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04/28/2004: "new music new york."

Here are the people I saw play last night at the 25th anniversary of the New Music, New York Festival, and what they performed: Steve Reich: Drumming, Part 1 (1971); Pauline Oliveros: Tuning Meditation (1972); Meredith Monk: Dolmen Music (1979); Robert Ashley: Love is a Good Example (1987); Laurie Anderson: Excerpts from a Work in Progress; Philip Glass: Track Sweat.

I tried to go to this with an open mind; these dudes are the dad-experimental 'avant-garde establishment', sure, but just cuz they're 'establishment' doesn't mean they can't rock. And besides, performances of old music, done well, can be revelatory, for the same reason I like rereading books or watching the same movie twice. You always learn more the second time. So that's how I felt watching Reich's Drumming, which I'd never seen performed live. It was just a little snapshot of the full piece --'Part 1', which was only done for about ten minutes, features a row of tuned bongos. Each of the four performers (Reich included) hits the bongos with drumsticks in simple, repetitive patterns, but there's nothing simple about the way the piece is designed. By the end of the piece, the rhythms become ridiculously complex, almost without you noticing. I always like listening to the sound rain makes on the roof when it starts falling hard, and Drumming is that kind of sound--the surface repetition trains you to realize that there's something more happening. Kinda like that classic telescoping effect with dance music where an endless rhythm makes you actually feel like you're falling down or moving closer in, or with those stereoscopic vision-magic eye things where focusing on something long enough makes an image pop out. So yeah, that performance felt as fresh and furious as ever. Next up on the plate. . . Pauline! But first, dinner.


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