Watching Judy Dunaway play, it is clear that it is not some novelty that she “plays the balloon.” It is her instrument, and she has developed rigorous techniques for playing it. I should say them, not it. She used several different types of balloons last night, and treated them all in radically different ways, using one as an expanding and contracting wind instrument, one as a resonating chamber, and a third as a morphing wet surface, treated more like a string instrument than winds or percussion with sustained tones achieved through rubbing. You can see and hear a number of those techniques in the first three minutes of this video. (I would embed it if I could. A number of other videos and recordings are linked here.) There is a tense balance between her discipline as a player and the potential sounds of the balloons, which tend towards chaos.
Bryan Eubanks’ set started off with short clips of different sounds, as if he was testing them out in the space. At some point they expanded out into much longer stretches, which I started to hear as landscapes with several layers of sound that were set in clear relationships to one another. For me, it was very visual, photographic or videographic music. Crisp textures were interacting with one another. Sometimes the perspective shifted, and it was a more distant horizon. At other times the focus was much closer, operating at a much finer level of detail.
Hong Chulki’s first choice of materials made it clear in an instant that this was not going to be a gratifying set in any way. He pulled out a length of a tape measure, using it to play an unsecured round part of a turntable that he awkwardly spun on the table. Both the visual and sounding results were precarious. I imagined the listening might get a little easier once he moved to the turntable and the surface was more stable. I was very wrong. He used an implement that, from where I was sitting, looked about the size and shape of a coin. I’m pretty sure, from the high and scratchy sounds that came out, that it was metal. The sounds were not loud, but they were alienating. They made my ears want to be somewhere else. Some people covered their ears. At the moment, after many minutes, that my ears finally let the sound in and I felt ready to try and hear the subtlety of the sounds within that noise, he switched to a different implement. I think it might have been a hard sheet of plastic. Unlike the previous section, these sounds were not repellant, but I still could make no sense of them. The end was the most sonically intense, with the sharp edges of metallic discs scraping the surface and later the sides of the the turntable. The opening of the earlier long section, with the coin-like implement, had pierced through to some type of hearing that was new to me. The end of the set seemed to follow those same routes, opening out into entire caverns.