COLUMNS

  • David Toop

    “ARCHITECTURE IS FROZEN MUSIC,” Friedrich Schelling remarked at the beginning of the nineteenth century, signaling both the distance between these two arts and their proximity. In some respects, they lie at opposite ends of the aesthetic spectrum: Music is the most ethereal, immaterial, and temporal of arts, architecture the most earthbound and palpable. Yet they have always shared a secret affinity. With rare exception, Western music is played and heard indoors and has always had to respond to the shape and stuff of its constructed environment. It’s no accident that the Gregorian chant—with

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  • Steve Reich

    NO FORM OF CLASSICAL MUSIC has exerted so enduring and pervasive an influence on pop culture as minimalism. Kellogg’s commercials and John Carpenter movie sound tracks, New Age schlock and abstract hip-hop all overtly cop such minimalist trademarks as repetitive keyboard vamps and hallucinatory vocal cut-ups. Indeed, from its inception in the early ’60s, musical minimalism actively blurred the boundaries between “high” and “mass” art, “classical” and “popular” music. Breaking with the confines of academic serialism and the decorum of the concert hall, the minimalists forged connections with the

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  • Stephen Prina

    WHY AREN’T THERE MORE debut records like Stephen Prina’s genteel Push Comes To Love (Drag City)? Backing the LA-based artist and sometime Red Krayola keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist are those Chicago don’t-call-them-postrock guys—Jim O’Rourke, Sam Prekop, John McEntire, David Grubbs, Rob Masurek—making subtly envelope-pushing, saw-assed, laid-back grooves. It’s totally the band you want to book when you go make your first record: Intuitive players, they can handle backing and lead roles without too much ego fuss (it doesn’t hurt that there are geeks the world over who will buy any record they

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  • Glenn McKay

    GLENN MCKAY PIONEERED the ’60s psychedelic light show, a somehow instantly tacky “art form” responsible for everything from Tom Wolfe having images “projected . . . on the back of [his] eyelids” while researching The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test to the Pink Floyd–scored Laserock freakouts I attended at the Hayden Planetarium as a seventh-grader. Like a creaky wave machine dusted off and set Into motion again, McKay’s work has been resurrected by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art under the rubric “Altered States” (until June 1). McKay, who founded his company Head Lights (get it, man?) In

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  • Martha Graham

    THE PLEASURE DERIVED FROM WATCHINGRichard Move reincarnate Martha Graham isnot the same kick to be had from a conventional drag show. The irony is there, at its highest, threatening-to-transcend-tamp level, as it is with a performer like Jim Bailey, who does Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand almost as well as they did themselves. But there is another pleasure here, something akin to the thrill of Jurassic Park or Godzilla: An extinct, or at least endangered, species is brought startlingly back to life. Richard Move is Martha Graham, the performer, the diva, the guru/choreographer. Onstage he

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  • Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg

    GUSTAV MAHLER’S Kindertotenlieder and Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire are dark song cycles written in the first part of this century. The former is a meditation on the death of children, the latter, a hallucination of insanity. Not exactly cheery subject matter, and at only a half-hour apiece, these morose musical journeys wouldn’t seem especially promising as stage productions. This winter, as part of Lincoln Center’s Great Performers’ “New Visions” series, two separate presentations turn to unconventional means as a way of unpacking an evening’s worth of theater out of these haunted

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  • Michel Houellebecq

    ONE OF THE MORE TELLING recent developments in French cultural life has been the sudden nostalgia for Jean-Paul Sartre coinciding with the twentieth anniversary of his death this year. No one really misses Sartre's ideas about “Being” or the Communist International, but a reconsideration of the place he filled in French culture has signaled a genuine EU-era cultural identity crisis. He was the last in a long line of engaged and very public intellectuals, a tradition that included, in the twentieth century alone, Zola, Malraux, Camus; if France is no longer turning out Voltaire-quality men of

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  • the writings of Morton Feldman

    THERE IS A SPACE BETWEEN the artist and his artwork that has been better mapped by painters than by composers. The painter, after all, has the advantage of standing for hours and hours only inches from his painting as it comes into being. The composer spends those hours in a technical act of notation whose relation to the final work is oblique and not entirely determined; then the musical artwork comes into being in a public arena, without the comforting benefit of creative intimacy. One of the achievements of Morton Feldman (1926–87) is that, perhaps because of his connection to so many painters,

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  • Michael Benson on Laibach

    LAIBACH USED TO BE A FORCE to reckon with. To begin with, the band—if you can call this ensemble of sophisticated politico-cultural provocateurs simply a “band”—were the only group from the socialist world ever to make it in the West, signing a long-term recording contract with London’s prestigious indie label Mute Records (home to Moby, Nick Cave, Depeche Mode), and they did it entirely on their own terms. “Art and ideology don’t exclude each other,” was one of their earliest slogans, but I prefer another: “All art is subject to political manipulation except that which speaks the language of

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  • Throbbing Gristle

    WHILE MANY LIVE RECORDINGS are accompanied by disclaimers—invariably apologias for the sound quality—few come with warnings as to their possible side effects. Throbbing Gristle’s TG24, a limited-edition deluxe box set of twenty-four CDs of live Throbbing Gristle (TG) recordings made between 1976 and 1980, is prefaced with the following: “Industrial Records and Throbbing Gristle will not be held responsible in any way whatsoever for the results of any physical, mental or structural damage either inflicted or incurred by the owner of this collection or any third parties.” A coda further suggests

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  • Le Tigre

    FAMILIAR WITH HERM CHOREOGRAPHY? Well, if you’ve ever attended a Le Tigre concert, choreographed by band member JD Samson, you’ve seen it. Herm (slang for androgynous queer) locates Samson and the boy-band-derivative moves one sees at Le Tigre shows—her tributes to how queer bodies negotiate the world. Equal parts dance style and critical intervention, Samson’s choreography is just one element of a performance practice that reopens questions about community, fandom, feminism, queerness, and their conjunctions and differences, by drawing on staged spectacle, audience exuberance, and punk-derived

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  • Electronic Music

    THE TRADITIONAL SCENARIO might be described like this: People onstage make music, and, in response, people in the audience make noise.

    And if the people onstage make noise?

    Sonic Youth’s contribution to the two-CD Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music 1921–2001, the first of eight planned releases on the theme, takes this situation to its logical conclusion: “Audience” is six minutes of applause taped at the end of a 1983 Sonic Youth performance in Berlin, subjected in the studio to the same sorts of manipulations that the band applies to sounds generated by their instruments. The result is

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