John Duncan | Lampo | Experimental | Chicago Reader

John Duncan Recommended All Ages Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Sat., Feb. 21, 9 p.m. 2009

In a 2001 interview for the Wire, John Duncan claimed that the two most beautiful sound-producing instruments in the world are the human voice and the shortwave radio. The American-born Duncan, now based in Italy, subjects these instruments to deft electronic processing and vivid spatial effects to create sound pieces that, like his work in other media—performance art, installations, film—can be gorgeous and seductive as well as disturbing and confrontational, a combination he says he uses to direct his audience’s attention (and his own) inward to the essential self. For the 2003 project documented by Keening Towers (Allquestions), he played processed recordings of a children’s choir through two independent PA systems, each perched atop a 24-meter steel tower in front of the Gothen­berg Museum of Art in Sweden; the constantly changing streams of voices ran out of sync with each other, responding dramatically to shifts in the observer’s position or the prevailing winds, and morphed from ghostly, muttering choruses to vengeful, screaming maelstroms. The 2004 disc Presence (Allquestions), on the other hand, is more like a painting than an installation—field recordings (an Oslo mausoleum, a Chicago hotel bathtub) and the rich baritone voice of Wire bassist Edvard Graham Lewis serve as both frame and figure, bounding and standing against a gorgeous wash of shortwave transmissions and static. For his first Chicago appearance in five years, Duncan will present The Hidden, a piece he says will use similar sound sources projected through a four-channel PA to “stimulate and play with the acoustics of the concert space, hoping to pull out and enhance the sum of what can be heard.” —Bill Meyer

Price: $12

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