Blogs The Green Room Sean Donovan

Season Parallels || Last Year / This Year

Did you see a show at the Walker this past season? Are you wondering which you’d like to see this season? As interns in the department, we had the unique opportunity to see most of the 12-13 season. Taking advantage of this, while hoping to avoid oversimplifying the works too much, we’ve put our heads […]

Did you see a show at the Walker this past season? Are you wondering which you’d like to see this season? As interns in the department, we had the unique opportunity to see most of the 12-13 season. Taking advantage of this, while hoping to avoid oversimplifying the works too much, we’ve put our heads together to find connections between last year’s performances and this year’s. Here’s what we’ve come up with:

(left) The BodyCartography Project. (right) luciana achugar. Photos: Gene Pittman

(left) The BodyCartography Project. (right) luciana achugar. Photos: Gene Pittman

The Bodycartography Project || luciana achugar
The Bodycartography Project’s Super Nature presented movement inspired by animal impulses and human communication– imagine a nature documentary about people. luciana achugar takes a similar approach in OTRO TEATRO, presenting ritualistic gestures and questioning “civilized” movement.

(left) Laurie Anderson. Photo: courtesy of the artist. (right) CocoRosie. Photo: Rodrigo Jardon

(left) Laurie Anderson. Photo: courtesy of the artist. (right) CocoRosie. Photo: Rodrigo Jardon

Laurie Anderson || CocoRosie
With Dirtday!, performance artist Laurie Anderson shared personal stories, charismatic narratives, and she was not afraid to raise important questions related to feminism and contemporary politics. If you enjoyed her mix of music with politically-charged commentary, you’re bound to enjoy the fearlessly imaginative CocoRosie.

(left) Zammuto. Photo: Nick Zammuto. (right) Olga Bell. Photo: Eric Lippe

(left) Zammuto. Photo: Nick Zammuto. (right) Olga Bell. Photo: Eric Lippe

Zammuto + Eluvium || Olga Bell
Last fall, Zammuto brought us an energetic and vibrant music show filled with virtuosic riffs, auto-tuned melodies, and zebra butts. Not only does Olga Bell present an analogous sound, she approaches her performances with a similar creative intensity and playfulness.

(left) Rude Mechs. Photo: Kathi Kacinski. (right) Nature Theater of Oklahoma. Photo: courtesy of the artist

(left) Rude Mechs. Photo: Kathi Kacinski. (right) Nature Theater of Oklahoma. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Rude Mechs || Nature Theater of Oklahoma
Both Rude Mechs and Nature Theater of Oklahoma are rethinking what theater and performance are. Rude Mechs did this in The Method Gun by performing theater games, re-doing a classic, and delving into the method of a fictional acting guru. Nature Theater, instead of focusing its lens onto theater itself, looks at the life of one person from birth to the third grade. Performed through song and dance, every “um” or “like” of this woman’s story is left in. Nature Theater takes a look at speech patterns and how one person’s life, no matter how ordinary, can still be mythical and heroic. If you liked the exciting energy of the Method Gun, check out Nature Theater’s Life and Times: Episode 1.

(left) She She Pop. Photo: Doro Tuch. (right) Wunderbaum /LAPD. Photo: ©Steve Greer

(left) She She Pop. Photo: Doro Tuch. (right) Wunderbaum /LAPD. Photo: ©Steve Greer

She She Pop || Wunderbaum/LAPD
Where She She Pop tackled the real familial issue of inheritance, the performance collaboration between Wunderbaum and LAPD (Los Angeles Poverty Department) tackles the real social issue of healthcare. She She Pop’s Testament used Shakespeare’s King Lear as a starting point to talk about their own very real experiences with their fathers (who also acted on stage). Wunderbaum and LAPD’s Hospital moves between live action and film, fantasy and documentary, and actors and residents of Skid Row (some of whom appear as performers). Both combine personal stories with greater, more universal issues.

