Garden of Memory ~ Summer Solstice Concert
Did anyone check out this event? I did.
I try to go every year and it’s easy to plan ahead because they always hold this event on the Summer Solstice, in the fantastical venue of the Chapel of the Chimes. If you haven’t seen this incredible building, it’s one of the most precious architectural gems in Oakland… a real treasure. So much so I think I’m going to dedicate a separate post just to the Chapel. But for now, let’s talk about this awesome event…
The event is organized by New Music Bay Area, an organization of composers, musicians, and new music lovers dedicated to promoting contemporary music in the local community.
So what exactly is “new music”? It’s obviously contemporary, but it’s more than that. I’m probably not the best person to explain it, but it seems to be primarily experimental in nature. This is accomplished through any number of means… unusual treatment of conventional instruments (eg – using the body of a standup bass as a percussive instrument), unusual instruments (ie – fabricated concoctions out of organic or electronic materials), unconventional musical arrangements where genres are mixed, boundaries are pushed, and outcomes are completely unpredictable, and more.
It’s often not the easiest stuff to listen to, but as one who is completely uninterested in Top 40 music, and often bored by conventional mainstream music (verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus… ho hum), I find this stuff fascinating.
This year there were just under 40 separate performances and an incredibly wide spectrum of musical styles and genres was covered… It’s nearly impossible to see everything, but half the fun is wandering through the incredible labyrinth of rooms that comprise the Chapel of the Chimes to see what one can discover.
Here are some pics and video from my exploration…
This was the first performance I saw… Laura Inserra playing a type of drum that I have never even seen before. Completely mesmerizing…
This musician had fashioned a very Dr. Seussian contraption of an instrument… long plastic tubing from his trumpet climbed around the room, terminating in “speakers” made from the hollowed out gourds of seaweed. Crazy, right? It sounded amazing.
Here is Larnie Fox with The Crank Ensemble… I’ve seen these guys numerous times over the years. It’s always good fun. Wielding homemade instruments of the most unusual designs (and I do believe every one has to have a crank), all mic’d and connected through a sound board for amplification and sound mixing, they performed while two directors communicated changes to them through a series of small handwritten signs. Hilarious.
A short snippet here of a guitarist performing in one of the tiny cloisters… (regretfully I did not get the artist’s info)
Another brief snippet of the performance of Adam Fong, Ken Ueno, and Edward Schocker. I was particularly fascinated by the incredible sounds that were generated from these vases of water…
This installation (below) by Maggi Payne was really cool. She basically constructed a series of small devices to act as musical instruments, each triggered by the flowing water of a fountain. Essentially, the fountain was conducting its own mini orchestra. She was able to change the instruments by tapping an orchid linked to a motherboard programmed with varying instrument groupings. Incredible.
Last, here is a beautiful piece performed by the women’s vocal ensemble Kitka…
If you’re at all interested in this kind of music/performance art, there’s a cool event this weekend on Sunday evening at the lovely Kaiser Rooftop Garden near Lake Merritt…
Scenes from a Lingering Garden
5 – 8pm
$5 donation suggested
From the website…
Oakland sound artist and composer Hugh Livingston presents “scenes from a lingering garden”, a combination performance and installation covering the 3.5 acres of the Kaiser Rooftop Garden in Oakland.
A field of gongs will occupy a back corner of the garden, designed and engineered by Matthew Goodheart.
Roving instrumentalists add to the mix of hidden speakers in magnolia trees, ornamental firs and a black bamboo grove. The soundscapes are composed from sounds of Oakland and around the world, calling attention to the presence of wind, water and birds. The scenes are a set of variations, providing different views of similar musical material, without a driving component of time, allowing each visitor to experience the composition at their own pace and according to their own tastes.