Damon Krukowski

  • picks March 02, 2020

    Christine Sun Kim

    I first encountered Christine Sun Kim’s drawings in the Museum of Modern Art’s “Soundings” exhibition in 2013, where she was showing poetic, gestural works based on the movements of American Sign Language and the visual language of musical scores. Equally impressive was the artist’s statement in the catalogue. In a vocabulary as economical as her drawings, Kim made a series of observations on sound that were both eye- and ear-opening, describing it as “a form of authority” with its own “social currency”and outlining what it’s like to “feel my voice internally”: “Only my body can produce sounds

  • music October 16, 2018

    To Hat and To Hold

    THE LIGHTS DIM, a slight figure in a huge plumed hat emerges from the wings, walks slowly across the stage and sits down at the piano. The lights do not come back up. “Don’t hurt me,” speak-sings Annette Peacock, launching into her first tune of the evening.  

    She might be addressing the audience. Although Annette Peacock’s career is long and distinguished enough for her to be called a doyenne of song, she remains a reclusive mystery even to devoted fans. This performance, for the 2018 October Revolution of Jazz & Contemporary Music in Philadelphia, is likely the first time anyone in the room

  • Nam June Paik

    The Harvard Art Museums recently received a substantial gift from Ken Hakuta, Nam June Paik’s nephew, of art by Paik along with funding for a postdoctoral fellowship devoted to his work. The first fruits of both came together in this rich exhibition, “Nam June Paik: Screen Play,” which was dominated by Paik’s later work from the 1990s and 2000s but animated by ideas fundamental to his life’s project. Cocurators Mary Schneider Enriquez and Marina Isgro, the institution’s first Nam June Paik research fellow, emphasized Paik’s interest in the surfaces of his well-known sculptural work with televisions

  • Cult Classics

    Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968, by Ryan H. Walsh. New York: Penguin Press, 2018. 368 pages.

    WHEN MY FRIENDS and I started a band in 1980s Boston, we weren’t just influenced by the Velvet Underground—we studied their first three albums like a code to be cracked. (The fourth album, Loaded, served to separate true acolytes from false. Bands covering “Sweet Jane” might as well have been shouting “I don’t get it!” into the mic.)

    What I didn’t know then was that our liturgical attitude toward the Velvets was rooted firmly in a local tradition. As Ryan H. Walsh points out in his excellent new

  • WATER WORLD

    THE FIRST TIME I saw Hito Steyerl’s Liquidity Inc., 2014, I didn’t actually see it—I could only hear it. It was opening night at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, which acquired the piece in 2015 but took it out of storage for the first time this past December. You know what it’s like to try and see anything at an opening, especially a thirty-minute video. The room was buzzy with chatter, and the viewing area was crowded with people lounging on beanbags, networking, posing, and making images of their own.

    So I wandered into the next gallery, which was empty. It is almost always

  • “PlayTime”

    On paper, the Peabody Essex Museum’s “PlayTime” looks like an innocent exhibition of fun contemporary art for the whole family to enjoy—ideal for this Salem, Massachusetts, institution known for its allergy to pretention and its enthusiastic outreach to as wide a community as possible. And curator Trevor Smith’s dramatic opening gesture seemed to fulfill that promise: The museum’s oldest, grandest gallery is occupied entirely by Lara Favaretto’s Instagram-ready Coppie Semplici, 2009, an installation of colorful car-wash brushes spinning in pairs. It seems to be a cheerful photo op until

  • “Mutations/Créations: Ryoji Ikeda”

    Ryoji Ikeda first came to prominence as a musician associated with the “glitch” school of digital minimalism, creating electronic compositions out of the errors on CDs and other devices used in the 1990s. Since then, Ikeda has expanded his palette to include both audio and visual work based on data streams and other algorithmic relationships: In 2014 and 2015, he even took up a residency alongside the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the particle-physics laboratory in Geneva. The results of Ikeda’s data-intensive studies can take

  • music March 30, 2018

    Major Scale

    MUSIC FESTIVALS ARE ALL ABOUT SCALE.

    On one hand, festivals solve financial problems of presenting live music by scaling up—what if, says the ambitious promoter in Tennessee, instead of eighty shows selling a thousand tickets each, we put on one show that sells 80,000 tickets…? And thus Bonnaroo is born, with an astronomical budget to work with. (Tickets this year are $337.50, which means a sell out will gross $27 million—before merch).

    But on the other hand, festivals create entirely new problems for music by shifting scale like this. Not all live music—not any?—is made to be heard by 80,000

  • Christian Marclay: Festival

    Christian Marclay never got too hung up on the music pressed onto records, and thus was free to work with all their other attributes...

    Christian Marclay never got too hung up on the music pressed onto records, and thus was free to work with all their other attributes. Since his early pieces in vinyl, such as Record Without a Cover, 1985, Marclay’s palette has expanded to include instruments, instrument cases, speaker cabinets, magnetic tape, CDs, film, and seemingly any and all other conveyances of sound. For “Christian Marclay: Festival,” the focus will be on the score. Watch for daily appearances within the galleries by such downtown luminaries such as Alan Licht, Butch Morris, Elliott Sharp, Ikue Mori,

  • Source Records 1–6

    IF WE COME TO A MUSICAL SCORE with rigid ideas of what is required for its interpretation—years of practice, a concert hall, black tie—to whom can we ascribe these notions? The score may specify an instrument to be played, notes to play on it, and (an approximate) tempo. But anything else is—like Oral Law to the written Torah—precisely what is not in the text. The score on its own remains an invitation: to inhabit it, and make of it what you will.

    The magazine Source: Music of the Avant Garde worked to place that invitation directly in its readers’ hands. Published under the direction of composer

  • Musica Elettronica Viva

    MUSICA ELETTRONICA VIVA are a collective that dates from that brave era the 1960s, when art was made unabashedly in the service of the revolution. As Frederic Rzewski, the pianist and composer who has served most often as the group’s spokesperson, explained in a 1969 interview:

    We are making the first steps now toward an actively revolutionary music, a music which will not be an instrument of ruling-class “culture” . . . but rather a force in the hands of the people, a special language belonging to everybody. When this happens, the “concert” will come to resemble other liberated forms such as

  • Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers’s Bloom

    “YOU REALLY HATE MINIMALISM,” sighed my friend Wayne, as he looked over the latest stack of CDs I had brought in for trade to his store. Do I? I had never formulated such an opinion. But if anyone knows your musical tastes better than you, it’s the buyer of used CDs at your trusted local record shop. I looked at the stack he was busy sorting: Philip Glass, Steve Reich, John Adams, as well as a group of less famous, but equally influential, minimalist and postminimalist composers championed by excellent independent labels like XI Records, Table of the Elements, and Lovely Music. Could I deny it?