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Tonight shadowdaddy and I were lucky enough to get to the Tate Modern to see Gavin Bryars and his ensemble perform "A Man in a Room, Gambling," a piece based on a spoken word performance by Juan Muñoz, whom I'd never heard of before tonight as I am a cultural clod. shadowdaddy happened to read about the performance randomly online, and as we have been a fan of Bryars since we heard his Titanic piece on WNYC's New Sounds back in the day (by which I mean back in the day when they actually broadcast music on WNYC, as well as back during that very short year in which we lived in New Jersey), we decided to make the effort to see the show.

The concept was pretty cool: as I read it, it was spoken word about a person's thoughts during the course of a night of gambling, or, as described in the program, "strategies employed in card games." In fact, it turns out the spoken bit is about how to cheat at cards, starting with three card monte, then dealing from the bottom of the deck, how to "fake" cutting the cards, and how to hide a card you've palmed after the hand is over. Hah! According to Mr. Bryars, Muñoz's thought was that the various pieces were supposed to be little one off radio slots, rather like "The Shipping News" (for Americans, imagine that poet of the day thing Garrison Keilor does), that stood by themselves but had an air of strangeness to them, meant to be heard as you were going from one thing to the next. In between, there was a piece called "The North Shore," a piece Bryars made in honor of his friend Muñoz, whom he described as "a great artist and a good bloke." It was built off of one of the pieces from the Gambling series, though I couldn't tell which one.

My review of the show was ... well, Bryar's music can be very difficult for me to put temporal order to. One minute you're doing one thing, one the next, and while I might hear little themes that I sort of briefly recognize, or hear stylings that I enjoy, I find it difficult to string it together in my head. This is where listening to a CD can really help, because you can build it up over and over until it makes a structure that you can comprehend. Live music is so very here and now, a series of seconds taking place one after the other, that it can be hard for me to feel like I'm moving rather than just having sound images flashing at me, one after the next. Baroque music isn't like this. That said, the narrative provided by the voice, which called up very striking visuals and was even sequential and goal oriented, was a good companion to the music. And I liked the music, but modern stuff just isn't as easy as earlier stuff.

Conclusion: well, I guess I need to go see who this Muñoz guy is and why Bryars thought he was worth collaborating with in the first place. The exhibit at the Tate goes on through the end of April, so there's plenty of time. And if YOU'RE interested, if you click on the link, you can listen to Juan giving away the trick to dealing from the bottom of the deck.

Oh yeah, and listening to this show tonight, I thought that I can't ever move back home again.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
ms_vermilion
Feb. 28th, 2008 10:45 pm (UTC)
I'm listening to it now and thinking about accessibility and musical landscape and structure. The conceptual and sonic milieu that Bryars manufactures is one that I feel very comfortable with personally, but only because of my experience and exposure as a grad-student in composition when the world that I was immersed in sounded like this. There is a sort of home/comfort to me in it, but I can appreciate the absorption challenge that these kinds of works can hold for other people upon initial listening, particularly in a live setting. As you said, it does not have the comprehensible mathematic skeleton of Baroque music, for example.

I had guessed that you were referring to "The Sinking of the Titanic" in your reply to my post, but I forgot to ask.

p.s. I loathe Garrison Keilor with a white-hot, nearly unfathomable passion.

p.s.s. I know you know this, but you're hardly a cultural clod!
webcowgirl
Feb. 29th, 2008 07:42 am (UTC)
clod
You know, you THINK maybe you have a clue about culture, and then you go to some art exhibit about some guy that CLEARLY everyone knows about, and then you go, "God, I really am just a dilettante!" (And then I talk to two people who've never heard of the Prado, and I think, "God, I am such a member of the cultural elite!")
reddragdiva
Feb. 28th, 2008 11:21 pm (UTC)
I've got the CD of "A Man In A Room, Gambling". (Somewhere.)
webcowgirl
Feb. 29th, 2008 07:42 am (UTC)
How cool! I was too cheap to buy it last night.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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