Artifical Memory Trace | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Artifical Memory Trace

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One of the most common complaints about electronic-music performances is that there's nothing to look at--unfortunately, watching someone move sound files around on a laptop or turn knobs on a mixing board just doesn't cut it for most people. Slavek Kwi, who performs under the name Artificial Memory Trace, is particularly interested in this phenomenon: he sees himself as a "visual disturbance (dominant 'optic attractor') from listening." The Czech-born sound artist (who fled his native land on foot back in 1986 and now lives in Ireland) makes his U.S. debut this weekend, and he promises to focus heavily on the audience's physical perception of his music. For a piece called "Orgenviron" a special setup will keep the distribution of sound in flux in a way that makes the audience constantly aware of where they are in physical relation to the music. The foundation of the composition is prerecorded on two discs: one is played back on a traditional stereo PA while Kwi modifies the output of the other. The right channel of the second disc is transmitted through an elaborate series of tweeters fixed on a movable umbrella controlled by a fishing rod that Kwi uses to direct these sounds over the crowd; the left channel is played through a custom-made speaker fitted with a metal plate and a contact mike, and its signal is fed back into the mix, where Kwi treats it electronically. Though Kwi's done many kinds of work over the years--from seemingly untreated environmental recordings to pure abstraction to detailed musique concrete--his pieces consistently stress the irrelevance of his sources. In the end it's all sound, dynamics, scale, and patterns, and it suggests a host of visual images if the listener can let loose. Saturday, April 12, 9 PM, 6Odum, 2116 W. Chicago; 312-666-0795 or 773-227-3617.

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