(left) Bengolea/Chaignaud/Freitas/Harrell. Photo: Vlovajob Pru. (right) Niwa Gekidan Penino. Photo: ©Shinsuke Suginou

(left) Bengolea/Chaignaud/Freitas/Harrell. Photo: Vlovajob Pru. (right) Niwa Gekidan Penino. Photo: ©Shinsuke Suginou

Bengolea/Chaignaud/Freitas/Harrell || Niwa Gekidan Penino
Raw eggs, drag operettas, and dildo dancers. (M)imosa/Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church (M), from Bengolea/Chaignaud/Freitas/Harrell, was possibly the most provocative and enjoyably confusing performances of the 12-13 season. It embraced a sophisticated cultural sarcasm and challenged notions of sexuality, dance, and pop culture. Like (M)imosa, Niwa Gekidan Penino’s upcoming show, The Room Nobody Knows will likely present a comparable dosage of energetic discomfort, psychological confusion, and unpredictable excitement.

(left) Ben Frost. Photo: Bjarni Grímsson. (right) Tim Hecker/Oneohtrix Point Never. Photo: courtesy the artist

(left) Ben Frost. Photo: Bjarni Grímsson. (right) Tim Hecker/Oneohtrix Point Never. Photo: courtesy the artist

Ben Frost || Tim Hecker/Oneohtrix Point Never
In February, Ben Frost confronted us with a deeply invasive and exhilarating performance filled with incessant rhythms and foreboding sub-bass rumblings. This season presents an equally immersive equivalency: Tim Hecker and Oneohtrix Point Never. Instead of guitar drones, think abstract sound sampling and textural vintage synthesizers. Equally ground-shaking, expect this experience to be hallucinatory, sensory, and body-opening.

(left) Sarah Kirkland Snider and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond). Photo: Murat Eyuboglu. (right) Jherek Bischoff. Photo: Angel Ceballos

(left) Sarah Kirkland Snider and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond). Photo: Murat Eyuboglu. (right) Jherek Bischoff. Photo: Angel Ceballos

My Brightest Diamond || Jherek Bischoff
Last winter, Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond mesmerized the audience with her tender serenades and powerful rock ballads. Willfully charismatic and masterfully polished, she performed emotional and colorful songs full of personal and metaphorical anecdotes. Both Worden and next season’s Jherek Bischoff exercise a compelling tension between classical and popular music traditions.

(left) Cynthia Hopkins. Photo: Ian Douglas. (right) Sam Green/Yo La Tengo. Photo: Sam Allison

(left) Cynthia Hopkins. Photo: Ian Douglas. (right) Sam Green/Yo La Tengo. Photo: Sam Allison

Cynthia Hopkins || Sam Green/Yo La Tengo
Both Hopkins and Green are storytellers. Where This Clement World presented stories about Hopkins’ own experiences in the arctic, The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller brings a documentary to the live stage. Thematically linked, the environmental tones of Hopkins’ World parallel Green and Yo La Tengo’s exploration of the work of inventor, architect, futurist, and proponent of sustainability, Buckminster Fuller. If you like stories melded with music, pick up tickets for The Love Song.

(left) Kyle Abraham. Photo: Cherylynn Tsushima. Jerome Bel/Theater Hora. Photo: courtesy of the artist

(left) Kyle Abraham. Photo: Cherylynn Tsushima. Jerome Bel/Theater Hora. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Kyle Abraham || Jerome Bel/Theater Hora
Although Kyle Abraham and Jerome Bel/Theater Hora come from different backgrounds, Live! The Realest MC and Disabled Theater both explore ideas of identity, perception, and acceptance. Both give raw emotional connections between the stage and audience, have a balance between tension and humor, and give a nod to popular culture.

Learn more about the 13/14 Performing Arts season at Philip Bither’s multimedia Season Preview tonight (September 5) at 7pm.

LISTENING MIX // Grouper

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance. Get acquainted with the pensive sounds of Grouper (Liz Harris) before she performs in the Walker galleries Thursday, May 9. Free and open to the […]

Grouper. Photo: Sean Herman

Grouper. Photo: Sean Herman

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance.

Get acquainted with the pensive sounds of Grouper (Liz Harris) before she performs in the Walker galleries Thursday, May 9. Free and open to the public, these 30-minute performances begin at 6, 7, and 8 pm.

