Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Concert Review: Deep Listening Band, Town Hall, Seattle, 1/15/2011

Deep Listening Band, a picture from their website.

I got there thirty minutes late, due to traffic revisions, unavailability of parking, and a general snafu about Interstate 5 (plus I started from home late to begin with…). According to the man at the door, I got the last ticket… I made my way in quietly, and sat in the back. The surround sound of the multiple speakers all around the hall made it so that where I sat had virtually no effect on my listening experience.

What follows is not a conventional concert review. The improvisatory, stream of consciousness, ambient and environmental nature of the music makes that impossible. Instead, this will be a “nonsense” poem in the manner of Finnegan’s Wake. I’m no James Joyce, but I’ve attempted to write similar material before, including one of the texts in “Discarded Poems” (the “technique” for composing this word salad is rather like aleatory/improvisational music, involving random chance and intuition).

Pointillistic sputtering,trombone, voice and left, center left, edge of downtown. righaccorion is tunedt. Oscillating dr diverse music, arts one (likthe deep listeninge siren but slower). Voldifferent from preparedume grows. Drone resolvesfrozen imDownstairs at Townprovisation, said into harmonics, multiphonrepresented in deepics (buzz) on trombonics. Wlong revereration time busy schedule ofooshes are last vestiges of speach performer arspeutters. Drone only now, seven limit system very beautiful “environmenleft hand andtal” sound. Minor key, dramany more instrumentsone on tonic; trombone onwe improvise together 3rd, 4th, 5th, generous (outinner) spaces and flat 7th. Influential unifying presence. Bell sounds from… where? Adjustable didgeridoo made Tintinnabulation. Bird caarrived at Sea-Taclls, from… where? (Electrand found metalonic glissando upwards.) October (1998). After Bells, bass trombone, diwhistling that providedgeridoo effect, low regiwas very darkster on piano. Fade to s45 second reverberationilence. Wavesounds (trafThe recording enginesix two-story columnser, fic outside), audience coavailable at theno religious symbolismughs, then silence.

“We’re going to take a short 15-minute break, or maybe a long 15-minute break.”

Surround piano – one noearly up, andte, 7th on tromHousehomed in anombone, 2nd was very darkand major 3rd long blockbeautiful voicedmocracy and ise andof Steve Reichian soundcistern available for. Fades, trombone mutes, iWe stayed atntrodumany of Seattle's ces minor 2nds, disquiet and helpedsonance, microtones, vocarecording studio! al “doogah!” byon the cornerpianwere all sist. Dissolves into pogreat depth toints and sputters, randsimontaneously by allom notes and noises. Toy anianessential processmals (all thbusy schedule ofree players, pianispace, in effect, ist first) digital sounds (anfoot diameter spaced listening devicesqueaks) from these jointed PVC pipetoys produce humorous mishleft handculture center itandmash when processed right and scalisten intensely tottered, space sounds, ironically nrepresented in Deepo irony! Teletuon Eighth Avenuebbies. Bye bye! (riall three composerssing notintonation). Fracentral dome menbrought along althoughts of children’s songs. Nowin the Great Halstrident, algood suggestions for(four)most gagaku. Clicks and clatters, stAl todoock sci-fi “filk”, duck-calls, mothe nhood of distingext daynightkeys, vocalisms, howls. Blwell handles whistlingow through conch shover the last ll, use edge to performingconch shell as percussion (compcomposers. The instrumentstutter scatters sounelaborate window treatmentd, adds pitto one anotherches). Loud! Wave of white noisand attentiveness differente, recedes, leavinfor conversion intog didgeridoo onAs we improvilectures, meetings, andse trombone, tranquility – then (Messiaen) aphand. The voice,ocalyptic bass trombone snintermingle to make ort. Slowamphitheater-style seating of rhythm, movea collective music. s to behind audience (accordion tunacoustic resonance of organization and relies ed differently from intimate, curved, amphitheater-other instruments), betrying to seecomes free jazz. Pianist plays bell, comand off toputer scatters bell sound, acabfor dozens oflats for ecoround onec twodds threees, (shar)pitches, bell becommany more intenstrumentses maspace to manyny bells in different retransformative spatial modulations, gisters. Quiet! Tone clustarps, cleaning toolters indiverse music, artshighest registthe big dayer of piano again First Hill neighborhood, st chordrochanged by interactionne and bells, fades. Silence. End.

If anyone could read all of that, they’d realize that the music made by Pauline Oliveros (accordon), Stuart Dempster (trombone) and David Gamper (piano) – collectively called Deep Listening Band – is improvisational, and in this concert, augmented by live surround-sound computer processing. A single note (or effect) played by one player resulted in a refractive cavalcade of echoes from all directions, often changing in pitch. The result was alternately meditative or chaotic (sometimes both at the same time!). There was a humorous moment when they played toys as instruments: the squeaks, digital noises, bye-bye!s, and whistles from stuffed animals, teletubbies, etc., joined into the computerized soundscape. The concert was in Seattle’s historic Town Hall, a former church, which has distinctive architecture.

Matter-of-fact descriptions like that are okay, but the stream-of-consciousness “nonsense” fits the nature and ambiance of the music much better.

(This posting is on 1/19/2011; 125 days until the first performance of the complete "StormSound" Cycle.)

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