Program notes for the New Music Circle Showcase – Five Innovative Artists at Steinberg Auditorium, Washington University, Saint Louis, MO on December 10th, 2010:
A kaleidoscope without any objects inside (glass beads, cellophane, etc.) that allows in reflections of the view outside of itself is called a teleidoscope. Either way, whether the views are within it or beyond it, both can potentially create beautiful shapes with seemingly endless variations by simply fragmenting and folding the vantage, as is their unique ability. The results contain abstractions of familiar and common elements, except that the process of slicing, shuffling, and rearranging can bring out stunning possibilities.
Mozart's Don Giovanni featured three different ensembles playing different pieces at different tempos simultaneously. Several other composers, such as Biber and Mahler, also wrote pieces which attempted to give the impression of multiple works happening at the same time, either by happening atop each other, by abruptly interrupting one another, or by one coming to the fore as another fades away (as in Ives' Central Park In The Dark, where it was used to recreate the sound of walking through the city).
Early in the 19th century, the Cubists - having Braque and Picasso as leaders (both of whom later went on to develop and name "collage" as a painting technique) - and the Futurists each set out to represent it's subjects not from a single-point perspective at a fixed time, but from multiple vantages in space and time simultaneously, as if the viewer were surrounding it always and compressing numerous views and moments towards a singular one.
In Hollywood there is a popular effect called "bullet-time" (named for the prevalent examples of a gun being fired and time suddenly slowing to allow the camera to pan around the bullet in mid-shot, as used in The Matrix films and such similar eye candy). Of course, filmmakers have often manipulated playback speed and direction and used frequent cuts and edits to better guide our comprehension, emotion, or excitement through a scene.
If witnessing an object nearing the event horizon of a black hole, a viewer would notice the object appearing to behave more slowly until finally being seemingly suspended in time, a time dilation caused by the increasing gravitational pull actually sucking the very image inward. Nothing, including any matter (the object) or light (the image of the object), can ever return once it reaches the event horizon. From outside, objects would appear frozen in time until gradually fading into the singularity, a point at the center of a black hole with zero volume and infinite density, as it contains all of the mass that has entered it. Despite what the viewer might see, however, the object would actually be splayed and pulverized before it's own matter crushes in on itself as it is compressed into the singularity. Within the radiating glow of the accretion disc is a point so small as to be nothing, but so heavy that it may as well be everything.
For obvious reasons, religions the world over have represented the godhead with an eye (a ring of brilliant color around a black hole that nothing can escape from); something that sees and knows all, including all of the past and the future, at all times. Some believe in a creator who conjured everything from nothing and looks upon the creation from afar. Others have considered that everything was made of a creator and that all things are a part of it and it a part of all things; all vantages and times perpetually of it and therefore each other, as it would be within a singularity. Either way, whether the views are within it or beyond it, both can potentially create beautiful shapes with seemingly endless variations by simply fragmenting and folding the vantage, as is their unique ability.
Year-end list for Eleven Magazine December/January 2015:
TIMES I CRIED IN THE LAST YEAR by Eric Hall
1. I don’t remember if I cried when I found out that Karen had passed away after a 13-year battle with cancer, but I know I usually do not; not right away. I wasn’t able to get a last-minute flight to New York at the height of last year’s holiday season, so I didn’t get to be with her partner Mike and other friends and family to celebrate her. While I do not dance, Karen never accepted that and frequently made me dance anyways, so I went to Blank Space for Motown On Mondays and I danced with her there, then I cried.
2. Shortly after midnight on a Sunday morning in 2010, seven-year-old Aiyana was sleeping on a living room couch. Detroit SWAT fired a flash grenade into the living room, which set fire to the blanket Aiyana was under. As her grandmother ran to help her, a reality-show cop busted into the front door and fired a single shot into the head of Aiyana. He claimed the grandmother grabbed the gun and it discharged. After two mistrials and the list of charges being gradually shaved away, the officer ultimately avoided a third trial at the beginning of this year when prosecutors dropped the final charge against him. Re-reading the case, especially the grandmother’s testimony, and knowing that there would be no more trials, it was impossible for me not to cry.