Grouper masterfully layers hypnotic vocal melodies, sorrowful shoe-gazed guitars, and analog drones into a deeply contemplative and expansive listening experience. Her dreamy sound worlds can slow your sense of time way down. This echo-chambered music is emotional and sincerely engaging. Paired with a few Grouper tracks, I filled in the music mix with an atmospheric anthem from Burial, bubbling vocal delays from High Places, and even some “witch house” distortions from SIΔMESE NOIR.

LISTENING MIX // Grouper by Listening Mix on Mixcloud

Grouper / Living Room / 0:0
The Curse of Company / I Have A Simple Life / 2:21
Grouper / Cloud in Places / 4:42
Burial / Forgive / 8:47
Grouper / Water People / 11:54
High Places / Greeting the Light / 16:03
Grouper / Invisible / 18:12
Kria Brekkan / Uterus Water / 22:07
William Basinski / Melancholia XI / 25:31
Grouper / Sick / 26:42
SIΔMESE NOIR / COVER ME / 31:49
Grouper / Come Softly / 33:46
M83 / At the Party / 38:20

LISTENING MIX // Craig Taborn

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview of artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance. Before keyboardist and composer Craig Taborn performs at the Walker this Friday (April 26), get to know his complex and colorful music with this […]

Craig Taborn. Photo: Julien Lagarde

Craig Taborn. Photo: Julien Lagarde

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview of artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance.

Before keyboardist and composer Craig Taborn performs at the Walker this Friday (April 26), get to know his complex and colorful music with this week’s Listening Mix.

Although much of his work has been created in collaboration with other players, I’ve decide to focus on his solo piano pieces. Somewhere between the jazz and classical worlds, Taborn’s piano works display rich harmonies, effective silences, and an acute attention to detail. Many of these ballads create expansive sonic space by use of quartal and tertiary intervals.

To further enrich this playlist, I’ve included piano polyrhythms from contemporary composer David Lang, a bittersweet interlude from Sylvain Chauveau, echoed repetitions from Panda Bear, and more.

LISTENING MIX // Craig Taborn by Listening Mix on Mixcloud

Craig Taborn / Light Made Lighter / 0:0
Sylvain Chauveau / Pour Les Oiseaux / 1:56
Nicolas Jaar / Specters Of The Future / 2:36
Craig Taborn, David Binney, Mark Turner, Thomas Morgan, Dan Weiss / Intro To Toronto / 4:37
lucky dragons / outtake 1 / 8:44
Susumu Yokota / Gekkoh / 12:01
Craig Taborn / Diamond Turning Dream / 17:00
Panda Bear / Scheherezade / 21:17
Craig Taborn / The Broad Day King / 25:12
David Lang / Wed / 31:25
Martyn / Bridge / 36:21

The 2013 Rock the Garden Lineup

The Rock the Garden 2013 Lineup has been announced! On April 16, Mary Lucia and Jim McGuinn (89.3 The Current) with Philip Bither (Walker Art Center) revealed this year’s bands. Here’s who’s playing the festival: 5. Dan Deacon (Baltimore, MD) 4. Low (Duluth, MN) 3. Bob Mould Band (San Francisco, CA) 2. Silversun Pickups (Los […]

The Rock the Garden 2013 Lineup has been announced! On April 16, Mary Lucia and Jim McGuinn (89.3 The Current) with Philip Bither (Walker Art Center) revealed this year’s bands. Here’s who’s playing the festival:

5. Dan Deacon (Baltimore, MD)

Dan Deacon. Photo: Shawn Brackbill

Dan Deacon. Photo: Shawn Brackbill

4. Low (Duluth, MN)

Low. Photo: Zoran Orlic

Low. Photo: Zoran Orlic

3. Bob Mould Band (San Francisco, CA)

Bob Mould Band. Photo: Peter Ellenby

Bob Mould Band. Photo: Peter Ellenby

2. Silversun Pickups (Los Angeles, CA)

Silversun Pickups. Photo: Autumn Dewilde

Silversun Pickups. Photo: Autumn Dewilde

1. Metric (Toronto, ON)

Metric. Photo: Justin Broadbent

Metric. Photo: Justin Broadbent

BUY TICKETS

Tickets will be on sale to Walker and MPR members only this Friday, April 19, starting at 11 am. Any remaining tickets go on sale to the general public Saturday, April 20.

