Anka Draugelates in the poster for last night’s concert (courtesy of C4NM)
The HUSH Series, curated by Julia Ogrydziak at the Center for New Music (C4NM), presents concerts that explore sound as meditation. Last night’s offering featured a visit from Germany by Anka Draugelates, a vocalist that accompanies herself on viola. She was joined by dancer and choreographer Kilta Rainprechter, also from Germany. Draugelates presented a one-hour program entitled “im Fluß der Zeit” (in the river of time) in which the two of them performed with local artist Cheryl E. Leonard, playing primarily instruments of her own invention, punctuated with sampled sounds from natural sources.
As the series title suggests, the performance was one of subtle quietude. Draugelates’ vocal selections probably came from folk sources, one of which was in English; but it is entirely possible that she was also experimenting with sonorities at the syllabic level. She tended to use the viola to provide a sustained and subdued continuo, often suggesting the steady sonorities one often encounters in Hardanger fiddle music.
Leonard contrasted Draugelates’ approach to pitch with sounds from more natural sources. This included bowing physical objects, such as pieces of driftwood “planted” in a base of sand. (Draugelates also prepared several wind chimes, that appeared to be made of driftwood often in the shape of bones, unless they were bones in the shape of driftwood.)
While Leonard tended to focus on those natural sound qualities, one of her more impressive constructions took a unique approach to pitched tones. A glass vessel with a hole in the bottom deposited a stream of sand on a glass plate fitted with a concrete microphone. Those with some knowledge of physics know that such flat surfaces have a geometry of nodal points that induce vibrations at different frequencies. Thus, when the vessel changed position, the pitch of the sand bouncing off of the plate varied; and Leonard eventually let the vessel swing freely, providing a “natural melodic line.”
To borrow wording from Clive Barnes, Rainprechter danced through the sonic environment created by the seemingly independent efforts of Draugelates and Leonard. Near the beginning of the performance, she also added to the sounds when Draugelates suspended a wind chime on each of her elbow joints. She supported these instruments with impeccable balance, providing an intriguing instance of the creation of music arising from human movement.
The entire performance took place in most of the area of the C4NM performing space. Chairs for the audience were set up around the periphery, but the performing area itself was a large one. As a result each member of the audience had a preferred, but limited, view. Given the impressive array of objects and electronics that Leonard had prepared, I naturally biased my own view in that direction. This had little impact on Draugelates, whose own music-making had penetratingly distinctive qualities. On the other hand I was not in the best of positions to follow Rainprechter and therefore exercised my own personal bias for the sonic elements of the performance. Others would have come away with entirely different impressions of the overall experience.
Ogrydziak describes the concerts in her series as giving “a space and a moment to breathe in a hectic world.” Clearly, a one-hour performance occupies more than “a moment.” Nevertheless, where an artist like Draugelates is concerned, it is not difficult to abandon any personal sense of clock-time and let things unfold at their own pace. The sense of retreat from “a hectic world” still maintains; and all it took was walking out the front door of C4NM onto Taylor Street to appreciate the virtues of the intimate serenity of Draugelates’ offering last night.