3. When Anne died in a house fire while tending to her father, I was numb to it for a bit. I know my head drifted to thoughts of her over and over again (I sat with one shoe on and the other in my hand for ten minutes before work the next day, lost in an internal process), but it wasn’t until the ad hoc memorial, which was supposed to be a concert of hers, that it sank in. There were nothing but friends around that evening and everyone held each other up and openly laughed and wept together. When I saw Adam and recognized the shock and sorrow he was facing, I hugged him and cried, and then again with JJ, then Larry and Misty, probably another time or two before leaving, and certainly on the way home with Dana and Joyce.
4. My little sister Anna got married over the summer. I DJed the reception and got there before the ceremony to set up speakers. Before any of the guests had arrived, I went to change into my suit and, in the midst of the activities of rushing caterers and detailers, I saw Anna in her dress. I’m sure she and her friends could see it welling up under my face, but I didn’t actually cry until I was alone in the dressing room.
5. A couple of years ago, Nicole and Jason’s baby Dio lived in a soft, synthetic nest due to being too fragile for this world. She was connected to various beeping and ticking monitors giving real-time reports of her heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and other physiological systems in order to gauge her comfort — these machines communicated how she was feeling. While Katy and I visited, I leaned in and lightly rubbed the tops of Dio’s fingers as she held one of mine and her monitors indicated how relaxed she became to hear my voice tell her how lucky I felt to meet her and how much I loved her. Later, Jason sat beside her as she held his finger and he put his face close to hers. In a voice barely as loud as a whisper and stumbling slightly over a catch in the throat, he sang “You Are My Sunshine” softly for her, though everyone in the room was eased. The rhythms of the monitors slowed, Dio was drifting to sleep, and, in the company of that family, I felt something I’ll never be able to explain, exactly: so much absolute love, fear, gratitude, sadness, frailty, loss, beauty, and outrage; all at once. That experience is frozen in my mind as the epitome of love and will hopefully guide me around life’s disappointments. I didn’t mean to think of it while staring out of a train window at a Northern California sunrise last month, but it will always make me cry if I sit with it for more than a moment.
6. Recalling and articulating the experiences for this list made me cry twice.
Eleven Magazine, Saint Louis, MO - July, 2014 by Eric Hall
Jon Mueller (Death Blues) / Darin Gray & Ghost Ice / Demonlover at The William A Kerr Foundation on July 14th, 2014
Percussionist Jon Mueller had earned significant accolades with his previous bands Pele and Collections Of Colonies Of Bees and continues to with his current band Volcano Choir, which includes additional members from Collections Of Colonies Of Bees and All Tiny Creatures, plus Justin Vernon (otherwise known on several Kanye West tracks simply as Bon Ivor, which is the band he famously leads). However, some of his most exploratory work has been done on his own or in more sporadic collaborations. Having long-since proved his worth as a solid, graceful drummer with his more traditional outfits, when he steps outside of those he often moves into Sound Art territory and up-ends what it even means to most to be a drummer. Utilizing electro-acoustics and extended techniques, Mueller might, for example, coax sustained drones from a drum head amplified by a speaker feeding back onto itself or slowly build an alarm bell clatter from a battery-powered fan against a cymbal. Many pieces are studies that use only a few objects and get deep into their individual potential. These works tend to have profound tactility and an up-close clarity, but also exist in palpable sonic spaces.
Led by Mueller, Death Blues is at least a band, but also a broader ideology that may manifest in any medium imaginable. It's multi-sensory offerings thus far include not only musical performances, but essays, videos, dance, and images, though these concepts might well find their audience by way of most any other form of expression or interaction as the inspirations arise. Death Blues is about death in as much as the Fire Department is about fire; it's a process to keep death at bay. Musically speaking, Death Blues has no specific heritage or genre, but frequently takes form as a minimalist, primordial rock energy that ascends gradually over itself with shifting micro-momentum, extending each present pattern / moment into a concentrated vitality. The intention is to interrupt the blur of life's inevitable sequence of haphazard heres and nows and share a potent focus on the RIGHTHERERIGHTFUCKINGNOW. It's simultaneously trance-inducing and also sense-sharpening, emphasizing the slight variations and nuances within it's repetitions. It's a metronomic riff that sneaks around your periphery, wraps around you, and eases you into the middle of it and then up with it into a frozen time.