REMEMBER

Last year’s festival sold out in less than an hour, so be sure to mark your calendar and double-check that your Walker membership is up-to-date. Walker/MPR membership ID numbers will be required for all pre-sale purchases.

Walker Membership: 612.375.7655 or membership.walkerart.org. MPR Membership: 1.800.228.7123

THE FESTIVAL

Rock the Garden 2013
Walker Art Center
Saturday June 15, 3–10:30 pm

Immersive and Surreal: Julia Holter at the Walker

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions (it doesn’t reflect the opinions of the Walker or its curators). Today, Sean Donovan shares his perspective on Thursday night’s second Sound Horizon performance from LA musician Julia Holter. Agree or disagree? […]

Julia Holter, Photo: Sean Donovan

Julia Holter. Photo: Sean Donovan

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions (it doesn’t reflect the opinions of the Walker or its curators). Today, Sean Donovan shares his perspective on Thursday night’s second Sound Horizon performance from LA musician Julia Holter. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Remember in the television show Twin Peaks when Julee Cruise sang that really sad song for Agent Cooper? In the scene, Cruise performs on the red-curtained stage, casting spell-binding sounds and and slowing time way down. Thursday night at the Walker (April 11), I felt a bit like Agent Cooper myself. LA musician Julia Holter drenched the museum walls with her dreamlike melodies and hypnotic storytelling.

Unassumingly shy to start, Holter gradually became more relaxed, and at one point mentioned to the audience how much she liked it there. Breaking the ice a few steps further, Holter sang an appropriate song for the moment, In the Same Room. As many us had braved the ridiculously snowy weather to get to the museum, it was comforting to hear lyrics like, “In this very room, we flew across the sea… I hope the ship will carry us there.” Housed in a wonderful setting (Bruce Nauman’s mulit-channel video installation), the dimly lit room offered a dynamic mood for Holter’s music. At the end of the song, I was left thinking, “Where will Julia carry us?”

Julia Holter, Photo: Sean Donovan

Julia Holter, Photo: Sean Donovan

Although Holter didn’t seem to physically engage on stage, her voice most certainly struck a chord, with both the room and the audience. When experiencing Holter’s music in person, it becomes very obvious how rewarding her voice sounds live; kind of a King’s College choir-boy meets Trish Keenan.

Grounding her melodies, synthesizer harmonies painted colorful backdrops and carried her songs in many wandering directions. In fact, most of her music included borrowed chords. Such exploratory harmonies captured my ears and my expectations. Although rhythmically simple, these supportive layers were extremely rich and emotional.

The five-song set covered a wide range of dynamics. At some points, we were all hushed to hear what she would do next. At others, she was launching echoed and passionate vocal ascensions and impassioned organ swells. Why Sad Song featured Wendy Carlos synth textures that builded and faded. Slowly looping layers into the mix, she then added a sensitive and humble vocal melody. This mantric repetition was touching and expansively cinematic.

Julia Holter, Photo: Sean Donovan

Julia Holter, Photo: Sean Donovan

To finish, she first thanked her extended family, who were sitting in the audience, for coming and then started into her last song. I couldn’t help connecting her mention of her family to this version of Don’t Make me Over (originally by Dionne Warwick). With lyrics like, “accept me for the things that I do, accept me for what I am,” it implicitly felt like a nod to her family. This final song was a triumphant ending to a somewhat reserved beginning. With neo-baroque harpsichords and Nico-like chants, she ended her set with a maturely optimistic mood.

As her music seemed to exist in such a whimsical world, I can image enjoying her show (even more) at a planetarium, laying down and looking up at the stars. I’d be really interested to see her later in her career when her stage presence is further developed. I wasn’t fully convinced with her engagement or her urgency.

Overall, I was impressed with her compositional creativity (both with her own work and her interpretations of other songs). Although at times, my spirit felt a bit unmoved, my ears and my imagination were profoundly mesmerized. She expressed intricate and immersive songs which were stylistically enchanting.

In the words of Twin Peaks creator David Lynch, “Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.” From what I could tell, I’d say Julia Holter is searching for the big fish.

