurred to me to not try to make all the notes on the same schedule, and instead, get a new one and mark that up…for the duration. For which I have mi espousa mousa to thank.

Laurie Anderson was sort of an open question; if anyone could perform a composition by her, who would it be? Well, seeing as how she lives 10 minutes away, and how she has been as generous as possible this summer with appearances all over town (see previous post)… She was in a chair, sitting, to read a short story/reminiscence, or parable—if you will—so suited to the mood of the moment as to be a tailor-cut, rather than a fitting. I hesitate to relate as to reveal would spoil other’s fun. Suffice it to say, in the world of today, we are all like confused terriers, watching for hawks.

The numbers are slightly off here so it is a good guess to say that Charles Waters and Sparkle Trio played the music of Matthew Shipp next, in more or less the only avant-jazz set of the event. (Which is confusing only in that without Charles Waters on tenor sax, Sparkle Trio would be just bass and drums…but what of it?) This is true olde Knitting Factory stuff—like from when it was still on Houston. Angular, jumping, and popping in so many directions, spontaneous applause broke out when the drummer flung a small cymbal onto the floor: not in frustration, but as an accent. It was that intense. Even mi mousa squeaked in favor.

It is likely that this was followed by Laurie Spiegel, introducing her portion with the anecdote, “Most people who are aware of my work know it is primarily electronic. After 9/11, for several days, I was entirely without power so I went back to the banjo.” The piece, "New York November 2001 (for solo banjo)", played by Taylor Levine, managed to go from a music box to broken nickelodeon to John Dowland without being any of them, which prompted mi esp. to ask if same was available for the consumer. (Sadly, Ms. Spiegel split before I could buttonhole her.)

Eleonor Sandresky returned to the keyboards to render Nico Muhly’s “Hudson Cycle”. This is played twice, here and in Set D as well, but somehow, this one felt more rapturous, and that I can’t explain. This was either before of after very nice songs of Michael Friedman (of the Civilians, I gather) with Robbie Sublett (vocals, and who was on piano?...the ink is too smeared to tell).

This was likely the point of the other big name performer, who should need no introduction, but when you say “collaborator with John Cage, Robert Ashley and Merce Cunningham” then Joan La Barbara seems to be easier to see against those lights. About as good an advert for hot for a woman of years, silver hair and white lab coat makes her as stark as her mouth music. “The Gatekeeper” (possibly the title) is just her, accompanied by tape, in a performance as a textbook definition of “spellbinding”, weaving in the faintest aspirations of breath, clicks, guttural snatches amid sighing winds and babelogues, whispers and creaks, croaks and groans, until you end up in every jungle movie cliché you’ve ever heard, to resolve in some vast fog-bound harbor, having gone from the shore to the moor and back again.

Tough act to follow, so once more into the “rock” as Daniel Felsenfeld took to the piano with Rick Moody, vocals, to do Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day”. And, for those of us who were there, the one sterling image of the hours between dawn and dusk was just how amazingly pretty it was. September in New York always is. And Moody’s crisp characterization fit that Big Apple tartness like a Granny Smith.

Here or there, returned The Composer Charles Waters, again with Sparkle, and augmented by piano, cello and violin, to do three originals. Stopping here to acknowledge the Herculean efforts of the organizers, he went on to explain how people had two moods about this occasion, summed up in “Fatalism, that’s bad; and Faith, that’s good,” before alluding to “hexachord analogue of Paul Auster’s name,” a Robert Creely 'lost poem’ he found again entitled “Night in New York City”, and expressing his ongoing astonishment at the skills of the bassist/composer William Parker (yup, ye olde skool Knitting Factory alum, again). And of the three, the Parker ode was about as close to a groove as would be heard in the whole, but mighty fine it was at that.

Mick Rossi played Joanne Brackeen’s “Picasso”, and the note says only that it sounded like cat’s steps into something vaguely recalling the early work of Eddie Palmieri—if that makes sense.

That the set ended with an operatic duo of piano and unamp’ed vocals by Paul Appelby (likely, with Thomas Sauer ivories—no apologies folks!) made it about as close to an afternoon musicale on as “Beautiful Ohio”—a song cycle by Harold Meltzer—as could be, if that particular river was rendered by Charles Ives.

