Saturday, October 07, 2006

Avant-garde report card

Current level of conviction in own genius: 6
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: far too busy for that kind of nonsense
Hair Day: Acceptable.

Two wildly varying gigs caught in the last week. The first was my second live review of the new season, with more Reich at the Barbican. This time it was 'The Cave', his epic visual-theatre piece in collobaration with his video artist wife Beryl Korot. In principal, it ticked all my boxes: experimental non-operatic music-theatre - check; multi-screens - check; forging of roots between religions/cultures - check; incorporation of non-Western musics - check. Unfortunately, all these boxes were then scribbled furiously over in lurid red marker, as the piece was so fantastically dull it made my eyelids put on a stone each. Reich's fatal flaw was to exactly mirror the rhythms and melodic shape of speech uttered by various interviewees (Israelis, Palestinians, Americans, all answering the questions 'Who for you is Abraham?' 'Who for you is Sarah?' etc) in the chamber ensemble. As the video material was cut up and repeated ad nauseam ('ok, ok, we geddit!! Sarah was a ve-ry beau-ti-ful wo-man!'), so the music swayed awkwardly again and again, jerking to another pulse for each new person's phrase. It was infuriating and the relatively engaging subject matter and different persectives lost all context and interest. With my best teacher's flourish, I give him an E. (Though an A for effort: the piece is 3 damn hours long and costs so much to realise all the technical demands it always makes a loss).

At the other end of the scale was Camille, the wildly innovative French singer who is a massive leftfield star in her native country. With a mixture of looped percussive vocal riffs, chanson-style cooing, screeches, animalistic yelps and a sexily offbeat and slightly deranged manner, she went down a storm at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. She was erratically theatrical, toying with the long thread at the front of the stage which mirrored the vocal drone that is sustained throughout her album, getting tangled up in a giant organza sheet and getting some sheepish menfolk up to dance. Dang. She is everything I want to be and so much more! Artpunksexpot Performance Skills Revision starts here. Oh, and I'll give her an A.

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