LISTENING MIX // Fatoumata Diawara

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance. Get acquainted with the captivating sounds of Malian singer and musician Fatoumata Diawara before she performs with her band at the Cedar Cultural Center […]

Fatoumata Diawara, Photo: Pedro A.Pina

Fatoumata Diawara. Photo: Pedro A.Pina

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance.

Get acquainted with the captivating sounds of Malian singer and musician Fatoumata Diawara before she performs with her band at the Cedar Cultural Center this Friday, April 12. Copresented by the Walker, the show begins at 8 pm.

Fatoumata Diawara has something to say. Or sing rather. Although I don’t speak her language (Wassoulou), I can’t help feeling that she has something important to express. Perhaps she is suggesting new ways of thinking and feeling about each other (and our world)? Maybe she sings about life in Mali? For me, I am simply drawn in by the music itself.

With effective simplicity, much of her work functions like a train running on its track. These songs groove at consistent tempos until arriving back to their introductory seed. When listening to this music, I am struck by its relatively neutral harmony, creating feelings which are neither obviously happy or sad. At the forefront, Diawara has an insistent and animated voice, occasionally sending out speedy rap-like melodies or pentatonic embellishments. Second to the voice, the guitars are catchy, and regularly display angular and intervallic motifs. For this LISTENING MIX, I’ve brought together the afro-disco chants of Dur-Dur Band, the intricate sound tapestries of Argentinian singer Juana Molina, the sunny pop-riffs from all-female Indonesian group Dara Puspita, and others.

LISTENING MIX // Fatoumata Diawara by Listening Mix on Mixcloud

Fatoumata Diawara / Sowa / 0:0
Dur-Dur Band / Dooyo / 3:13
Fatoumata Diawara / Sonkolon / 7:05
Juana Molina / Micael / 10:30
Fatoumata Diawara / Makoun Oumou / 13:39
Damian Marley & Nas / Patience (Sabali) / 18:16
Fatoumata Diawara / Mousso / 24:03
Hafusa Abasi & Slim Ali & The Kikulacho Yahoo’ Band / Sina Raha / 27:25
Dara Puspita / Ali Baba / 32:16
Fatoumata Diawara / Alama / 34:41
Rokia Traoré / Koronoko / 38:21

LISTENING MIX // Julia Holter

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance. Bringing her ethereal vocal melodies, vintage electronic sounds, and imaginative soundscapes, Los Angeles musician Julia Holter performs at the Walker as a part […]

Julia Holter, Photo: Stadiums & Shrines

Julia Holter. Photo: Stadiums & Shrines

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance.

Bringing her ethereal vocal melodies, vintage electronic sounds, and imaginative soundscapes, Los Angeles musician Julia Holter performs at the Walker as a part of our in-gallery music series Sound Horizon, this Thursday, April 11. Free and open to the public, these 30-minute performances begin at 6, 7, and 8 pm.

Utilizing analog synthesizers, drum machines, keyboards, and vocal effects, Julia Holter creates a dreamlike sound universe uniquely her own. Coming from the LA cultures of CalArts, Dublab Radio, and Echo Park, Holter seamlessly unifies art song with pop song. Within her music, the vibe can transition from direct melodies into abstract sound collages. Much of her work emphasizes texture, harmony, and narrative structure. For this Listening Mix, I’ve chosen to integrate the whispered vocals of swedish group El Perro Del Mar, the playful vocal layering of Grimes, the echoed storytelling of John Maus, and the psychedelic lullabies of Broadcast.

LISTENING MIX // Julia Holter by Listening Mix on Mixcloud

Julia Holter / Sea Called Me Home / 0:0
El Perro Del Mar / Do Not Despair / 2:29
Julia Holter / Four Gardens / 5:49
Grimes / Vanessa / 11:58
Julia Holter / Our Sorrow / 17:25
Chairlift / Turning / 23:39
John Maus / Do Your Best / 26:38
Julia Holter / Marienbad / 29:33
Laurel Halo / Embassy / 34:54
Julia Holter / Moni Mon Amie / 39:02
Laurie Anderson / Love Among the Sailors / 42:30
Julia Holter / Measure What More / 45:20
Broadcast / Tears in the Typing Pool / 47:54
Salem / Whenusleep / 50:07

LISTENING MIX // John Zorn

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance. Get to know John Zorn, the quintessential musician of the New York avant-underground, before his colossal performance marathon at the Walker this Saturday, […]

John Zorn, Photo: Scott Irvine

John Zorn. Photo: Scott Irvine

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance.

