In our new column, VIDEODRONE, one of our favorite artists shares five videos that they've been watching lately. Our first guest is NY-based multimedia artist, percussionist, and composer Eli Keszler, who recently released Catching Net, a compilation of takes on his installation-based piece Cold Pin, on PAN, and is a Finalist for the 2012 Gaudeamus International Composers Award. Eli chose five videos with one common thread: experimentalism in music.
Looking at these clips as a unit, I've tried to come up with a connection between them, and it seems that they all have a certain physical nature to them--sometimes more bodily, sometimes more ethereal. It's that way of negotiating real situations, real life, and real material that interests me most. Sometimes it has to do with sound itself; other times it has to do more with the role of someone performing-- the act of sitting down and playing, or alternatively dealing with the realities of life. Either way, all of this work below means something different, but strikes at the core issue.
Gyorgy Ligeti: Continuum
The fact that Gyorgy Ligeti conceived this in response to the harpsichord is what's most impressive. It's hard to imagine that this is the sound of one harpsichord, and the way the piece shifts over time is unique. Ligeti has a deeply routed freedom in whatever he does, jumping from one instrumentation and style to another. His inclusiveness and ability to see connections is what is most exciting. He takes these truly disparate forces-- melody and pure sound, arrhythmic motifs and motor rhythm-- and somehow fits them all together like no one else possibly could.
Morton Feldman: Piano and Orchestra
I was lucky enough to see this piece at Carnegie Hall this year, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. It's an amazing piece, with unexpected dynamic leaps along the way. Feldman manages to create beautiful terrains in his work that somehow maintain a grit and a realness to them that is nearly impossible to account for. When things get too pretty, and start to move in the sentimental direction, he strikes hard and surprises everyone around him-- even the performers, I imagine. The piano tones bouncing off the orchestra's sustain is something special.
McCarthy's music hits on some sort of core-- it's raw, physical, and intense. This documentary is a unique talk on McCarthy's work by the artist himself. He honestly critiques his own work and you learn a lot about his process.
Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley Duo: 1995 Performance at The Knitting Factory
These are two of my favorite musicians, and I've come back many times to this live video. Tony Oxley seems to move backward while everyone else moves forward on the drum set. As a duo, he and Derek Bailey manage to play as a unit in a way that defies your expectations, having developed a sonic vocabulary that has as much to do with their symbiosis as a duo as it does the history of their instruments. They shade each other's playing, and weave in and out in a way that blurs what's what.
Alvin Lucier: Music for Piano and Oscillators
Lucier's pieces for oscillator and other instruments are particularly beautiful to me. It's hard to pick a favorite. They are slow-moving and morphing gems of sound, bringing out deep beating patterns and harmonics where you'd least expect to find them. Rather than sit in just the "pretty" registers, he moves into uncomfortable places sonically, shifting sustain away from drone or excess and into something closer to pure and uninhibited sound. His ability to conjure so much magic from such little material is truly virtuosic, understated, and powerful all at once.