Pauline Oliveros Deep Listening Band, Winter Garden,World Financial Center, NYC
Oliveros on accordion.
Stuart Demspter on trombone, conch shell, didgeridoos.
David Gamper on piano overtone flute, computer sound processing.
The World Financial Center is an expensive shopping mall next to the WTC site, across the West Side Highway. The Winter Garden is a large glassed-in space overlooking the Hudson. 70% of it was destroyed in the attack and rebuilt. An odd space to hear music.
Fairly elaborate sound system. Multiple monitors and speakers set through the room.
All the players played through laptops using Gamper’s processing software EIS -- Expanded Instrument System, which seemed to be a sampling and delay transformation program, feeding altered versions of what was being played back into the PA. It never sounded delay-y, where the exact phase can be immediately heard. It was more like chunks of the music slowly braking off and going into orbit around the audience.
The music was very gentle. It was built up patiently and slowly. There was a constantly changing drone over and under which things would happen. The role of drone sustainer was passed around between the players and computer as the concert went on. It sounded largely improvisational, though with definite parameters for instrumentation and sections.
Great to see a band of older players rocking the house. Dempster at one point used a plastic aspirin bottle as a percussion instrument, turning the lid. It was a found instrument but I couldn’t help wondering if it was also a playful commentary on aging?
Beautifully controlled simple long tone intervals on the trombone. Very powerful. The way in which these phrases worked in the overall field of sound made me think of Leo Smith’s rhythm unit playing, where independent phrase groups happen with equal proportions of silence between them.
Occasionally I would fear that the whole thing was going to veer into a new age thing but it never quite did.
Dissonances, rumblings and contortions. Challenging music set in a bed a very accessible sound. One could imagine a tangerine dream fan digging this, though perhaps being a little freaked out by it too.
The computer feedback -- if you can call it that, it was more like a forth player -- tended to be winningly jumbled, circling around in the mix. It was obvious after twenty minutes or so that the music was inviting us to walk around the space to hear it from different angles, which people started to do as the concert went on.
Oliveros played a huge 120 bass just intonation accordion. Accordion seems like an additional organ added to the body, second set of lungs or a component of a space suit. She switched between short, elastic tone clusters, simple interval sequences and drones. She also played through a volume pedal, and would sometimes play a sequence with the volume completely down that would enter only into the computer processes mix. At first Katie and I were sitting in front, where it was easer to see the decisions the musicians were making. Later we were in the back, where it was all but impossible to tell what was a source sound and what was computer feedback, and, I suppose, also irrelevant.
It was hard not to think of the concert as being a response to the Sept 11 attacks. At one point the silly rotating blue stars being projected on the screen behind the players morphed into shapes that looked like explosions, fire and dust.
Amazing that the music succeeded in occupying and transforming this extreme corporate / consumerist space.
The overall band sound was aleotorically welcoming. Distant conversation, a baby crying, etc. all sounded good with it.
After it was over, the music extended to the traffic swish on the West Side Highway and the rumble and screech of the 1/9 line.