After an evening of doing the traditional New York thing of hanging out in an Irish bar nursing jet lag, the 8 o’clock conference enrollment seemed a little severe. I managed to get there at 8:50, in time to pick up my delegate’s pack which included a nifty drawstring rucksack, bumper-sized programme, CD of the pick of the conference’s music and, oddly enough, a Rubik’s cube! The other fun thing is that the some of the conference is held in the Hotel Pennsylvania, immortalised in the big band tune Pennsylvania 65000.
The first paper session concentrated on algorithm design, performance interfaces etc. Much of it was beyond my technology knowledge base, but it all seemed pretty significant.
The first concert of the conference proper took place in Chinatown in the White Box Gallery and was the first in a series entitled Ear to the Earth. I got the impression that a significant part of the audience was made up of passers by who, noticing there was something on, popped in to check it out. The organisers didn’t seem to have anticipated the large number of listeners in the audience and many of us were squashed in at the back without chairs. This passer-by theory was confirmed when the two girls in front of me giggled during the first two pieces and then ducked out of the gallery before the start of the third.
The opening piece by Chris Mercer was entitled, The Audible Phylogeny of Lemurs, based, not surprisingly, on lemur vocalisations. That was followed by Hannah Ruth Gilmour’s Chill Before Dawn, Aki Pasoulas’s Paramnesia and Erik DeLuca’s In. The next piece was extracts from a sound installation, called The Argus Project, that should have been on site in one of the ponds at Stony Brook University. Unfortunately, for the artists, Jonathan Kirk and Lee Weisert, the ponds had been drained for some repair work, so they had to make do with presenting a video of still photographs of the project accompanied by sound examples. The final pieces were a clarinet, flute and tape piece entitled A’aa, by Matthew Burtner and a fixed medium piece called Hindisvik, by Rikhardur H. Fridrikson.
The evening concert was at the upper end of Manhattan at Columbia University. Foolishly, I got on the wrong subway line and ended up in Harlem. Not content with that, I proceeded to walk the wrong way. As a result, I arrived covered in sweat after dashing across Central Park just as the concert was starting and latecomers were only allowed in between pieces. This meant that I missed David Berezan’s piece, Nijo, which was a real disappointment as I always enjoys David’s music and this was not a piece I had heard before. Cat House, by Sarah O’Halloran, was a slightly disturbing, yet at the same time darkly comic, piece of performance art consisting of a monologue over and electronic background. Rita Torre’s acousmatic Shaking Mendeleev in the Presence of the Guitar and Lydia Ayers’ flute and tape piece, The Chalky White Desert Where Nothing Grows followed.
After the intermission, we had a piece for electronically modified didgeridoo and electronics by Kyle Evans and Lokale Orbits/Solo 5 for ‘cello and 8-track tape by Daniel Mayer. The next two pieces were for fixed media, Rupture, by Thomas Royal, and Dorian RPS, by Tony Garrison.
The final piece was by Krzytof Wolek, entitled Un Claro del Tiempo, for soprano, flutes, piano and live electronics. For me, this was the best piece of the day. Instrumentally, it was extremely well written and the electronics melded seamlessly with the acoustic performers and responded gesturally in an intelligent and expressive way. This is definitely a composer I want to hear more by.
Sadly, by this time jet lag had got the better of me and I missed the after hours concert. Hopefully, I’ll make that one tonight.