Joe Panzner and Greg Stuart played two new pieces by Michael Pisaro on Sunday night in New York, in the third concert of the wandelweiser und so weiter NYC series, curated by Jason Brogan and Jack Callahan. It left me fairly dazed at the time, but now I think there are at least a few things I have to say.
These pieces are too new to have been recorded, and I’m not aware of any future performances in the works. But after the concert I got a copy of Panzner and Stuart’s new album, Dystonia Duos, on the ErstAEU label. (You can hear some compelling excerpts at the link.)
In Closed Categories in Cartesian Worlds, Panzner and Stuart found such a delicate balance between the sine tones and the bowed crotales that I did not hear these separate elements, but rather heard submergence and impact. For a long section of the performance I was picturing a very specific, symmetrical animation, as if a membrane and particles of light were being pushed out from a 2D surface and gathered back to it. The entire listening experience was like being inside the workings of the sound as it evolves. I’m not one to beg, but I can publicly hope that this entire piece will be recorded for the Gravity Wave label. If it’s mastered right–and it would be–this is work that gives new shape and texture and substance to the space it enters. I would love to hear how that happens in the spaces I know best, and for other people to have that opportunity as well.
“White Metal” is the second piece in the new Grey Series. It was because of this piece that the event was dubbed “the loudest Pisaro concert ever.” It was totally shocking. In the fourth section, the noise was like a steamroller, and I felt flattened by it. The music of the wandelweiser collective is generally considered to be quiet, on the verge of silence. Much of it is. But all generalizations are weak, and this one is getting more and more irrelevant as the members of the collective are continuing to pursue their various paths. “White Metal” is an outright negation of this generalization. No one could possibly call this quiet music.
But what is it? That’s the second half of the shock. It’s a transcription, of sorts, of a particular recording of a Mozart symphony! (The Harnoncourt recording of the 40th with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.) When Stuart explained that before they started playing, people laughed, and I thought it might be a joke. But all the facts lined up. The timings adhere exactly to the timings of the symphony. The form also follows the form of the each movement with the types of material that are repeated. But the sounds that are called for are noise sounds, and that is what we got. The performers of this piece have a lot of latitude, and Panzner and Stuart went for it. It was visceral and completely overpowering, and yet it all maps directly to Mozart.
Last week, the German Federal Criminal Police Office created/released a facial composite of Mozart circa 1777. (I can’t find a trustworthy source for this. It’s something that’s gone viral and might not even be true, but it’s too relevant not to post.) Subjected to a rigorous, modern treatment, Mozart springs off the shelf of delicate collectibles and becomes part of a whole different scene.)