Symphonie Diagonale

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Video by Brock Monroe

The Icelandic new music ensemble Hestbak formed in 2003 as a brass-heavy improvisation collective. Under the influence of Aki Asgeirsson, who joined a year later, the band began experimenting with interactive technologies and the potential of animated scores to "conduct" performances of their compositions. A group recital last weekend, hosted by experimental folk singer Kria Brekkan at Brooklyn gallery Secret Project Robot saw the execution of several different pieces in which musical instructions, rendered as simple kinetic forms, emanated in real time from a video projector for viewing by both ensemble and audience. Each piece treated the passing of time as a stroll horizontally or vertically across the score, usually with a fixed point designated as the cue for performers to make sound.

Gudmundur Steinn's "Volma" referenced the graphical interface of studio recording software, while Asgeirsson's "Talfall" featured multiple strings of descending numerical values cascading along parabolic pathways. As each number disappeared off the bottom of the screen, a Hestbak member plunked its corresponding note on a piano, enabling a variety of casual rhythms and harmonies.

Performance of "Talfall" (Photo by Lisa Corson)

Perhaps "Hvitasuo" by Pall Ivan Pallson demonstrated the direct potential of video scoring most effectively to the uninitiated. Before the piece, Pallson distributed plastic party cups and instructed the audience members on how to position them in accordance to the length of slowly scrolling points in a projected diagram. Then came the sound: a relentless swath of pure white noise, which morphed differently for each individual in relation to the distance of the cups to his/her ears.

Audience during "Hvitasuo" (Photo by Lisa Corson)

While projected scores are nothing new to the experimental music community, graphic dataflow software like Max/MSP (and its free counterpart used by Hestbak members, Pd ...

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Make Way on the Dance Floor

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San Francisco is a city with a rich legacy of blending live performance and experiments with technology. For the last eight years, the Women on the Way festival has been a part of that tradition. Organized by the aptly-named Footloose organization, whose emphasis is on emerging and established women artists, the festival celebrates dance as a form of collaborative expression within a community and has adventurously embraced new media as a component of these expressions. The WOW festival is an annual highlight of those efforts, and this year it will bring to San Francisco an ensemble of talented artists. Throughout the month of January, sound artist Sean Clute and choreographer Pauline Jennings's dance company, Double Vision, is presenting two interactive performances, "Cycle" and "Three Canons and Mise en Scenes". On January 18, Laetitia Sonami and Les Stuck will present an intermedia performance entitled The Appearance of Silence, (The Invention of Perspective). Stuck is a sound and video artist who has collaborated with a number of notable performers and Sonami is a multi-talented composer, dancer, choreographer, and installation artist. Their project refers to the ways in which perspectivalism, as an invented way of seeing, is thrown off by new technologies that arguably flatten our depth of field. The piece will use the body's relation to a series of abstract sounds to tell the story of fidelity in vision and music. At center stage will be Sonami's famous "lady glove," a midi-studded black lycra glove whose sensors respond to movement with sound, creating a dynamic push/pull relationship between the dancer and her score. Video and sound excerpts on Sonami's website chart the evolution of these experiments in her work. - Marisa Olson

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Continuing Education for Dead Adults

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The next program in Rhizome's New Silent Series at the New Museum, Continuing Education for Dead Adults presents three multi-media performances that riff off youth pop culture and its long-term consequences. East Coast collective Paper Rad premieres new videos, including Problem Solvers (20 min, 2008) and a short entitled crank dat spongebob batman dropdead robocop (3 min, 2008) which, in the group's words, is a "3-minute terror-ride through the online world of youtube show-offs." New York artist Ben Coonley presents a new performance entitled Kindred Spirits is the Working Title, (15 min, 2008) and Providence-based experimental band Wizardzz (featuring members of Lightning Bolt) will perform in front of a mesmeric animated tapestry. Tickets available here.

Friday, Jan. 11, 7:00 PM
the New Museum, New York, NY
$8 general public, $6 Members (Rhizome and New Museum)

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