I really can’t figure out the rationale behind this week’s Chicago Calling festival, a 24-hour smorgasbord of multiarts performances at a number of venues around town. The fest’s Web site says the events feature collaborations between Chicago artists and others from around the globe, but there doesn’t seem to be any unifying artistic theme.
Not that it really matters: there are more than a few notable musical events taking place during the fest, which begins at midnight on Wednesday, October 25, and (theoretically) runs until 11:59 PM. Among the highlights is a rare local performance by composer Pauline Oliveros, a pioneer of drone music of incredibly high caliber and sophistication. She plays an accordion retuned in just intonation, a system based on the ratios of natural harmonics. She’s frequently given performances and made recordings inside deeply reverberant spaces, such as the 14-foot-deep water cistern she used for her classic piece Deep Listening. Here she will collaborate with Tintinnabulate -- an improvising ensemble that Oliveros started at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2005 -- and the Weave Soundpainting Orchestra, a multidisciplinary performance troupe founded by composer Sarah Weaver and described this way on its Web site: “Soundpainting is the live composing sign language created by New York composer Walter Thompson for musicians, dancers, actors, poets, and visual artists working in the medium of structured improvisation. At present the language comprises over 750 gestures that are signed by the Soundpainter indicating the type of improvisation desired of the performers. Direction of the composition is gained through the parameters of each set of signed gestures.” The concert is at the Empty Bottle at 7 PM.
The Italian duo Udo Calling -- saxophonist Daniele Cavallanti and drummer Tiziano Tononi, both members of the fantastic Italian Instabile Orchestra -- will collaborate with a slew of local players at several gigs during the day. They kick the fest off at midnight with a performance at Elastic, playing small-group improvisations with folks like reedist Jayve Montgomery, bassist Joel Wanek, and pianist Ben Boye. They turn up at 11 AM in the studios of WNUR, Northwestern's radio station, playing live on the radio with more locals, then return to Elastic to close down the fest. They also play on Thursday night at the Velvet Lounge. I haven’t heard any of the duo’s recordings, but on last year’s terrific Peace Warriors (Black Saint) by Tiziano Tononi and the Ornettians, the two are part of a fine sextet that rips through Ornette Coleman tunes and plays with stunning melodic embroidery, absurdist humor, and rip-snorting energy. Like so much Dutch jazz, the best jazz from Italy reveals a deep understanding of the music’s history, but its players also have enough distance to not be afraid to fuck around with it.