When: Sun., Jan. 23, 8 p.m. 2011
TONY CONRAD For this rare appearance—his first in Chicago since a mind-melting duet with Keiji Haino at the Empty Bottle in April 2009—violinist, composer, filmmaker, and cultural theorist Tony Conrad visits the Renaissance Society in conjunction with an installation by Irish multimedia artist Gerard Byrne, A Thing Is a Hole in a Thing It Is Not, which runs through the end of February. Byrne's multichannel film project concerns itself with famous moments in the history of minimalism, of which Conrad has personally lived quite a few (though they aren't the ones depicted in the installation). He's arguably still living several: he's played an important part in the ongoing minimalist renaissance that began in the mid-90s, and he has yet to resolve his dispute with former collaborator La Monte Young about the recordings they made in the mid-60s as part of Young's Theatre of Eternal Music. (Young insists he composed the music, and refuses to release it until the other surviving members acknowledge him as its author; Conrad says it was collaboratively improvised, and will do no such thing.) Because much of Conrad's musical output is so similar to the Theatre of Eternal Music's otherworldly, overwhelming drones—one of the grandest expressions of minimalism—Renaissance Society curator Hamza Walker found him a natural match for Byrne's installation. Now, all this history might have you expecting something dry, but what Conrad does is anything but that. Especially when he performs behind a curtain in backlit silhouette, as he will here, his supercharged violin droning—undulating with the odd intervals of just-intonation tuning, thickened with delay and distortion, and brain-extinguishingly loud—is among the most mesmerizing sounds ever created by a human. This concert is free, but seating is first come, first served.