Project of the Day—We’ve seen a lot of really great stuff at New York’s experimental performance space Issue Project Room, so it was exciting to see them launch Distributed Objects, a publishing imprint that will bring that unique experience directly to your home in the form of records, books and a whole lot more.
Detail of Aki Onda’s cassette memories, at Swedish Energies a night of experimental music put on by Issue Project Room and the Swedish Consulate at Clemente Soto Velez, Suffolk Street, NYC - November 2012
2/4/14 The trio of Michael Snow, Alan Licht and Aki Onda had a rare appearance at Issue Project Room. Snow performed on the CAT synthesizer and piano, with Licht on guitar / effects and Onda on cassette recorders and electronics. The first of two sets had a drony but harsh quality, starting with Onda’s lyrical tweeting of his cassette walkman feedback box which was reminiscent of tweeting birds, but a static quality set in and I was wishing for more modulation and holes in Licht’s feedback manipulation. For the second set Licht strapped on his guitar, rather than leaving it in the stand, and the piece benefited from more air, more piano and an almost lyrical melodic climax. A rare treat and a special evening.
This gentleman was reading Renata Adler’s Speedboat on the Q train to work this morning. You can hear Renata live in the flesh tomorrow at 155 Freeman St., between Manhattan & Franklin Aves in Greenpoint, as part of the Issue Project Room “Littoral” event series, tomorrow at 8 p.m. She’ll be reading from her novels Speedboat and Pitch Dark, and talking with our editor Edwin Frank. If you’ve already read Renata’s books, you’ll know the talk could go something like this:
‘I shouldn’t have come,’ the Englishman said, waving his drink and breathing so heavily at me that I could feel my bangs shift. ‘I have a terrible cold.’ ‘He would probably have married her,’ a voice across the room said, ‘with the exception that he died.’ ‘Well, I am a personality that prefers not to be annoyed.’ ‘We should all prepare ourselves for this eventuality.’ A six-year-old was passing the hors d’oeuvres. The baby, not quite steady on his feet, was hurtling about the room. ‘He’s following me,’ the six-year-old said, in despair. ‘Then lock yourself in the bathroom, dear,’ Inez replied. ‘He always waits outside the door.’ ‘He loves you, dear.’ ‘Well, I don’t like it.’ ‘How I envy you,’ the minister’s wife was saying to a courteous, bearded boy, ‘reading Magic Mountain for the first time.’
With a calendar full of events and its historic Brooklyn building closed for renovation, Issue Project Room is facing a question: How can a performing-arts enterprise continue without a room of its own?
The answer: After a goodbye performance earlier this month—a dance piece patterned after its vaulted space designed by McKim, Mead & White—Issue Project Room is transforming itself, temporarily, into a roaming institution.
The Wall Street Journal’s Andy Battaglia gives a look at ISSUE’s year ahead as we begin renovations and host roving events throughout the city— including our 75th birthday celebration for Tony Conrad this week.
Distributed Objects: Sergei Tcherepnin, Sabisha Friedberg / Peter Edwards
Distributed Objects is the new record label founded by ISSUE Project Room, the organization behind countless experimental music / dance / video performances in NYC for over a decade now, hosting (primarily) at the 110 Livingston building in downtown Brooklyn where I’ve seen a number of my favorite acts perform in the last couple years, including Keiji Haino, Oren Ambarchi, Loren Connors, Yasunao Tone, Kevin Drumm, C Spencer Yeh, Okkyung Lee, Graham Lambkin, Tony Conrad, Alan Licht, Kim Gordon, J Mascis, David Grubbs, Eli Keszler, Elliott Sharp, Stephen O’Malley, Valerio Tricoli, Aki Onda, Ikue Mori, William Basinski, Marina Rosenfeld, and even board-member Steve Buscemi (reading William Burroughs). I’m glad they’re finally getting into releasing records, and that their first two releases are from Brooklyn-based composers with significant careers in sound art installations and performances, but who until now have not had a major record release. These two 2xLPs come in a limited edition of 500 each, beautifully mastered by Rashad Becker.
When I first heard the name Sergei Tcherepnin I confused him for the inventor of the Serge Modular synth, who is in fact Sergei’s uncle Serge Tcherepnin. They are both members of a dynasty of Tcherepnin composers, much like the Bachs and Strausses before them. Like uncle Serge, Sergei is primarily interested in electronics, and has had a strong developing career in sound art, exploring sound transmissions through various physical objects such as floors, light fixtures, wooden subway benches, metal boxes, even the human body itself. The tracks on Quasar ⇔ Lanterns were composed and used as material (in 8-channel format) for a 2009 exhibition with Japanese performance artist Ei Arakawa which explored the subjective experience of sound in a given space, among other themes. The three pieces used in that exhibition became this three-sided LP. Analog synthesizers play a huge role in the sound, focusing in on mid range frequencies. My favorite piece on the record is Side B’s “Sky”, which seems to combine the synth noises with the clustered overtones of the Japanese shō (笙), a free reed instrument I’m currently obsessed with. Side A’s “Quasar (Death)” uses recordings of extended technique on an acoustic bass, which up actually sound like extended technique on trumpet, and Side C’s “Horse” uses the most field recordings of the three tracks, turning the sound of horses’ hooves on stone into something quite visceral, almost like the sound of chewing. It’s the hardest track to listen to, but only because it works so well. Tcherepnin might primarily be a sound artist, but his family’s immersive history in composition has soaked into the essence of his creativity, and these pieces work as time-structures just as well as they do sound experiments.
Much of South Africa-born Sabisha Friedberg's sound art is concerned with and tailored for a specific site or room. Like Quasar ⇔ Lanterns, The Hant Variance was a performance / installation collaboration (with Peter Edwards) which explored audience’s interaction with sound waves in a given space, in this case at one of the studios at Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate NY, a video of which you can view here. Movement 1, Pt. 1 (Side A) sounds like a machine jungle, with buzzing insects, train bells, and army Morse codes, as if it were a combination Philip K. Dick / WWI universe. Pt. 2 of Movement 1 (Side B) is quieter but rumblier with shoegazy synths and disembodied voices. There seem to be human conversations hidden within the rumbles and hallucinatory oscillation loops of Movement 2, Pt. 1 (Side C), coming from down a mile-long hallway. On any speaker system that isn’t a laptop, Movement 2, Pt. 2 (Side D, the highlight of the record for me) will make you physically feel the room you’re in, the bass rumble from the previous two sides taken to the extreme, with oscillators providing an ear-massaging miasma and ghostly haze. It’s the most accurate illustration of what it’s like to experience one of Sabisha’s live installations. It’s of significant note that each side ends with a locked groove. It’s always bothered me that tracks intended to be longer than a single side of vinyl tend to fade out and in across the divide, but the locked out groove (at least in this instance) feels like a perfect solution. Given the nature of the music, it actually takes longer than a few seconds for it to even register that the side is finished, meaning the sound never actually interrupts until you pick up the needle yourself, making for a much more continuous listen, and also serves as a reminder that the work is more importantly space-based than time-based.