Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Collective Experience: Aytia/Matia: Sleep Cycles

At 155 Water Street on Friday night, at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge, in the heart of DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), Aytia/Matia and PAVE presented Sleep Cycles, described as a work of the Collective Unconscious. If anything, it was a wake up call to the 21st Century that an emerging generation is shaping a new consciousness of artistic expression. In many ways the names of the works are not important. This new artist collective, made up visual artists, painters, performers, composers, videographers, audio technicians, light designers, created a space transforming Time into an ongoing, engaging, and commanding experience awash with mixed media and innovative ideas.

Imagine walking into a space of people immersed in visual arts and sound collages that do not compete for attention but contribute to the energy and immediacy of the moment. In the midst of the greetings and anticipation, a young man asleep on a bed appears engaged even though unconscious, and we wonder if perhaps we may be merely the contents of his dreaming. From the beginning, the event is performed as a multi-sensory experience; there are h'orderves in abundance and an open bar, and surrounding us are extraordinary paintings silently embracing us while sound collages fill the room with a subtle presence. We are not waiting for the performance to begin... it has begun and we are enveloped. A reverence for the union of artists and audience permeates our encounter as a palpable presence.

The sleeper awakens and moves from the space, we follow at the urging of an unembodied voice that invites us into a new space. The space is a little primitive, as though hastily contrived... three screens are around us ,and we face a performance space populated on the right and left by what seems to be a spectacular speaker system. Behind us are an array of tech tables fortified with special equipment for sound enhancement, video projection, and lighting. To the left is an enormous space masked by a fabric wall... through the fabric we can see lights that seem like distant stars ... a curtain dividing the space, adding to the mystery of the evening.

Gradually the performance emerges, a video projection of an abstract landscape submerged somewhere in our sleep cycles, ...the soundscape a swirling collage of sounds radiating energy and moments of repose... solo musicians and small ensembles populate the space with musical iterations that suggest that music is undergoing a radical transformation and we are in the midst of a revolution...

There are virtuoso performers such as trombonist William Lang playing Dillon Kondor's Sleep Spindles derived from a melody in the second movement of Webern's Symphony, and deconstructed through fragments that are as gestural as they are sonic. Conrad Winslow's Getting There was a powerful display of interaction, energetic and playful, compelling, performed by a trio composed of Gregory Chudzik, bass, Matt Donello, percussion, and Joshua Modney, violin. Bean Lear's Sea of Monsters, a work adapted from his folk musical Lillian, depicting Lear's on-going romance with the sea, portrays a panorama of underwater creatures in a mischievous and provocative work hauntingly performed by the ai ensemble comprised of Isabel Castellvi, cello, Matt Donello, percussion, Joshua Modney, violin, Alejandro Acierto, clarinet, and Vicky Chow, piano.

There is a break, a clearing... not the usual intermission but an extension of the experience... food and drink in abundance, and The Harry Belafonte Band that conjures and appropriates the past as a part of now...

We are invited back to the space and wear sleeping masks as part of a sensory deprivation experiment, where we listen to the music as it unfolds... the illusion is that it plays inside our heads while each of us create our own images and "lighting" in the enormous caverns of personal consciousness. I am caught up in the sounds of an orchestra that seems invented for the moment. The sounds are vividly present... and I realize as I listen that this is not a recording... the energy in the space is vivid... and as I remove the mask I see that the curtain to our left has been removed, and we are connected to a live orchestral performance that is positively incandescent under the baton of Conrad Winslow. The orchestra is performing Pyramid Scheme, four movements by Grayson Sanders that flow through three axis (X=4 aspects of natural sound, Y=arc of energy for each movement, Z=timbre):
I. Space/Wood
II. Fluid Motion/Water
III. Patterns/Air
IV. Clusters/Metal.

Here is a brief excerpt...which of course cannot do justice to the whole... but it is included here to underscore the ephemeral presence of the experience... even the shakiness of the image suggests an ambience of a fleeting moment, the orchestra is filtered through the audience but has an immediacy that evokes the power and energy of these intense musicians in concert... a sounding presence... spontaneous, amplified by human energy as well as the enhancement of technology.

There are touches of Webern, Schoenberg, minimalism, Stravinsky, Pop, Rock, film scores...but the work is not eclectic. Rather Grayson Sanders fuses these elements and others into a personal voice that is compelling and authentic. The orchestra performs with passion and conviction. I have the sense that the incredible, combustible energy permeating the space must have been similar to the early part of the 20th century when a young George Gershwin burst upon the New York Scene infusing the practices of Tin Pan Alley, Jazz, folk, symphonic and European music into a new distinct post-modern style that would revolutionize every cryptic corner of the musical establishment.

A word must be said about the musicians who were outstanding. The concertmaster, Amanda Lo, is to be commended for assembling a first rate ensemble with absolutely no redundancy. In addition, the producers of this evening should be acknowledged for the originality of their approach and what they managed to achieve. In the space of a day they converted a raw space into an artistic, mixed media collage that played out as a holistic experience for everyone. One suspects that this emerges from the shared vision of the collective's founders, composers Ben Lear and Grayson Sanders. Their achievement is almost epic and demonstrates the persuasiveness of their artistic vision.

This was an extraordinary evening, an inspired confluence of thinkers, dreamers, musicians, technicians, and artists providing a path for future work. We applaud the deep conviction of the artists to merge the performance and audience as a unified entity coalescing as the essence of the artistic experience.

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