Gordon Mumma and Robin Hayward at DNK

I had just read a new text by Douglas Kahn in which he refers to works by Gordon Mumma, so the programming of a tape piece by Mumma at DNK came at exactly the right time. It was a cold night, and at 22.00 there were still only about 7 people: exceptionally quiet for a DNK concert. It might have been the cold, it might have been the promise of a tape piece. Martijn Tellinga did a short eloquent introduction and played Mumma’s Megaton for William Burroughs. I do not know why he chose that particular piece, but it was nice. Sometimes harsh sounds, also very beautiful spatializations over two speakers. And then something strange happened in the sound, a soft knock, a sound that sounded like a very cautious footstep. I had my eyes closed so I didn’t see anything. It happened a few times more. When after a while I opened my eyes I saw that the light behind the curtains had come on. After the piece was over – it ends with a recording of a drummer playing a steady rhythm on cymbals – it turned out that about nine people had been let in, through the entrance behind the curtains, to not disturb. Seamus Cater wasn’t amused, and it did destroy some of the enjoyment of the piece, but in a sense, it was quite funny – most of the nine behind the curtains were regular DNK-visitors, and I couldn’t be mad at them.

After the break it was Robin Haywards, solo on tuba. I’ve hear him a few times before – never solo – and you know you’re in for very quiet, intens music. I love the sound of the tuba, and sometimes I find myself craving for ‘some real tuba’ by Hayward (I can image that he can produce beautifull conventional tones on the tuba too). Hayward focusses exclusively on the ‘other’ sounds of the tuba, the breath, air through the tube without producing a note, flurries, noises, using circular breathing. He played 4 pieces (or imporvisations), in the first two he focussed on the noises and breathing, in the third one he did make a tone, or almost. He produced amongst others flurries of notes that sounded like, yeah what, the membrane of a loudspeaker moving physically, flabbing, producing both a tone, external noises and some overtones (?), all at the same time, and he build a pulse from that. I was impressed more than ever before by his playing. There are vast unexplored worlds in very soft sounds. The fourth piece – he was already playing for quite a long time, much longer than I’d anticipated – was cut off by someone leaving. He took that as the call to stop. It was late already.

DNK,music | December 15, 2009 | 20:37 | comments (0) |

Mike Majkowski at DNK

Last monday there was a double bill featuring the young Australian bass-player Mike Majkowski. His playing is stunning and subtle. In both the solo performance and in the group with Laura Altman (clarinet), Yolando Uriz (piccolo) and Angel Faraldo (computer) he focusses on textures, mostly playing with the bow, though he is capable of producing a full bodied bass sound too. Also the group improvisations are focussed on creating refined textures of bass, clarinet and flutes, with the computersounds sometimes dominating a bit (though in the last piece we got a very nice low bass from the laptop which fitted perfectly). Concentrating, deep listening, textures. They announced that they finally had come up with a name for their group, but I’m afraid I forgot what it is (I do remember it was a combination of their initials). Good concert. I don’t know many bassplayers with such a command of extended and alternative techniques.

DNK,en,music | December 8, 2009 | 18:26 | comments (0) |

The Pitch at DNK

I missed a few DNK-concerts in the past weeks. I had either a job to finish on a monday night, or I was ill, or both. But yesterday I was there to witness a performance of The Pitch. As I know Koen Nutters personally, I was well aware of the existence of this group. They’ve been rehearsing for a while now, whenever all of them could be in Berlin. These weeks they’re on a tour through Europe, and arrived at what to me feels as ‘homebase’. In The Pitch Morten Olsen plays vibraphone, Koen Nutters double bass, Michael Thieke clarinet and finally there’s Boris Baltschun who plays a small 1950s pump organ. (Is it a pump organ? They list it as such).

