Thollem McDonas is one of the more imaginative performers to make regular visits to the Bay Area in pursuit of “bleeding edge” avant-garde performances, whether they involve improvisation, playing from scores, or some combination of the two (such as when graphic scores are involved). I first encountered him in the summer of 2014 when he led a workshop on collaboration and improvisation for the 13th Annual Outsound New Music Summit. About a year ago, he came to San Francisco as half of the Silver Ochre duo (the other half being videographer ACVilla); and the two of them presented a “progress report” of their Who Are US 2016 project. According to my records, the last time he was here was to play a solo piano set at the Outsound Presents SIMM (Static Illusion Methodical Madness) Series this past November.
Next month McDonas will return to present a “double memorial” concert at The Lab. He will perform two works written to honor the recent deaths of two of the major influences on current avant-garde practices, Pauline Oliveros, who died on November 24 of last year, and Stefano Scodanibbio, an Italian composer who died in Cuernavaca on January 8, 2012. McDonas will be joined by three of our major local musicians, all of whom should be familiar to those who follow “bleeding edge” activities: Gino Robair, Lisa Mezzacappa, and Christina Stanley.
The title of the Oliveros memorial is “Trio Music Minus One,” a wistful reminder of how Oliveros could be as adept in her wordplay as she could be in her music-making projects. True to the title, the piece is a duo that McDonas will perform with Robair. Both performers will play on instruments with electronic enhancement, Robair on a drum set augmented by electronics and McDonas at the keyboard with analog effects. The score evokes Oliveros’ interest in sonic spaces; and the “Minus One” suggests that the trio is completed by her spirit.
Scodanibbio will be remembered through a performance of “Evolutions For Stefano.” The piece grew out of a series of structured improvisations that McDonas performed with Scodanibbio in 2010, playing on Claude Debussy’s piano at the musée Labenche in Brive-la-Gaillarde in France. Before he died Scodanibbio invited McDonas to realize those structures with three Italian string players at a festival in Macerata in central Italy. Because those structures were now enduring beyond their initial role in 2010, this may have been when McDonas attached the title “Evolutions for Stefano.” On this occasion the structures will be realized as a trio, with McDonas playing with Mezzacappa on bass and Stanley on violin (and possibly vocalizing).
This performance will begin at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 13. The Lab is located in the Mission at 2948 16th Street. The venue is on the south side of the street, a short walk east of the corner of Mission Street. This location is particularly good for those using public transportation, since that corner provides bus stops for both north-south and east-west travel as well as a BART station. General admission will be $15, and members of The Lab will be admitted at no charge. Doors will open at 8 p.m.; and, because demand tends to be high, advance registration is highly recommended. Members can register through their login Web page, while others can use the guest registration Web page.