We’ve Been Demoted
We’ve Been Demoted, Part 1
June 16, 2011 2:15:40 PM EDT
The Stone is a cramped, windowless, airless, former storefront on a Lower Eastside corner without public transit nearby, secured for the new music community by composer/entrepreneur, John Zorn. A piano (not always in top order), a polite young man to take your ten dollars, some unidentified jazz greats and others in 60 black and white photos on one wall, a john through the stage area, a committed audience of friends and associates of the artists, and recently: notice of some concerts by the New Yorker, the NYTimes, and, I’ve been told, the Village Voice. The composer or performer does their own publicity with no mailing list from the Stone—though its website has the full schedule. The composer/performer takes the entire gate, which at ten dollars a pop multiplied by the randomness of attendance scarcely helps the composer/performer hire associate musicians, pay cartage, transportation or any of the usual New York costs for what one needs to put on a show.
Ah, remember those romantic former industrial spaces called lofts with their various but always capacious acoustics and interesting visual aspects? Remember how you could set up the seating from floor, cushion, or chair in interesting ways that made the space lively and part of the performance itself? Remember that some lofts were already galleries with an infrastructure suitable for concert use? And a mailing list of significant lovers of the arts? Or just lovers! Remember that one of these spaces was called “the Kitchen” on the second floor at 484 Broome Street, with poetic noises outside of trucks over potholes and over metal plates covering potholes? And with not only an elaborate printed schedule, press releases and printed programs and bios, but also a budget with money for yourself and to hire a reasonable number of other performers? And a recording engineer with a tape for YOU at the end of the run, which might be more than one day. And even sometimes a New York Times reviewer officially slumming; certainly a fabulous reviewer from the Village Voice (no longer such a reviewer, even online).
And the music at the Stone? First rate, which only proves my point: We’ve been demoted. Thumbnail review.
We’ve Been Demoted, Part 2
June 22, 2011 12:03:28 PM EDT
I don’t blame John [Zorn re: The Stone]. Also, the current curators are certainly well-meaning, and I understand that New World [Records] did some actual promotion, which is what is necessary to get beyond the composer-only-fueled concert. I don’t even feel my usual righteous indignation. More in sorrow. Larry [Polansky] noted the undeniable fact that there is a raft of new music chamber groups out of various schools and conservatories, made up of crack performers, getting big coverage and big bucks relative to us. The nub of it is that we all BECAME new music performers to get our own music out, while also expressing our interest and passion for new music and our composer friends’ work. Now that the virtuosi are taking up new music and are such good practitioners of it, our down-home DIY style is pushed into limbo. But just having done a Sound/Text program upstate twice this weekend with the DownTown Ensemble, I know that SO percussion or ICE or ACE or whatever—they would never do such a weird mixture of things, one of which was erotic verging on porno text by Richard Kostelanetz requiring no standard virtuoso instrumental techniques but rather speaking sensitivities and some clever well-motivated playing, would certainly never be chosen as a repertory number by any of these crack groups. Bill [Hellermann] made that general point. And Anne Tardos’s quirky, odd, non-virtuoso songs for voice and two instruments: they’d never do that either. Nor Jackson Mac Low, nor Daniel Goode’s text, “Misdirection of the Eye” about Wisconsin politics with free imrpov using “On, Wisconsin.” So composer-driven groups are still important counterweights to virtuoso performer driven groups. And we’re still poorly funded. It’s that awful circus virtuosity problem in music culture since forever.
On, Composers, On, Composers, fight fight fight fight fight!. I felt I was attacking my very “base” when I wrote that humble report on the current Stone series. Felt guilty, but it was as plain as the nose on our new music faces—what I noticed. Thumbnail review. [A reply to composer, David Mahler]
We’ve Been Demoted, Part 3
Kamala, Miguel, David – NYC
July 27, 2011 1:58:59 PM EDT
You got a “sweet” if you guessed the Indian actors, the cartoon themes (“I’m showing my age”), or the video games (“I played when I was eight”) in Kamala Sankaram’s absolutely winning suite of pieces premiered at the Stone on the hot night of July 26th. Great playing by her band of two saxes, electric guitar, with her singing and playing accordion; wonderful laptop electronics in each one. Noise, pitch, harmony, vocal brio were in satisfying combinations. Interesting too. Then a new song on “Crest Gel” toothpaste commercial (“showing my age again”—’30’s-something, shouted the guitarist), and a (“nerdy” she called it) chamber song using vowel extraction from a Cage text. And finally an entrancing short ensemble riff on material from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” spaghetti western. It was new music with connecting narratives to charm a jet-lagged jaundiced New Yorker in a humid room kind of unreachable by public transit. And even with a starred recommendation from Time Out New York, only a small and enthusiastic audience, probably from Kamala’s address book, not TONY. So my point again. Demoted, having to pay the four players from a total gate that couldn’t have been more than $250. Wonderful work, poorly compensated. Our heroic selves repeated. Brava! Bravi!
To while-away the hour plus before the Miguel Frasconi and David First collaborative concert, well, the loud bars in the neighborhood are ubiquitous. Their set at 10 PM for an audience of ten, was absolutely jet-lag proof hypnotic drone music on rubbed glass (Miguel) and laptop electronics (David). The resultant pulse modulations started by matching frequency of the oh thank you, thank you, Loud Fan behind my left ear! Followed-on soon by a harmonizing third below, and so on into deep noggin space. Ann, next to me, with the same jet lag, lapsed in and out of consciousness most happily (our bodies cried out it was 3 AM).