Set D: 6pm-9pm
By this time, truth be told, attention to detail had begun to flag a tad. This was also the first set to start late. Some 20 minutes after the hour, Todd Reynolds, violinist extraordinaire, was part of a group doing a Roseanne Cash song, which name and other players’ names escape me (but might have been Rose Bellini included). However, the guest appearance of Ms. Cash did not. With her husband on piano, she did the kind of “500 Miles” rendition you wished everyone could, and few can.

The producers took another turn or two, the Sandresky reprise of “The Hudson Cycle” and Felsenfeld/Moody duo returned to do David Bowie’s “Five Years”…but that would not be Ziggy’s only appearance.

Eve Beglarian can be typified by the sly counterpoint of her titles. “I am really a very simple person” may have been nothing but a chorale sextet doing Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do, but when you do it so many times inside and outside up and around and braids and tesseracted…it sort of makes you dizzy…in a good way, like dervish dancing. Which is also how the “audience participation part” of “Did he promise you the universe?” also worked, with a “nananananana”-kinda Meredith-Monkish nonsense phrase in rising and falling ostinatos, repeated into oblivion.

Justin V. Bond, in a modest two-piece dress-suit tailored to compress the flesh into its best, strode out with her guitar accompaniest (in net dress and feathered brow-wreath) and proclaimed, “I was told not to do anything political in deference to the occasion. So if you hear anything political in this that’s your problem.” “Tomorrow is going to be the 22nd Century”, is Nina Simone's original but would not have been out of place on a Bert Brecht/Kurt Weill songbook, stridently slashing at the petty differences and tyrannies and prejudices of the 20th and 21st ones, Bond belting away like Ethel Merman on testosterone supplements. And with that, as Felsenfeld, said, “hey, how many opportunities am I going to have like this?” requested Justin to come back for an encore, “…as sort of my fee for putting this on” and accompanied on Bowie’s “Lady Stardust”.

Elliott Sharp, the man with a fractal guitar, watched from the seats with his daughter as JACK String Quartet played a composition whose name I neglected to get. But it would be hard to miss the impact of the piece. From a nearby vantage, one could se the precision of soldier ants marching across the score sheets, and the sound was just as extreme. Switching between three “bows”—the standard gut, what appeared to be a long machine spring, and (maybe) pins inserted in a dowel?—the tight coils scraped and the pins barely rasped, and the gut simply stretched. Time signatures? Motifs? I would hesitate to call this sherbet, but it served a similar function: cold and cleansing, it delineated that which had come before from whatever would come after. This is by no means a slam: I also enjoy the sound of car wheels on cobblestones, remember?

At eight o’clock, however, enough, and best of luck for the next group.

Oh yes, and why not look to the future?

22nd Century by Nina Simone

There is no our children in the air
Men and women have lost there hair
Ashes and faces and legs that stand
Ghost and god blends work in this land
When tomorrow becomes yesterday
And tomorrow becomes eternity
When the soul with the soul goes away beyond
When life is taken and there are no more babies born
When there is no one and there is everyone
When there is no one and there is everyone

Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
It will be, it will be, it will be, Ah…

21st century was here and gone
And the 20th century was the dawn
In the beginning of the end was the 21st
When the 20th century was at the end
1990 was the year
When the plagues flood the earth
1988 was the year
When men and women struck out for freedom
And bloodletting was the thing that was

People say there was no cause and
There was no reason and there was no cause
1972 was right all way

Drums and blessed all through the day
Right way, left way, middle of the road
And side wind, bench wind

Stockings,red stockings
Liberation of women, liberation of men

Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
It will be, it will be, it will be,Ah…

Liberation of animals
Men and beast,flying and on flying
Prevention of employ to animals
Flying things,revolutions of music
Portrait,love and lives
Sex's changing changing changing
Man is woman, woman is man
Even your brain is not your brain
Your heart is a plastic thing
And can be bought
There're no more businesses can be court

Man became the thing,that he wash up man
Every gone is god,that was the day
That man and woman truly became bored
Man became his eagle,man became his evil
Man became his god,man became his devil

Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
Tomorrow will be the 22nd century
It will be, it will be, it will be,Ah…

Young women without money caught
Big dogs living in marble love
Young men die in the spring
Boys of seven falling in love
Give the lady wear a diamond ring

Wedding, wedding, wedding
You know all wedding ain' the thing
Don't want to know prayer,don't want to know man
Give me your hand,and take my hand
This is better than tanbobrs
Prayer men, yeah
The choose is now on pole
It says somebody else,soul and toe
Don't try to sway one over
To your day,on your day
Your day will go away
Tomorrow will be the 22nd century

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