Martha Mooke’s Interior Motives
From Earl Brown and Morton Feldman’s graphic scores to John Zorn’s Cobra, game pieces & improvisational compositions always assure us of variety. Challenging for the improvising performer and the open minded listener, one never knows what will happen next.
Interior Motives by electric violist Martha Mooke is one of those type of pieces: cards are selected from a deck, performers pick cards from a collection and improvise. The result are a collection of minatures, improvised short pieces. What is on the cards is sort of a mystery, the audience is not part of the “game”. Performers shout “wild” or “solo” and play an improvisation – this could be a solo, duo, trio or quartet.
Mooke’s 5 string electric viola, extended by digital sound processing gear still had a traditional sound. Even though the instrument had a solid body, it still sounded like wood. Her playing was often a solid anchor to a section, bouncing the bow against the strings or spewing forth a series of harmonics that built up a wall of echos.
BJ Cole’s pedal steel guitar (Eno, John Cale, the Orb, Bjork, Sting, Elton John and who knows what else…) pushes the envelope. I’m sure he does this in any context. Cole’s pedal steel guitar sounded at times like a guitar, then an unearthly pedal steel using electronic sound processing to twist the sound. One technique that he used, that I thought was original was to pick behind the steel bar while holding a chord (with knee and foot levers). This chiming resulted in both the chord and whatever complementary chord on the other side of the bar. Ring modulation processed this technique to outer space.
Vocalist and percussionist Tiye Giraud grounded the proceedings with a two headed Indian drum (mridangam?) and truly original scat singing sometimes taking lyrical cues from the video (more on that later). Along with playing other hand percussion, her final solo used a pair of bamboo tubes. Blowing on one tube when ever she needed that note and singing the rest while tapping one tube against the other, I’ve never heard anything like it before.
Video artist Ardele Lister’s manipulated source material included a sped-up view from a car driving past the shore, clips from what-looked-like old home movies; a pair of women walking down the street, siting on a curb, a car in a parade. Images split in columns across the screen, video noise used as contrast to the main image, re-coloring of the images, text posing questions to make the viewer think. The car views made me dizzy, but the manipulation of the material was mind bending.
Remember that this was all happening at once, solos, trios, duos and quartets, a multi-media event. I found that it was hard to restrict my attention to one source at once, all demanded equal attention. Even so, I regret missing Martha Mooke and BJ Cole at the Knitting Factory earlier in the week with other improvisors. But one can only catch so many shows!
Lotus Music and Dance Studios
This series is titled: Cooler by the Shade. In the winter, the series is known as Warmer by the Stove. I found out about the show through an announcement in the USNET newsgroups.
Lotus Music and Dance Studios
109 W. 27th St., 8th Fl.
New York, N.Y.
Originally published on line at Juxtaposion Ezine.