Nate Wooley and Carol Robinson at the Outset Series

I heard Nate Wooley and Carol Robinson perform music by Eliane Radigue at the Creative Music Guild‘s Outset Series tonight, and the gentle, subtle humming and thrumming of the sounds these musicians produced has me feeling very thoughtful.

Here are some of the thoughts I’m thinking:

    1. With very quiet music, like Radigue’s, you become acutely aware of all the unintended sounds our bodies make when we’re supposed to be sitting quietly—your phone that you were supposed to turn off, your jacket that you should have taken off, your chair creaking as your ass starts to hurt and you just have to move. And everyone else doing this too. “I learned not to eat a burrito before playing this piece,” Nate said when I talked to him at the break. Hearing the gurgling of his stomach digesting it was a bit distracting I guess. He didn’t a burrito tonight though, he spared us that torture this time.
    2. Eliane Radigue is a fantastic composer. I’d never heard of her before tonight, but I’m now looking to hear more of her work. She taught the music by rote to Nate and Carol for this performance, and when they finally learned them she said “now its yours.” No matter how deeply you feel ownership of a piece of music that you write, once you give it to the musicians to play it, it belongs to them. It was never yours to keep, you just got to be close to it for a while.
    3. This is a great something to listen to.
    4. Nate Wooley remains one of my favorite musicians and people in the world. He’s been a friend for a few years now, and every time I get to see and hear him, its always an influential experience. I met Carol Robinson for the first time tonight, and she is a delightful person as well as a player with a great talent for sound making. The two of them together? Big, warm, fuzzy, fluffy, buzzy sounds even as they played very quietly.
    5. “This instrument should not exist,” Carol said lovingly about the birbyna she was holding. Its a Lithuanian traditional instrument that overblows at the tenth, which, for those of you who don’t know anything about reed instruments—and I count myself among these—is just plain weird. Without getting into a discussion of acoustics, which is another thing I don’t know much about, I can say that the instrument itself was a lot like a clarinet, but far less pure and predictable in the quality of sounds it produced.
      I was looking on YouTube for some videos of birbyne players and I found a whole school of them in this one. For entirely different reasons, this video probably shouldn’t exist, but, coming from someone who has taught a lot of young musicians in situations like this, it brings a smile to my face none the less.

Comments

  1. It was so interesting to hear music that seemed to be in the tradition of Cage and Feldman, the difference being that Radigue’s music is dynamic (got that from Carole), so has room for subtle improvisation and expression from the performers. Interesting also that Radigue used to compose solely for electronic instruments before she decided to compose only for acoustic instruments in 2000. It takes a lot of concentration so it seems you have to do more work to hear the pieces than you do when you are listening to free jazz or improvisational music.

    • Douglas Detrick Author

      Thanks for commenting Stashu. Yes, there does seem to be some room for the performers to make some decisions, but, similar to Feldman’s music, the piece is very determined, it just has the kind of complexity that we usually attribute to improvised music, and the compositional process seems to be very interested in the kind of smaller details that most composers have chosen to leave up to interpretation. Also, Radigue worked directly with Nate and Carol on these pieces, so I’d assume there was some collaboration on that front.
      I agree that Radigue’s switch to acoustic instruments is really fascinating. She seems to have become more interested in the workings of the “human machine,” by which I mean the weird quirks of how our bodies execute certain movements, than she was with the total control she would have had over electronic instruments.

  2. thanks for the update, not being a musician I appreciate the insight of any comments you make on music. I’m not that articulate about what I hear, I tend to take it in directly and often am not aware of the connections to other compositions, styles, history etc.

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