Sunday, January 22, 2017

Concert Review in Poetry, Art, and an "Optigon": Seattle Phonographers Union 1-19-2017

Lights dim, sounds dim
Songle distantce foghorn
Emergence of electronic dronenotes, not electronic, microtones shift inside grains of watersound
Yellowhite trumpet
Chimes begin, bigbells, churchbells, splintersounds of smallbells in wind
Then LOUD horn in fog, trombone’s dark grey didgeridoo
Answered by aviary, left side
Answered by people speaking, right side
Answered by clangclunks, middle side
Answered by didgeridrone fade, no side
Answered by high halfstep semichord, upward
Trum(crows)pet horns drumming toward chaos, downward
Blue French horn mourns end of ambience

Waves filter through cement pipes
Nocturne - cricketsong
Cold shootingstars in darkness

Now sounds get strange:
Trombone belches, French horn farts, trumpet squeeeeeeeels

Eww! Ewww! Ewwww! cries a strange bird
(While they sing in church)
Waves cresssssst, trumpet says Oooooowup!

Quieter gray water
River of yellow bells
Tributary of tawny trumpet-tones
Volume increases, violence begins
Car horns blare red
Answered by bass bells
Answered by wailing French horn
Answered by an announcement: crackling voice, language unclear
Lake of allcolored bellsound
All sounds dwindle except one ghostly whooshwail complicated hum

Jet passes by overhead
Thundroar in night sky
Adds silence as music ends.

"Seattle Phonographers Union – a collective of artists improvising with unprocessed field recordings – perform one of their infrequent “ambient” sets, with group members dispersed around the space and playing through an array of individual sound systems. Even more unusual, tonight they break one of their own rules and are joined by instrumentalists Greg Kelley (trumpet) and Tom Varner (French horn)." From the Seattle Phonographers Union Website.

This is my visual impression of the concert. Each line is one note or sound.

Often during the Phonog Union concerts, several false endings make it obvious that the music is improvised. This concert, a longer set (and with added soloists) seemed to be a single extended composition in three movements. The brass players added another dimension that bound the various sounds together in a musical whole. (This was neither better nor worse than the more obviously unplanned performances, merely a different experience for the listener.)

Now - I mentioned a trombone. This was actually an incident so bizarre that it spawned a neologism. Here's what I wrote about it on a social media site:

New word:

Optigon (n. variant of "optigone"; portmanteau of "optical" and "gone", perhaps influenced by "octagon" and similar words): Something which you see or observe, but when you look it up later or go to show someone else, is no longer there. A type of optical illusion. For example, "The trombone player at the Seattle Phonographers' Union concert last Thursday was not actually there; he was only an optigon created by the lighting and acoustics in the room."

No, I can't explain it. The concert of sounds was beautiful, however, and I recommend that anyone around the Seattle area go hear their next one, phantom brass players or not.

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