Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ai WeiWei documentary series at University of Washington: Oct 29 - Nov 2

This week's statement in the New Yorker acted as a reminder that Ai WeiWei had withdrawn from the opening of his retrospective at The Hirshhorn Museum as he's still yet to be allowed his travel Visa from China, and subsequently didn't participate in this year's New Yorker Festival as well. And where we don't get WeiWei himself stateside, we do get more of his art in the form of the University of Washington hosting 5 of his rarely screened films from the retrospective curated by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts earlier this summer. The university screening marks only the second time they've been shown in the states. I'm most anticipating "Disturbing the Peace" and it's exploration of the Sichuan earthquake, the corruption that led to poor building construction and the deaths of thousands including 512 Wenchuan students. As well as the docu on the otherworldly modern development that is the Kangbashi New Area of Ordos City in "Ordos 100" designed to fit a plan co-plotted by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei choreographing 100 architects from 27 countries in their collective creation of a 1000-square-meter villa at the center of the city. Many of us know Ordos from this fantastic anomaly designed by MAD Architects.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"1962": Ligeti, Xenakis, Tenney, Feldman, Riley, Brown, Scelsi & John Cage at Seattle Symphony & Frye Art Museum: Oct 19 & 21 Olivier Messiaen "Turangalîla" Jan 31 & Feb 2

A lot is going on mid-October here in the way of Modern Classical. Foremost in my mind is the "1962" concert by that most progressive of modern ensembles ICE, performing with the Seattle Symphony. We've not seen something of this caliber/focus since the demise of Seattle Symphony's brilliant "Music of Our Time" seasonal showcase. By this evidence, the symphony's new conductor, Ludovic Morlot looks to be making good on his proposed late-night [untitled] Modern Composer chamber series. Funny to see this first installment in celebration of the anniversary of the World's Fair and features work of that year's event hosted here in Seattle. We get a Modernist wormhole back to an time when the avant-experiments of the post-war era rubbed shoulders with popular culture a bit more and our future hadn't yet been resigned to the bipolarism of cynically aggrandized Apocalyptic visions or self aware Retro-Ironic rehashes. Instead the future was the unknown, the challenging, the risk taking, the as-yet-tried and often enough; the iconoclastic. Which is exactly the word I'd use to inclusively describe the work of the composers featured on this bill. Which includes György Ligeti's "Poeme Symphonique for 100 Metronomes", Iannis Xenakis' "Atrées", James Tenney's "Entrance/Exit Music for Tape", John Cage's "Variations III", Morton Feldman's "For Franz Kline", Terry Riley's "Mescaline Mix for Tape", Earle Brown's "Novara" and Giacinto Scelsi's "Khoom". Also of note, the "9pm for a pre-concert performance of Gabriel Prokofiev's Concerto for Turntables and the Orchestra" whatever that entails. Her in-person performing with orchestral accompaniment? Turntablism performance of her work with accompaniment? I guess we'll find out! And while we're here, it's probably wise to look into tickets for the performance of Olivier Messiaen's organ works "Chants d’Oiseaux", "Le Banquet Céleste", "Le Fils Verbe et Lumière from Méditations sur le mystère de la Sainte Trinité" & "Livre du Saint-Sacrement" coming next January and at the end of that same month Messiaen's massive (exceedingly rare in it's performance) symphonic work, "Turangalîla".

All of that alone is more modern works at the Seattle Symphony than we've seen cumulatively over the course of the past half-decade, and yet, there's more! In recognition of this year's John Cage Centennial the 1962 concert contains Cage's "Variations III" coming at the end of a month of events/celebrations throughout September, reaching almost fever-pitch the week of his Birthday. These Cagean events continue into October with the Frye Art Museum presenting Jarrad Powell's performance of Cage's 4'33'' followed by Film Comment's Robert Horton hosting a lecture and screening of Elliot Caplan's "Cage/Cunningham". The documentary, filmed over the course of 8 years, explores the totality of their 50 year collaboration as friend, composer and choreographer. Depicting two of the 20th Century's great moderns through performances, rehearsals, interviews by them and their cohorts and contemporaries including Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Nam June Paik, Carolyn Brown, David Tudor and other luminaries of the Abstract Expressionist, Minimalism and Fluxus movements. Continuing into November, the most significant of the Cage festivities this Fall, Seattle Modern Orchestra make his centennial the focus of their seasonal performance at Chapel Performance Space, with their own one-night John Cage Festival. From the Frye: "The Frye Art Museum celebrates the 100th birthday of composer John Cage (1912-1992) with a special program of music and film demonstrating ways this genius composer/artist/essayist revolutionized music, art, and performance. Cage lived in Seattle from fall 1938 through spring 1940 where he composed and worked at Cornish College of the Arts as a dance accompanist and teacher. The program begins with a performance by Jarrad Powell of 4’33” (1952), Cage’s most well-known and controversial work. Powell is a composer, professor of composition at Cornish College of the Arts, and director of the ensemble Gamelan Pacifica. He fondly remembers walking the beach at Deception Pass with Cage to gather stones for the composition Ryoangi. "Following the performance, film critic Robert Horton hosts a screening of films that introduce the wide-ranging work of Cage and his circle. Highlights include a groundbreaking television appearance and candid footage of Cage with choreographer Merce Cunningham and other luminaries whose profound influence on post-war twentieth-century music and art still resonates today."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Jaap Blonk “Polyphtong” & "YappiScope" | Earshot Jazz Festival: Oct 12 - Nov 4