Get to know John Zorn, the quintessential musician of the New York avant-underground, before his colossal performance marathon at the Walker this Saturday, April 6. Joined by Zorn’s bands and other guest musicians, Zorn @ 60 celebrates the artist’s 60th birthday with three unique shows, a conversation led by senior curator Philip Bither, and a free organ concert at midnight.

Pulling inspiration as much from No Wave as from the classical giants John Cage and Stockhausen, Zorn’s work embodies various styles: atonal, jazz, punk, gamelan, cinema, and klezmer music. Although most are familiar with his notoriously boisterous saxophone solos, for this music mix, I’m interested in showcasing his softer and more melodious side. Paired with some of Zorn’s songs, I’ve included lachrymose pizzicatos of Erik Friedlander, driving bodily rhythms of Nicolas Jaar, lulling descants of Blade Runner’s Vangelis, mantric bell repetitions of Lucky Dragons, and more.

LISTENING MIX // John Zorn by Listening Mix on Mixcloud

John Zorn / Motzee / 0:0
Erik Friedlander / Aberdeen / 2:29
John Zorn / Chazal / 5:56
Shigeru Umebayashi / Yumeji’s Theme / 7:00
John Zorn / Koryojang / 10:02
Nicolas Jaar / With Just Once Glance You / 16:24
John Zorn / Somnambulisme / 19:54
Kate Bush / Night Scented Stock / 22:05
John Zorn / Mao’s Moon / 22:58
Vangelis / Thinking of Rachel / 28:26
John Zorn / Family Found (Vocal) / 29:32
Meredith Monk / Long Shadows 1 / 32:10
John Zorn / Ilusion / 34:29
lucky dragons / Blond Rats / 37:15
John Zorn / Work Trance / 40:54
Susumu Yokota / Kirakiraboshi / 44:14

Sky-Pointed Incantations and Synesthetic Sounds: Nate Wooley at the Walker

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions (it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators). Today, Sean Donovan shares his perspective on Thursday night’s first Sound Horizon […]

Nate Wooley, Photo: Nicola Carpenter

Nate Wooley    Photo: Nicola Carpenter

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions (it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators). Today, Sean Donovan shares his perspective on Thursday night’s first Sound Horizon performance from trumpeter Nate Wooley. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

To launch this year’s Sound Horizon series of live music performed in the Walker galleries, vanguard trumpeter Nate Wooley gave three 20-minute performances the evening of March 21 within Bruce Nauman‘s seven-channel video projection installation MAPPING THE STUDIO II with color shift, flip, flop, & flip/flop (Fat Chance John Cage). My recollections of the experience:

It’s a few minutes before Wooley’s performance. As I enter the room, I choose to sit in a small folding chair (instead of the pillow discs on the floor). Eyes closed, Wooley is sitting hunched inward with his trumpet, perhaps meditating/centering before he begins. My senses start to adjust to the dim light, the echoes of audience whispers, the slight breeze circulating the cave-like space. While multicolored projections show us night-time footage of Nauman’s studio, the large white-walled Walker room houses a simultaneous vibe of anxious surveillance and calming spaciousness. Unlit, Wooley is in a chair on top of a small boxed platform in the center of the room surrounded by 20-30 audience members. In addition to his trumpet, he sits next to his amplifier, a few microphones, a rubber mute, and a digital sound-effecting foot pedal.

After a brief introduction from Walker curator Doug Benidt, applause, and an anticipatory silence from the audience, Wooley slowly breaths into a sustained and steady pitch. This single note lays down a “home-base” for this exploratory sonic journey. What started as a soft and simple unwavering tone begins to crescendo into a fully enveloping chorus of timbred variations. The multiplications of all of these wave-shapes build up a dense sonic mass of overtones. I look around the room and notice many people beginning to close their eyes with the musician.

