Monday, June 28, 2010

Concert Review: Gust Burns (piano) & Tyler Wilcox (saxophone) with Seattle Improvisers; Chapel Performance Space, 6/25/2010

This was not so much a concert as it was the fulfillment of the possibilities presented in aleatory music and silence – the sounds presented (whether or not they were made by the musicians) perfectly fit with the time and place that they were made.

This was not so much a concert as a jam session – there were only about twelve chairs set out for the audience, and most of them were occupied by musicians who played in at least one piece in the concert.

They obviously weren’t expecting an audience, and it looks like they didn’t do much advertising. Pity, in a way; this kind of music needs to be moved out of “the fringe” and into the mainstream. Making more people aware of it would be a start.

On the other hand, too large of an audience would have sabotaged it. This is music that needs to be heard one-on-one; one or two musicians to one audience member. Direct communication, nothing held back by player or listener, with no outside interference.

Or actually, everything held back, with all outside interference. The music is one or two notes, understated, almost unsaid, against silence. The silence is part of the music. The outside is part of the silence. The outside is part of the music. The windows were open; sounds from outside of the performance space drifted in – mingled with, interpenetrated, commented on the sounds played on stage. And vice versa.

And always, there was that silence. Different kinds of silence, in fact, made different by the sounds that framed them.

They played, altogether, six pieces. The first was an “overlong” duet for saxophone (Tyler) and piano (Gust). Gust played the entire piece by rubbing his fingers quickly and repeatedly downward on rosined wooden dowels pressed against the piano’s sounding board, producing a sound that was basically white noise but included a hint of the blending of many dimly audible notes.

1. Silence. Airplanes pass over. Silence.
2. Rubbing dowel in piano. Breathing sounds from sax. Silence.
3. Traffic in the distance. Silence.
4. Rubbing dowel in different places in the piano. Quiet drone from sax; screeching overtones (barely audible) blend into airplane passing over. Silence.
5. Harley wolf-howls in the distance. Rubbing of dowel in piano again, letting it bump against the sounding board briefly. Silence.
6. Sax removes mouthpiece. Makes no sound for two minutes, then a short set of exhalations. Silence.
7. Footsteps outside, voices, birds. Silence.
8. Sax plays a set of overtones, with circular breathing. Dowel makes a short set of “hiccoughs”. Silence.
9. Sax and dowel sounds more frequent, fragmented, then scattered. Outside sounds continue: airplanes, traffic, birds, voices. Silence.

It was difficult to tell where it had ended (though it had been nearly an hour); the continuous faint outside sounds had become enough of the “performed” music that I got the impression that it was still continuing, would still continue, was, in fact, all of the continuing sounds and silence that were being made anywhere.

I didn’t want to applaud. It would destroy the silence.

There was a brief break; then they played the other five pieces. These were continuations in the same vein, always the sounds and the silence that were indistinguishable from each other (only one piece, a solo by Gust on the piano keys, had a couple sections of faster notes).

This was the other side of silence; these were sounds that were quieter than silence. This was a new form of silence. This was a new form of beauty.

These pieces were part of a series played by the same musicians. Gust told me afterwards that they play in an ongoing set, once a week, at Gallery 1412 in Seattle.

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