October marks the return of Earshot Jazz Festival, which confoundingly, last year I didn't attend at all for the first time in almost two decades. This year though is a different story. Most notably we get the experimental improviser, video artist, sound-poet and all-around-madman that is Dutch voice virtuoso Jaap Blonk performing his own multichannel “Polyphtong” and DaDaist visionary Kurt Schwitters’ “Ursonate”. Should be an invigorating, ridiculous, energetic, cathartic night! Complimenting Blonk's performance at Chapel is the Northwest Film Forum's ongoing festival collaboration hosting a second performance by Blonk of "YappiScope" containing excerpts and recreations spanning the totality of his creative career. Which I can't even attempt to describe, so I'm going to leave that to Northwest Film Forum: "YappiScope contains an overview of Jaap's oeuvre, including "projected scores" of his sound poems with simultaneous live performance. These veritable vocal steeplechases include visuals generated in real time by live sounds, new short videos, a live improvised sound track to a silent abstract film, a live improvised sound track to an historic surrealist film, a beautiful multi-media work entitled Traces of Speech, and  the incredible sounds produced with Jaap's "cheek synthesizer" technique, seen in extreme close-up" Also in Earshot, there's the return of Philip Glass to Seattle after his "Music With Friends" series at Issue Project Room earlier this Summer. Performing here as a trio with African kora virtuoso Foday Musa Suso and percussionist Adam Rudolph, having previously worked with Glass on his score for Godfrey Reggio's "Powaqatsi". ECM's Nik Bärtsch and his Ronin Ensemble bringing a sound a good bit more intense than the usual ECM fare. Peter Brotzmann and Ken Vandermark collaborator, percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani in a duo with avant-violist Eyvind Kang and the long-running pianist's outfit the Matthew Shipp Trio and Trio X with Joe McPhee, Dominic Duval and Jay Rosen are among the the highlights I found in this year's calendar. As Fall rolls around this year, nice to find I'll be attending Earshot again!
Photo credit: Geof Huth

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lubomyr Melnyk at Chapel Performance Space: Oct 23 / Faust US Tour: Oct 14 - 20

Two significant, diametrically disparate and exceedingly rare performances come to town his month! The first being the return of one of the more phenomenal piano performances I've seen in my life. Lubomyr Melnyk's last appearance at Chapel Performance Space was a rapturous cascade of hyper-dynamic tonalities, timbres and physicality. Producing some of the most bewilderingly gorgeous sonic 'scapes I've heard originate from an acoustic instrument, of any kind. His is a music similar to the long-form Indian Ragas of La Monte Young or Terry Riley, but taking the unceasing density of Charlemagne Palestine and wedding it with a repetitive pattern-based minimalism/maximalism akin to the more adventurous Steve Reich or Philip Glass and bending those forms to the service of tonal, harmonious, beauty. Yes, I'd classify this one as unmissable, whether seen here or New York later this month. But don't take my word for it, here's Melnyk exploring his approach from earlier this year on the BBC. As described in the video, his self-pioneered 'Continuous Music' makes for a fascinating read and lends some insight into the performance and it's technique, first represented on his 1978 release "KMH: Piano Music in a Continuous Mode". From Wayward Music Series: "Canadian composer and pianist Lubomyr Melnyk is the pioneer of Continuous Music - a piano technique he has developed since the 1970s that uses extremely rapid notes and note-series to create a rich, pulsating tapestry of sound. The technique of mastering his complex patterns and speeds makes his music difficult for the normal pianist, and the kinetic athleticism of Melnyk's performance is unparalleled. Inspired by the minimal, phase and pattern musics of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Terry Riley, yet frustrated by the ecstatic detachment from reality they can encourage, Melnyk created Continuous Music, based in the innovations of the minimalist composers but with its roots more deeply planted in harmony. Overtones blend or clash according to the harmonic changes. His first record, KMH: Piano Music in the Continuous Mode (Music Gallery Editions, 1978) was the fruition of the idea he began developing in 1974."

