The Blue Raccoon

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Cognitive Collisions

No, the OPUS "Standing O" didn't look like this. It's
actually off a Dresden Dolls site. Considering the times
we live in, some post-punk Weimar-style cabaret is
what we need around here.

The billion-eyed audience may have gotten joggled a bit this past weekend as I caromed around the region of Richmond Vee-ay, from a rambunctious performance of contemporary music to a Glen Allen book signing to a black-tie gala to a Beat wake, but I'll get to all these topics in due course.

If this is First Friday, they must be eighth blackbird...

After roaming about in West Main Street galleries: Page Bond exhibiting Stephen Clark and Kathleen Markowitz; Main Art with a drawing show; Bev Reynolds showing Richard Roth pieces--striking painted blocks -- reminiscent of his "collection" pieces but also harking to his abstract paintings-- and James Hyde's glass box paintings (one of which, prior to our arrival there, fell from its metal shelf. While wandering the gallery, I overheard the artist discussing this accident, and he shrugged and said, 'That's what insurance is for.')

Lothar gave Amie and me a ride down to bustling Broad. We threaded thorugh crowds toward Art6 to see the 10 p.m. show of the eighth blackbird. We were stopped by various people, and went into a.d.a to see the organic/medical experiments gone screwy of our beloved Langdon Graves. Amie recorded here.

On our way to Art6 I made a rather boy-in-a-small-town remark, "It's Chelsea-on-the-James." The Partner-in-Art chortled, and said, "Nahhh, more like the Marigny. It's well-intentioned and a bit scruffy around the edges." [It's a district in New Orleans. If you go to this video, forward to about 6:02 to see the pertinent part.]

We encountered developer/entrepreneur/impresario/agitator Tom Robinson on our way down, he was standing in front of the new Ghostprint Gallery, heretofore unknown by the likes of me. They are coming up like crocuses these days, forcing themselves out of the cracks in Broad Street's sidewalks.

I've seen the 'birds at least three times at the University of Richmond's Modlin Center, under whose auspices the contemporary sextet appeared there. The difference was I got a front row seat and didn't have to feel like I was in church. I told Amie I was having a flashback to the Zeitgeist space, then on Magazine Street, where we took Venus Rising and saw a musician play on a toy piano. "Oh, honey, Zeitgeist was so gritty," she replied. And it didn't have have a skylight-crowned mezzanine, either.

Oh! Lisa, so Junovian! But the whole line up is
pianist Lisa Kaplan, violinist Matt Albert, cellist Nicholas Photinos, flutist Tim Munro, clarinetist Michael Maccaferri and percussionist Matthew Duvall.

Clark Bustard was sitting right behind me, and you can read his impressions at his Letter V. As Clark wrote, the group presents a repertory that "
is unmistakably on the alt-side of the generational divide: upbeat, physical, quirky, whimsical, spicily sauced brain food."

The 'birds were received with rousing applause, foot stomping on the wood floor and cheers. They seemed rather surprised by the demonstration of affection. I mean, this is a kind of scruffy art gallery in the middle of Richmond, Va. But they played to two standing room only sets.


When they brought out and set up a fold-out table and installed microphones underneath it, I wondered aloud, "Are they going to play the table?" Which is the exact thing that they did.

Kaplan, Duvall and Albert started with the Belgian composer-filmmaker Thierry De Mey’s "Musique de Tables" (1987), in which they rubbed their fingers across, pounded, and banged on the surface, interspersed with clapping and comic turnings of the music pages. They did this with deadpan expressions, though Lisa was struggling at the beginning not to smile. Well, it was obvious they were enjoying themselves. In addition, this is the kind of highbrow stuff that is easy to make fun of. If you take it too serious. And though they are expert musicians, and they treat their material with the utmost respect, they are also in on the joke.

And as one might expect, what looked simple, wasn't. I viewed some of the charts as Lisa discussed the selection with another audience member after the show. The notation resembled something aliens might employ. Lisa said, "Yeah, you learn a new language to do the piece." She explained that the De Mey's wife was a dancer, and this was a piece that her troupe could perform.

This was followed by "The Servant of Two Masters," an excerpt from Stephen Hartke's "The Horse with the Lavender Eye." The piano wooed, argued and pleaded with the clarinet and the cello, which disputed, repeated and bickered.

They concluded with Martin Bresnick's arrangement of words by the late Tom Andrews. The two had met in Rome and wanted to work together, and during the process of creating the piece, Andrews died. The result, "My Twentieth Century" was elegiac, poignant and funny -- contemporary music even comedian Steven Wright could dig. Still, I thought of Ecksteins' "The Rites of Spring" I'm reading, about the birth of he modern age and the cataclysm of World War I. The series of one liners ends with:

"There was something very obvious in the twentieth century I could never see or understand.

The dead knocked on the door of my life in the twentieth century.

Who's there? I said."


Then they all went to Tarrant's

Thus suitably jazzed by these dynamic vibes we ambled back up the street and wanted to duck into Gallery 5 but on Jefferson Street ran into friends Sabrina, Michael and sculptor Greg Kelly, looking to me like Dick van Dyke on a motor bike. A Vespa, to be exact.

We followed Tom's prompting to see Russian artist Lucien Dulfan's big round paintings of wicker astronauts and space labs. Quite impressive. Not the usual fare for 'round these parts.

Then we adjourned to Tarrant's where we met friends, had some drinks, and laughs and got the Robinson-South Belmont bus for home. A fine First Friday, all in all.

But the weekend had just started.

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