Those who are only aware of Darin Gray through his consistent and close orbit of the Wilco camp - live sit-ins with Loose Fur (Jeff Tweedy, Glenn Kotche, and Jim O'Rourke), several of O'Rourke's song-based Drag City releases (which also frequently rely on Tweedy and Kotche), On Fillmore (his longstanding duo with Kotche that toured with NPR's Radiolab Live last year), and currently as a member of the Tweedy & son project TWEEDY - know good and well that he has style and chops, same as Mueller, though there's a remarkably different player inside of him, as well; one that would not only surprise someone only familiar with those projects, but would surely surprise everyone with any traditional expectations of how his instrument is fundamentally played. Also a maestro of extended technique, Gray comes at every surface of his double bass with objects selected over several years of exploration to release previously unheard voices from it: gongs, wires, bamboo, rubber balls, kalimbas, chains, and rods are threaded between the strings, pulled over the worn wooden contours, and wedged against the bridge, while sometimes a rubber hose is lowered into a sound hole and connected to his lungs by way of a trumpet mouthpiece, allowing him to breath long drones through the instrument's resonant chamber. These are further shaped by pedals that loop and contort the sounds. Anyone can just clang some shit together and muster accidental sounds from an instrument, and maybe more people should, but, in the hands of an artist with decades of development and dedication, the creaks, cries, rumbles, and whines are painted around each other in a beautiful and powerfully engaging way.
Instead of enjoying a few days of downtime from the current TWEEDY tour, Gray will be red-eyeing in especially for this show, where he'll pair-up with Ghost Ice, a scarcely-documented shaman of gestural and astral electronics. The equipment he uses changes often; sometimes it’s analogue synths, tapes, microphones, or an old organ, but the personality of the performance is consistent and succinct. There’s the building impression each time that he may be restraining an inner spirit to keep it from busting out of him or may be trying to grab elusive spectres from the æther to channel their energies. Whatever it is, performing music on electronics rarely has the kind of physicality and expressiveness that he employs. A Darin Gray / Ghost Ice duo is a chance to witness two varied artists swirl their individual sensibilities together.
Once upon a time, a band called Theodore created what many felt was some of the most beloved music possible. Not too far from Americana or folk, but somehow not too far from psychedelic noise and even punk, either, the four multi-instrumentalists in Theodore had sparse, beautiful songs that were layered over the tastiest sonic beds around. When one of it's members got pulled away to commit to a more refined project, the remaining members erupted forth as Demonlover, taking the vast musical ingredients of their previous band and rubbing them all through a grater over heaps of Kraut, Tropicália, jazz, and sludge jams. They can shift directions like they're pulling ideas out of a hat, but they're each accomplished and tuned-in with each other enough to pull it off. It's a wholly unpredictable, therefore always exciting, project.
The William A Kerr Foundation (21 O'Fallon St., Saint Louis, MO 63102) - the event's setting itself - is the other star of this show. It's a modern, eco-focused, multi-tiered structure with an open layout and great acoustics, but it's the location, being on the edge of a barely-occupied cluster of warehouses on the bank of the Mississippi River just North of The Arch, that finally seals the other-worldliness of this event. It is truly a must-see. Things probably won't be the same for you afterwards.
Program notes for New Music Circle Sun Ra Tribute show on May 10th, 2013:
Ritus Ascensio Recta (Dedicated to Sun Ra) - for Trinity Piano Trio (violin, cello, and piano) and live electronics.
A mixture of the visual symmetry of the early-Christian painted depictions of the Ascension of Jesus and the right ascension orbital patterns of Saturn's three largest moons: Titan, Rhea, and Iapetus.
"No, and you never will again," Herman Sonny Blout once replied to an Alabama judge who told him, "I've never seen a nigger like you before," during his jail sentencing for refusing to accept a draft calling due to a testicular hernia. Soon after, a member of Saturn's Angel Race named Sun Rainhabited Blout's body on Earth with intentions of sharing Afrofuturistic interstellar consciousness through music.