Sound-art satellites | Bleader

Sound-art satellites

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David Grubbs
  • David Grubbs
The Umbrella Music Festival isn't the only option this week for fans of adventurous music. In July I wrote about the inaugural Sound Art Theories Symposium, an academic conference organized by Lou Mallozzi at the School of the Art Institute, and it's finally happening this weekend. In my previous post I mentioned a couple of music-related activities loosely connected to the conference, including a four-channel sound installation by Seattle's Steve Peters at the Lincoln Park Conservatory and Laughter & Tears, a surround-sound installation by Olivia Block and Joseph Clayton Mills of Haptic that runs from 10 AM till 10 PM on Saturday and Sunday Friday and Saturday in Millennium Park. But a few more events loosely connected to symposium have popped up since then.

On Friday evening former Chicagoan David Grubbs (one of the four invited presenters at the conference) will play a free solo set at 7 PM at Corbett vs. Dempsey, which is exhibiting work by German visual artist Albert Oehlen; both Grubbs and Oehlen have been regular collaborators of Mayo Thompson's Red Krayola over the years. Grubbs's recent Frolic Architecture (Blue Chopsticks), his third collaboration with poet Susan Howe, fits squarely into the sound-art realm. Howe reads from her work of the same title, which was inspired by "manuscripts, sermon notebooks, books, and pamphlets" from the papers of the 18th-century theologian Jonathan Edwards (the man responsible for the sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"). Her strange collage-poems replicate fragmentary and/or superimposed texts, so that clearly audible lines sometimes end suddenly, in tangled glottal stops or abandoned words; Grubbs further manipulates her words digitally and creates a beautiful, interactive sound world from Hammond organ, walked-upon gravel, and computer. It's a stunning if difficult piece, but for this performance Grubbs will focus on his own song-oriented material, playing electric guitar and singing.

Another invited presenter is also a former Chicagoan: Seth Kim-Cohen (ne Seth Cohen, who used to write for the Reader under the pen name Warren Sentence and played in the indie-pop band Number One Cup as well as the noisier and more experimental Fire Show). He's organized his own performance Sunday night at the Hideout under the name Between Yelling and Sleep, and former Fire Show drummer Eric Roth will join him. I haven't the slightest clue what Kim-Cohen's music will sound like, and his description from the Hideout website is characteristically mystifying and unhelpful: "There is no confusing them with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, nor James Taylor ca. 'Carolina on My Mind.' It's cold on this bus. Maybe you got excited when you heard Al Green was going to replace Damo Suzuki in Can? Fashion and fascism share a few letters (in English, anyway). Tim Rutili and Brad Wood co-wrote one of the songs. And there will be refreshments. Questions?" Azita, whom I wrote about twice last week, opens.

Finally, Philadelphian Chris Forsyth (a member of weird psych-folk-noise-improv group Peeesseye), who's in town to attend the conference rather than participate, is performing while rolling through. He plays a free set Friday at Permanent Records, and he'll focus on music he plans to record next month. In an e-mail he told me, "I'll mostly be playing new material that I'll be taking into the studio in December and January. I'm planning a series of sessions with drummer Mike Pride, bass guitarist Peter Kerlin, and organist Shawn Edward Hansen at Jeff Zeigler's studio in Philly (he's worked with Kurt Vile, the War on Drugs, and many, many more) as well as some sessions in Seattle with Scott Colburn (he recorded all the Sun City Girls records as well as a lot of others)." On December 6 Family Vineyard will release Forsyth's excellent album Dreams on vinyl—it was originally a tour-only item from 2009, limited to 100 copies. The music noisily layers post-fingerstyle guitar technique with howling feedback, music concrete, and blues-folk strumming in unexpected, sometimes logic-destroying ways. He calls what he does "cosmic Americana," and that seems as good as anything I can come up with. Below you can check out the most restrained, peaceful track from the album.

Chris Forsyth, "Long Warm Afternoon":
3 Long Warm Afternoon by Chris Forsyth

photo: Thatcher Keats

Today's playlist:

Aki Takahashi, Rohan de Saram, and Marc Sabat, Morton Feldman: Trio (Mode)
Various artists, Next Stop . . . Soweto Vol. 2: Soultown. R&B, Funk & Psych Sounds From the Townships 1969-1976 (Strut)
Harry Nilsson, Nilsson Sings Newman (Buddha)
Ray Barretto, Barretto (Fania)
Erik Nylander's Orkester, A Festa Vale Tudo (Parallel)

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