At quite the other end of the musical spectrum, the return of legendary (infamous? Ha.) Krautrock adventurers Faust back on the west coast for the first time after nearly two decades of various tours and incarnations throughout Europe. By incarnations, I mean the Faust(s) plural that now exist. After Jean-Hervé Péron, Zappi W. Diermaier, Geraldine Swayne and James Johnston took a major core of the original lineup and continued on their path with "C'est Com...Com...Compliqué" and this year's "Something Dirty" on Germany's home to all things Krautrock and Kosmische (check their recent Conrad Schnitzler and Kluster reissues for reference), Bureau B. While Hans Joachim Irmler Lars Paukstat, Steven W. Lobdell, Michael Stoll and Jan Fride as a second group, of the same name, released the albums  "Patchwork" and "Faust is Last" simultaneously under their incarnation. Confusing enough? Good. Faust would have it no other way. They apparently would have it no other way than to play a dinky, run-down venue again, that's likely to sell out. Just like the did back in 1994 when they delivered that most unforgettable performance at the Off Ramp the week of my birthday. Power-drilled pianos, DaDa-esque antics and all. Expect equal madness to ensue later this month with their fusion of motoric rhythms, Krautrock grooves, power tools, performance theater and the total abolishment of the 'Fourth Wall'.
Photo credit: Kristin Svanæs

Friday, October 5, 2012

Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors" Trilogy at SIFF Cinema: Oct 15 - 18

The same year as Criterion's release of their brilliant (overdue!) remastered Blu-Ray box set we get those very prints at SIFF of one of the defining works of European cinema from the late 20th Century. What many consider to be Krzysztof Kieslowski's ultimate realization in all of his filmography of tales of synchronicity, lives lived, loss, love and time. Almost reaching melodrama pitch in this one yet always reigning in the 'magic realism' just short of the fantastical, fairy-tale, or idealistic, the balance tread in the complexity of ambiguous moral tales from his "Dekalog" is narrowed in scope and refined in it's emotional precision in these, the last of Kieslowski's films. Significant to this trilogy, the cinematography of Piotr Sobocinski and scores by Zbigniew Preisner (his Requiem for Kieslowski most recently heard in Malick's "Tree of Life") both longtime collaborators. To set the stage for our return to Krzysztof's vitally political, moralistic, sensorial, emotional, richly populated, synchronicitous world, here's the Mubi Notebook entry of earlier this year and let's revisit the DAUNTING coverage from last year in the pages of The Guardian UK. From SIFF: "This bold cinematic trilogy - a benchmark of contemporary cinema - tells three ambiguously interconnected tales about love and loss with the enigmatic beauty and rich humanity that are the trademarks of Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski. "Blue" stars Juliette Binoche in a devastating performance, "White" features Julie Delpy in a darkly comic love story, "Red" reunites the director with the luminous Irène Jacob ("The Double Life of Véronique")."

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wong Kar-Wai's "In the Mood for Love" on Criterion Blu-Ray: Oct 2

Finally, finally a format that does Wong Kar-Wai's masterpiece justice! Having caught it on it's theatrical release (multiple, multiple times) more than a decade has elapsed since I last felt I was properly witness to the depths of how gorgeous this film is, as DVD and or Streaming, never quite cut it. At last, that 35mm experience has been recreated. Blu-Ray (and a masterful transfer by Criterion) conveying what is simply one of the most beautifully realized, fluidly coherent, visually rich, elegant, achingly romantic, nostalgically elegiac films ever made. Topped my personal Films of the Decade list of the first ten years of the 21st Century, continues to be untouchable to such a degree as to be in a class of it's own. Wong himself will never better this, much less all those who claim it's influence. Ranking as one of only three films in the top 100 from the current century in Sight & Sound's "Greatest Films of All Time" poll and at the time of release meeting with consistently brilliant reviews from the Guardian UK, New York Times and the Village Voice. From the Criterion Collection: "Hong Kong, 1962: Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) and Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung Man-yuk) move into neighboring apartments on the same day. Their encounters are formal and polite - until a discovery about their spouses sparks an intimate bond between them. At once delicately mannered and visually extravagant, Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love is a masterful evocation of romantic longing and fleeting moments. With its aching musical soundtrack and its exquisitely abstract cinematography by Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping-bin, this film has been a major stylistic influence on the past decade of cinema, as well as a milestone in Wong’s redoubtable career."