Saturday, April 14, 2018

Friday the Thirteenth with Other Minds

Last night I returned to the ODC Theatre for another dose of Other Minds’ Festival 23, Sound Poetry: The Wages of Syntax. The concert was offered as, according to the program book, an “antidote for triskaidekaphobia,” since it was being held on a notoriously auspicious Friday the Thirteenth. The title for last night’s offering was Good Luck With/On/For/In/At.

The program itself offered an assortment of different approaches to sound poetry. Enzo Minarelli gave recitations of his own work, having given the Italian Futurists their due this past Wednesday; but he presented his delivery against a setting of film projections. The final set of the evening, taken by the Festival’s Artistic Director Charles Amirkhanian involved both live and taped recitation, also involving projections, this time of videos provided by his colleague Carol Law. Amy X Neuburg interleaved recitation with both song and instrumental performance, all managed through digital control hardware; and the program began with tape music by Mark Applebaum.

The critical benchmark for performance last night was clarity of diction. Once again Minarelli delivered the most impressive account, particularly since most of the time he was speaking Italian, this time without the benefit of the projected scores provided for his Futurist readings. Instead, the presence of projected film led the attentive listener into the spirit of his texts, even if that listener only knew how to follow Italian in a text sheet, preferably one also providing English translation.

In Applebaum’s case clarity was achieved through the deft management of four audio channels. His piece was a suite entitled Three Unlikely Corporate Sponsorships. For those whose primary source of entertainment is television, the piece could also have been called The Revenge of the Mad Men. As most of us know, television advertising has become a mother lode of creative design, editing, and, quite frequently, processing by advanced technology. Applebaum used those same tricks of the trade to bite the hand that was feeding his inspiration. The result was delightfully comic but also thoroughly engaging for the attentive listener, even during those few occasions of minor flaws in the text itself.

Those familiar with Neuburg’s work know that she is an “all-purpose” vocalist. Nevertheless, her approach to narration tended to fall short of the mark, in both content and delivery, more often than one would have liked. This may just be a matter of personal taste; but I, for one, would have preferred more of her singing voice over much of her speaking. Using sampling techniques, she delivered a stunning account of a Sacred Harp hymn, structured in canon form and delivered with her providing all four voices. For my own money, that was worth the price of admission to her set.

One of Carol Law’s images for Charles Amirkhanian’s recitation of “History of Collage” (courtesy of Other Minds)

Amirkhanian closed out the evening by revisiting sound poems he had originally broadcast on KPFA., Those days predated my arrival in the Bay Area; so, for me, these were “first contact,” rather than retrospective, encounters. These proved to be as engaging as Applebaum’s tapes; and they involved “live performance” to boot. Whether or not they (or, for that matter, any of the other works performed last night) had anything to do with luck, good or bad, could be left entirely to the judgement of the individual listener.

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