Monday, July 30, 2012

Collage/Wulf at Inglewood Library

Alan Nakagawa's Ear Meal podcasts are a fascinating document of the diverse individuals that comprise the experimental music world of Los Angeles. Per usual, the significance of that archive will probably not be fully grasped except in hindsight.

Collage Ensemble, which Nakagawa was heavily involved in, did their final performance on April 7, 2012. They collaborated with the wulf to organize a collection of cool performances in and around the Inglewood Library.

Those performances were documented in two 30 minute videos that broadcast on Ear Meal. You can see/hear an excerpt of my "Solo For Casio Keyboards, Accordion, and Chimes" at the beginning of Part 2 (alas, I cut the accordion from the piece) .

Watch PART 1
Watch PART 2

 "On April 7, 2012, Collage Ensemble Inc. coordinated it’s last project. The event took place at the iconic Inglewood Main Library designed by Charles Luckman. The event included three components. One was a visual arts exhibit in the main library hall including works by Steve Roden, Mona Kasra, Jeffrey James Mohr and Alan Nakagawa. Two, in the Waddingham Lecture Hall, films by Madison Brookshire and Rick Bahto were screened. And, Three, a series of sound works were performed live outside the library and civic center area. The film screening and sound performances were curated by the wulf. The visual arts exhibit included former Collage Ensemble Inc. members. It was a day of excitement and mixed emotions concluding Collage’s 28 years in existence."

Performers include: Joseph Beribak, Matt Barbier, Evan Spacht, Rick Bahto, Christine Tavolacci, Daniel Corral, James Klopfleisch, Casey Anderson, Heather Lockie, Ezra Buchla, Eric KM Clark, Betsy Rettig, Jake Rosenzweig, Stephanie Smith, Liam Mooney, and Michael Winter

Friday, July 27, 2012


If you are in LA this weekend, I strongly suggest coming down to REDCAT tonight (7/27) or tomorrow (7/28) to experience Opera Povera's staging of Pauling Oliveros' For Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation!

I will be playing accordion and conducting an amazing sextet of musicians including Eric KM Clark, David Tranchina, Christine Tavolacci, Erin Breen Armstrong, Chris Kallmyer, and Matt Barbier. On top of that, operatic soprano Julianna Snapper and performer Carolyn Shoemaker will interact with the otherworldly staging of Opera Povera artistic director Sean Griffin, including an offstage 7-person choir, various electronics, gravity-defying furniture, child actors, and much more.

It is all part of the first week of REDCAT's NOW Festival, which also includes work by Poor Dog Group and Susan Simpson. Last night's opening sold out, so get your tickets ASAP!

And if you are kind enough to let us bask in your imminent opulence, consider checking out Sean Griffin's US Projects fundraiser. Every dollar pledged will be matched by the Cheswatyr Music Commissioning Fund!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Multiple Personality Reunion Tour

Guy Klucevsek is a monster of an accordionist. His combination of solid accordion technique and forward-thinking tendencies is unusual; in my experience, accordionists of such old-school virtuosity rarely have much interest in experimental music whatsoever. 

In contrast, Klucevsek has worked with people like John Zorn, Christian Marclay, Anthony Braxton, and Burt BacharachHis newest CD, The Multiple Personality Reunion Tour, seems aptly titled. Though thoroughly Eurocentric, the diversity of styles represented here reflects the sort of musical schizophrenia described in Trevor Dunn's essay, "For and Against Technique."

The arrangements show a Morricone-like orchestrational openness that only amplifies the impressive affect of the virtuosity involved. The exuberance of the 7/8 opener "Breathless and Bewildered" is amplified by the banjo doubling the melody, just as the xylophone in "Waltz for Sandy" is a welcome timbral diversion following what is my favorite virtuosic display of the album. 

"Gimme a Minute Please (My Sequins Are Showing)" reminds me of Allesandro Allesandroni's Preludietto (a track and album I love), while "Larsong" recalls Klucevsek's Well-Tampered Accordion.

The highlight in "Ratatatatouille" is again in the arrangement - a well orchestrated build that peaks with choral "aah's" reminiscent of Collage, 70's Estonian ensemble.

The second half of the album sees Klucevsek backed by the infamous Brave Combo. Though all of these tunes are stellar, "O'O" stands out as a surprisingly straightforward tune, full of organ swells and Martin Denny-ish bird calls (interspersed with high, subtle accordion clusters).

Guy Klucevsek's music is simultaneously an homage to and a subversion of musical traditions. The Multiple Personality Reunion Tour is a stunning album steeped in the widespread roots of the accordion, and it becomes quickly apparent that it is a topic Klucevsek knows a little something about.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Puppets in June

The last few weeks of June were filled with puppetry on both sides of LA. June 22-23 at Highways, Leslie Gray and Triumvirate Pi premiered Maudit, the story of artist Jeanne H├ębuterne. June 29-July 1 saw the premiere of Star by Erik Ehn, which was also the inaugural piece in Automata's new Chinatown home.

Modi's funeral from Maudit, by Leslie Gray
Though varying drastically in content, there were strong similarities between the two pieces. For example, both pieces used their entire space, with Bunraku-ish puppeteering and bouts of acting.

Written and directed by Leslie GrayMaudit took the form of a dialogue between artist H├ębuterne and the unborn child she took with her to her death. There were many transformations of scale and media. Four foot puppets became shadows on the wall, flags became mothers, small rags became children, and hats became artists. Picture frames were also a prominent visual element, as were masks. Exciting moments were when the processi were revealed, showing, for example, how a simple flag could be folded to become a living, talking person.

Crescent and a canid patron, from Star
While Maudit seemed to be an auteuristic venture, Star felt more like a collaborative effort. Star is a part of Ehn's Soulographie, a cycle of seventeen plays about genocide. Sibyl O'Malley's dramaturgy led the charge, with techno-psychedelic video by DanRae Wilson, music by Eric Lindley, and lighting by Kristy Baltezore. Caitlin Lainoff led the 6-person cast of puppeteers as Crescent, the main character, whose abstracted racial justice took the form of poison-laced coffee she served at her Starbucks workplace (with a special cameo by a Tony Millionaire-ish whale creature).

Star, directed by Katie Shook, marked the opening of Janie Geiser and Susan Simpson's new Automata space on Chung King Plaza. It's their first permanent home since Manual Archives closed in 2009.