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Friday, November 13, 2009

Music for 16 Futurists: The Future Sounds Like an Electric toothbrush

As a performer my agenda is to transform "play" and childhood wonder into an equal opportunity art form. This year's visual arts performance festival PERFORMA 09 legitimizes this play and packages it into bite size morsels.

The 2009 commission: Music for 16 Futurists - Noise Intoners (intonarumori)asked modern composers and performers; including Elliot Sharp, Ulrich Krieger, Mike Patton and Tony Conrad to create new pieces based off the compositions of Italian futurist painter Luigi Russolo. The compositions featured a range of structured and improvised sonic playgrounds in which the sound of revving engines, mechanical toothbrushes, bees buzzing, tension cranks, and hums melded to create a landscape of mechanical chanting. Russolo's quote, "There is no such thing as silence," proved especially true as I continuously felt the need to add my own chair squeaks, sighs and occasional cellphone vibrations to the pieces. My fidgeting and scratching added texture while the constant whispers in between pieces extended each performance.

My favorite portion of the evening included Ulrich Krieger's Back to the Future, California or what I like to call "Nervous Breakdown w Pocket Trumpet." The piece was silly and manic, engaging the audience to participate in what seemed like an argument we could never win. The audience felt helpless as Krieger hurled insults and irrational logic. After the fact I realized that yelling back would have been completely acceptable and probably written into the actual score.

The audience was also composed of Bushwick performers I recognized but don't actually know ie. "The Boy With the Wedding Dress and the Tiara" whose performances I have randomly sabotaged (in a good way). I was hoping he would have feigned some exasperation at some point in the night and demanded his place on stage.

Overall, the performances were pretty conservative if not a bit boring for my taste. As a re-creationist recital it was a success and I appreciate the opportunity to hear Russolo's instruments as they were originally meant to be experienced.

However, my recommendations for a more forward thinking performance would have been to ritualistically burn the instruments; branding them as the underlying framework of our mechano/industrial past. We should learn the techniques in order to forget them and become more intuitive as performers.

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