Nate Wooley, Photo: Nicola Carpenter

Nate Wooley    Photo: Nicola Carpenter

While continuing a circular breath, Wooley gradually adds a mute to the equation. He begins to bend the pitch and articulate falling phrases. From this moment forward, my mind goes into a synesthetic mode of imagery and stories. I start to hear mournful elephants and lumber being cut. Next, he transitions into rapid and repetitive trill patterns (see Rachmaninov’s Flight of the Bumblebee). These anxious calls steer the performance into a more dissonant place.

After this energetic build, Wooley suddenly removes his mouthpiece with one swift movement (and puts a contact microphone in the bell of his trumpet) and the energy collapses. Still maintaining  his breath, he begins to build a new theme. This time, relaxing and percussive sounds of “wooooosh” followed by “thuddd.” I am now envisioning water drops after a storm, parking garage squeaks, the sounds of one’s brain within their skull. Now I’m thinking, “Can a trumpet really do this?” Combining blowing, valve pressing, sucking, with other abstract noises I start to hear something between the IDM beats of Aphex Twin and mouth sounds of Bobby McFerrin. This percussive section builds and Wooley starts to add subtle and distorted falsetto singing into his trumpet. Now, I’m hearing semi-trucks pass and someone singing in the shower.

For the final section of his performance, Wooley slowly arches his arms and trumpet to point up toward the ceiling. This ending crescendo mimics frenzied rhinoceri, racing motorcycle gangs, colliding glaciers, and speeding airplanes. I (and I imagine the whole audience as well) am in awe at his endurance and passion. After minutes of commanding breath and exhausting a whirlwind of sounds into the sky, it was suddenly over. Wooley snapped out of character, smiled to the audience, and we clapped in appreciation, yet I was preoccupied with trying to digest what I had just been hit with. Although very mesmerized by the skills and techniques used for such a marathon of a performance, I was even more captivated by the variety of dynamics, stories, and emotions. All in all, a great start to this season’s Sound Horizon!

LISTENING MIX // Nate Wooley

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance. In anticipation to this season’s first Sound Horizon performance by contemporary trumpeter pioneer Nate Wooley, familiarize yourself with his creative approach to his instrument […]

Nate Wooley, Photo: Peter Gannushkin

Nate Wooley. Photo: Peter Gannushkin

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance.

In anticipation to this season’s first Sound Horizon performance by contemporary trumpeter pioneer Nate Wooley, familiarize yourself with his creative approach to his instrument and his music with this week’s LISTENING MIX. Wooley’s in-gallery sound explorations take place this Thursday (March 21) in 30-minute performances beginning at 6, 7, and 8 pm.

Wooley seeks to push his instrument and its historical forms to their limits. With full-bodied enunciations and a wide array of experimental intonations (hissing, buzzing, humming, and growling), Wooley communicates wandering, playful, and fearless melodies. Merging multiphonic vocalizations, virtuosic glissandos, and musical breathing, he simultaneously inhabits the worlds of jazz, new-music, and noise. For this music mix, I chose to feature songs from a few experimental American composers (Cage, Brown, Erb) who share Wooley’s interest in extended techniques. Although far away from jazz, I’ve also included musicians such as Björk and Bell Orchestre for their commitment to exploratory tones and timbres.

 

LISTENING MIX // Nate Wooley by Listening Mix on Mixcloud

Nate Wooley Quintet / Shanda Lea 1 / 0:0
Chicago Underground Duo / Funeral of Dreams / 3:33
Björk / The Anchor Song / 9:50
Boban Marković Orkestar / Otpisani / 13:22
Jakob, Mads & Mathias / Dust In Wong / 20:00
Nate Wooley Quintet / Pearl / 26:55
Felix Kubin & ensemble Intégrales / Obelisk / 29:11
Kelly Rossum / The Slider / 31:12
Nate Wooley Quintet / Shanda Lea 2 / 34:00
Donald Byrd & Booker Little / Quiet Temple / 36:55
Donald Erb / Twirling Fanfare / 41:37
Earle Brown / December 1952 / 44:53
John Cage / A Flower / 46:55
Bell Orchestre / Recording A Tunnel (The Horns Play Underneath The Canal) / 50:26

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