Carl Stone premiered Fujiken at the Electric Lodge in Venice. It is the first in a series called Alternate Currents, curated by West side new music maven, Daniel Rothman.
The 4-channel piece was presented in the Electric Lodge's front dance studio, while a play ran in their main theatre. Fujiken mixed field recordings and pre-existing music from Southeast Asia with live processing that made me think of an augmented reality version of a Sublime Frequencies album. As with Sublime Frequencies recordings, there can be a voyeuristic feeling of sonic tourism in pieces like this, which can be a refreshing journey for the right mindset. I love listening to vocalists in languages I don't speak, so I can appreciate the musicality of their voices without the added semantic layers. Stone's usage of a multitude of voices in languages I couldn't understand reminded me of my own travels in Southeast Asia.
Fujiken was a very episodic experience, and I could imagine it making a fantastic album. The opening snippets of conversation (I assume in Japanese) set the tone for the rest of the piece. I imagined some sort of taxi transaction, with the rest of the music being the requested trip. Also apropos to a travel analogy, the sound began in one of the four speakers, slowly expanding and contracting through the remaining three.
After the initial snippets of conversation, we were treated to what sounded like a 60's Cambodian song, which was eventually processed and looped in a style reminiscent of Terry Riley's You're NoGood. Other audio verité included children practicing Kendo, a fire breaking out in a street, someone vacuuming, and what sounded like a street vendor's monotone sales pitch. This last one transitioned wonderfully into a female singer's looped ethereal vocals, just one of several moments that brought a William Gibson-esque notion of augmented reality to mind.
The percentage of the concert that involved unprocessed (or very subtly/skillfully processed) field recordings was higher than I expected, but this was not at all negative. They were very interesting, personable recordings, especially in the wash of traffic sounds that is such a soundmark of LA. There was an interesting moment when the tables turned and the audible crowd sounds were from people exiting the play in Electric Lodge's main theatre, while the sound from the speakers was rather quiet. I always feel that a Cage-like blurring of music/sound distinctions is a key part of listening to field recordings, so this external stimulus was appreciated.
Carl Stone will present Fujiken at three other California performances in March: 03/04 in Claremont, 03/08 in Berkeley, and 03/14 in San Diego. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and suggest hearing it in it's 4-channel glory if you get the chance.
It occurred to me that if I travel west of the 405 to hear a concert, there is an approximately 85% chance it's one curated by Daniel Rothman. The next show he'll be presenting is Ulrich Krieger at Beyond Baroque on February 23.