Nicolas Collins | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Electronic composer and instrument builder Nicolas Collins dabbles in improvisation--other people's improvisation. He's a minimalist at heart though you'd no sooner mistake his music for Philip Glass than for Gustav Mahler. An inventive interloper, Collins creatively meddles in the affairs of other improvising musicians by taking what they do, editing it, and twisting it into something in line with his minimalist aesthetics. To sample, distort, distend, and divert the course of his partner's free play, he uses "trombone-propelled electronics," a contraption he invented by mounting a small computer on the husk of a trombone. Of course this manipulation goes against many of the implicit precepts of free improvisation, which suggest a participant's liberty to express himself or herself uninhibitedly. But since unveiling this instrument and line of investigation on 1989's 100 of the World's Most Beautiful Melodies (Trace Elements), Collins has devilishly challenged the utopianism of such suppositions, forcing a deep rethinking of the politics and ethics of improvisation. For if he's in control of what the other players do, he's also at their mercy, dependent on them for his basic sonic material. Every parasite needs a host, no? Hosting Collins in this rare Chicago appearance will be guitarist, accordionist, and composer Jim O'Rourke, another musician equally concerned with stamping out orthodoxy wherever he hears it. The duo performed together a couple of years ago in Amsterdam, where Collins lives and codirects the independent electronic music studio Steim. Tuesday, 10 PM, Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe, 2827 N. Lincoln; 327-6666.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Andre Hoekzema.

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