Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Long Tone Choir Contends with Adverse Conditions

This afternoon at the Center for New Music (C4NM), Rae Diamond returned with her Long Tone Choir to present a program prepared for the HUSH Series curated by Julia Ogrydziak. This program marked the launch of Ogrydziak’s series. It consisted of a single full-length piece, summer 1: insects, the second of a five-part series of what Diamond calls “performance installations.” Diamond has planned the entire series to explore the cycle of the seasons. This event marked the return of Diamond and her vocalists to C4NM, since they had previously contributed to a performance of Danny Clay’s “Turntable Drawing No. 25” at the beginning of last month.

summer 1: insects is an “installation” in a sprit somewhat similar to John Luther Adams’ “Inuksuit,” which was performed yesterday afternoon. However, while Adams’ performers migrate to their respective “stations” and remain there for the duration of the composition, Diamond and her fellow singers migrate from one station to another as the piece unfolds. Each station consists of a sculpture that Diamond designed to suggest (but not explicitly denote) an insect; and hanging from the sculpture is a sheet of instructions to the vocalist.

The vocalists migrate from one station to another. There are no constraints on how long they remain at any station. However, once a direction, clockwise or counterclockwise, has been set, all performers must follow the order of the individual stations. Instructions may involve sound qualities, phonemic constraints, or, in two cases, specific words (“summer” and “ice”). The two-hour duration of the piece is marked at the half-way point with an invitation to members of the audience to join the choir; and the program provided a full sheet of instructions (which were not particularly complicated).

Ogrydziak conceived of HUSH as an opportunity to present a series of programs, each of which explored one of more aspects of sound as meditation. One could quickly apprehend the meditative qualities of summer 1: insects, as well as the focus that each of the performers brought to following the “rules of execution.” Unfortunately, there was a major disturbance that severely inhibited the ability of the audience to accept the intended meditative qualities. Several photographers had been enlisted to document the occasion; and, while their physical presence was not particularly disruptive, none of them seem to have appreciated that the latest technology advances in digital cameras no longer simulate the noise made by “old-school” physical shutters.

Thus, while it was easy enough to settle into Diamond’s particular approach to establishing a rhetoric of quietude, that quietude would be shattered by camera noise right about the time that the listener was buying into the effect Diamond was trying to achieve. As a result, the invitation to participate at the half-way mark felt more than a little questionable. Speaking strictly for myself, had I settled into the environment that Diamond had created during the first hour, I probably would have felt prepared to contribute when called upon to do so. Sadly, the photographers were too successful in undermining my ability to embrace either the theory or the practice behind Diamond’s work. Hopefully, she will be able to perform this piece again in a more conducive setting.

1 comment:

Julia said...

Stephen, Thanks for coming to the Long Tone Choir concert and writing such a thoughtful review. I appreciate your feedback regarding the camera light and sound. I hope you will give the series another try sometime, and I promise a more meditative environment for future concerts. - Julia (the curator)