On a French site I read the term ‘deep acoustic’ to describe their music, and I find that quite fitting. The Pitch play structured improvisations that lead to music which is simply beautiful. The music only changes slowly, it is a layering of pitches. A note from the organ, a bowed note from the bass, a bowed note and a soft repeated single note from the vibraphone (or maybe one motif), and a note from the clarinet: it weaves a ‘tapestry’ which indeed is sometimes remininiscent of Feldman (the one influence they mention). I liked it, especially the one real drone piece, in which the sounds really seemed to take off. (Well, that’s what happens during a good drone). In that piece it almost became impossible to distinghuish exactly from which instruments which sounds were coming, and the spatial aspect of the sound (sound creating the space) was foregrounded even more. There is not a lot of tension in this music – or no tension at all even (though it never is boring). It is simple, and simply beautiful. The intention seems to be to create a soundspace in which one (player and listener) can simple ‘be’ for a certain amount of time. Also as a listener I am quite into exploring such an area.

After the applause for the last piece, the musicians retired backstage. Half a minute of silence followed and almost nobody got up to get drinks. Three people began to applaud again, the rest of the audience followed. In the concentrated and restrained atmosphere of DNK, The Pitch played an encore.

DNK,en,music | December 1, 2009 | 20:28 | comments (0) |

DNK 2: Australian / Swiss noise

The second of hopefully a series of rambling reviews of DNK-events, in which I will not try hard to stick to rules of good journalism, so there might be run-on sentences and you might stumble upon completely unrelated or irrelevant observations. Not to mention the spelling mistakes. Served here FYI.

[Oh, all the things you promise yourself to do. You really need perseverance, a bit of time, some stubborness, and a bit of being blind and deaf to other obligations, to keep those promises. Even quickly writing a few lines takes me more time than I’m willing to admit.]

I missed the second monday-concert of the 2009/2010 DNK-season which featured a solo performance by Kouhei Matsunaga and a reprise of the Avelãs-octet. Alas I also missed the DNK Local Noise! Night at the OCCII, with no less than seven acts, a.o. Brian McKenna, Johann Kauth and of course Andre Avelãs. Luckily I did make it to the jam-packed Australian night with a high profile program of 4 acts. I’ll give you my impressions here, and some reflections.

It started off with some straight-in-your-face hyperactive structured noise made by Australian composer/pianist Anthony Pateras on analogue stuff, and long-bearded Robin Fox on digital stuff. Though it was mostly impossible to discern which sounds exactly were made by whom, there was an element of dialogue, or maybe struggle, that made the flow of shrieks and noises interesting to listen to, apart from the element of constant discovery.

As if this was not enough (in volume and intensity), the Swiss saxophonist Antoine Chessex, started with presenting a true wall of noise, a hurricane blowing at the audience, generated by a massive distortion and heavy amplification of breathing into his tenorsax and sampled loops of it. I’ve hear Chessex before at DNK, and at the previous concert he started playing acoustically, and made a very captivating use of space and the contrast between amplified and non-amplified sounds. His approach starts where Brötzmann (and others) ended, he gives a new meaning to the tenor as an enormous “fog horn” sounding in from the sea. Chessex takes the most extreme elements of the “Machine Gun-tenor-approach”, and works wth them in a compositional way. (Also working with the space of sound). Standing waves (?) almost made the whole room vibrate and he sometimes blew almost inaudible on top of that. Reminiscent of Merzbow at its best. He ended with suddenly turning off all amplification and effects, and playing acoustically in the curtains. Then end. Again very impressive.

(Coming to think of it, it came close to what the grindcore band God was doing. I’ve heard them at Paradiso early nineties, the complete audience left, apart about 10 people, and at some point M., a friend of mine, held his ear in front of Tim Hodginkson’s sax and could not hear the sax-sound, although Hodginkson was blowing at the top of his lungs. But with God it was as if it was a case of badly balanced sound, here it was clear that it all sounded as intended).

