Wednesday March 7, 2007

Subtropics: Fluxus Day, FIU New Music Ensemble, and Jan Williams

Subtropics: Fluxus Day

Subtropics: Fluxus Day

Subtropics: Fluxus Day

Subtropics: Fluxus Day

Fluxus Eve was lots of fun. Clockwise from top right: George Brecht, Motor Vehicle Sundown Event (for John Cage), Larry Miller, Remote Music (for Keyboard), fire piece (not sure of title), and Alison Knowles, Onion Skin Song. Most of these pieces are around 50 years old, and Knowles and Miller were on hand to perform their compositions and add some character (not to mention gravitas) to the performance — both were great. Note that they have these corridors that run through the Carnival Center that are wide enough to drive a car through — and they did!! Also, the highlight of the evening was when Knowles took off one of her shoes, explained where she got it and why she liked it, and invited audience members to share about their shoes. Tigertail’s Mary Luft: “These are Birkenstocks. I’ve never liked Birkenstocks, and I only bought these because they match my silver toenail polish.” Yeah!

Subtropics: FIU New Music Ensemble

I saw the FIU New Music Ensemble a couple of years ago performing the music of James Tenney and Christian Wolff at the Wolfsonian, and remembered being extremely impressed, so I had misplaced expectations of greatness for their Subtropics performance. Maybe the Earle Brown pieces were intended to sound hesitant, creaky, and atonal, but even if so I’m convinced that the performers enhanced those qualities with their natural tendencies (re. which: “Sit up!”). Yes, they’re students. But I’m not going easy on them — someone obviously thought it was a good idea to include them in the festival, and people paid the same money to see them.

Their musical director apologized because they couldn’t perform the first movement of Lou Harrison’s Varied Trio (because of a “missing microphone” — wtf??), but didn’t see fit to mention anything about a missing clarinet player that is listed for the two of the pieces which thus became quartets instead of quintets. Pianist Marta Milosevic showed the most promise out of the group, but her solo performance, of a propulsive John Cage prepared piano piece, was marred by sloppy page turning — she actually had to pause because fool turned two pages at once.

Subtropics: Jan Williams

Jan Williams performing Pickup Sticks by Gustavo Matamoros (1998). The snare drum is microphoned and connected to a Powerbook, triggering digital sound/noise sequences whenever the player makes a mistake and disturbs the snare head. So yes, the point is to make as little sound as possible, and Williams looked genuinely frustrated whenever he messed up (but he was probably pretending). Another composition consisted of whole notes played on a muted gong for what I seriously estimate was 45 minutes and nothing else. This was more interesting then it sounds, but only slightly. I didn’t realize it was a La Monte Young young piece, and I think if I had I’d have heard it differently.

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