The third set was a solo by Robin Fox, using laser. For me it was the second laser-performance in 4 days, and though there is always an initial sense of wonder on seeing the 3D-illusion, this set disappointed a bit. Or I should say that seeing Robin Fox, made clear how subtle, and complex LSP of Edwin van der Heide is, how much larger his repertoire and idiom is. Fox ony used one laser beam and no color. His mapping of sound to laser was rather dull in comparasion to Edwin van der Heide. It would have been fine for ten or fifteen minutes max, but the longer he played, the more it became apparant that the translation to laser of his improvised noise also took away the interestingness of the sound. On the other hand: the audience seemed to love it. Oh, and of course the fire alarm went off during the performance.

The night ended with the duo that I was most curious to hear: Pateras on piano with Max Kohane on drums. PIVIXKI is an ultra high energy piano-drums duo, spitting out ADHD metal-licks and condensed freejazz motives. Naked City in its hardcore-phase, only possibly more intense. There’s not one second rest, and after ten minutes of playing both are sweating ‘like hell’. The only negative thing I could say about it was that it was programmed as the last act: I was already too tired to enjoy it fully, intensely.

DNK,en,music | October 16, 2009 | 14:22 | comments (0) |

DNK 1: Anecdotal Music

The first of hopefully a series of rambling reviews of DNK-events, in which I will not try hard to stick to rules of good journalism, so there might be run-on sentences and you might stumble upon completely unrelated or irrelevant observations. Not to mention the spelling mistakes. Served here FYI.

The first time I heard Seamus Cater’s songs from his Anecdotal Music project he played solo, singing and playing the Fender Rhodes. That was earlier this year at OT301. I liked it a lot, which came as a mild surprise as I am not a big fan of singer songwriter stuff. I do like songs as a literary genre though (it’s more the whole pop-thing and the oh-hear-me-and-my-small-world-personal-troubles that turns me off). Seamus takes the song as a literary genre, and objectivates the form for instance by using the first person which is not ‘Seamus Cater’ but a third person (another artist, for instance Bas Jan Ader). Also he’s rather reaching back to ballads and folk music than to pop. (On the other hand: the singer behind the piano is immediately ‘pop’. Probably I can only take that from Seamus Cater.)

For the opening concert of DNK Seamus Cater focussed on songs about whaling and performed in trio with Viljam Nybacka on drums (yes, not on bass guitar) and Fritz Welch from the New York outfit Peeeeseye on percussion. Actually one could say it was a quartet as twice over a record player was turned on to play a whaling song from an old record.

I forget now which record it was, but it had Peggy (?) Seeger playing the banjo, and also that made my heart beat faster as it was very nice banjo playing, and I like banjo playing even more since I’ve started to play a four string tenor banjo in Irish tuning.

Seamus Cater has been researching whaling songs and other whaling material – including Moby Dick of course – and that lead to new songs. It is again a way of working with material from elsewhere. ‘Anecdotal music’ is as much a program about songs, reflecting on them, as a concert at which songs are played. I like that tension.

At DNK it was a concentrated concert, with an audience (of about 80) listening attentively to the songs. There was some fine ukulele playing by Viljam, ongoing percussive additions by Fritz Welch, and quite a bit harmonica playing by Seamus. I assume that in form and format it refers just as much to all the younger and weirder singer songwriter that I something read about (but hardly ever listen to – I’m sticking to the ‘real hardcore banjo-players’ from the 1930s now). It ended with a song from the record player about whaling in the waters of Greenland.

Together with the lecture-performance of artist Yolande Harris – she presented, a bit nervous, her current research into bio-acoustics and under-water-hearing, showing some bits from her work in progress, referring of course to Alvin Lucier.

It was a non-ordinary and pleasant way to start the DNK-season. Who starts the season of a concert series with a lecture-performance? But what would you have expected? In two weeks it’ll be MOHA!

See: http://www.dnk-amsterdam.com

DNK,en,music | September 17, 2009 | 11:07 | comments (0) |
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