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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Aperiodic takes James Tenney's Swell Piece to the beach for free

Posted By on 06.20.12 at 04:53 PM

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The forecast calls for the heat wave to break tomorrow, which means nobody will need to suffer for art to attend the free Thursday-evening concert by Chicago experimental-music collective Aperiodic on Oak Street Beach. Led by composer Nomi Epstein, the ensemble is performing an hour-long version of the wonderful Swell Piece (1967) by composer James Tenney at 7 PM as part of Make Music Chicago. The 15 or so players will include folks from a wide variety of musical communities, such as Joseph Clayton Mills of Haptic, Ammie Brod of Ensemble Dal Niente, and improvising bassoonist Katherine Young.

Tenney wrote Swell Piece for the great Fluxus artist Alison Knowles as part of a series called Scorecards, whose 11 short compositions were printed on postcards that contained complete albeit terse instructions for how they were to be performed. The original Swell Piece—two more followed, for Pauline Oliveros and La Monte Young—was written in 1967, but the set of postcards was produced in 1971. All 11 Scorecards were recorded, most for the first time, by Amsterdam new-music ensemble Barton Workshop for the 2004 double CD Postal Pieces (New World).

Swell Piece is minimalist but dynamic, consisting of little more than long tones in quiet-loud-quiet arcs performed independently by each musician—overlap among players creates shifting timbres and densities, so that this simple concept yields wildly diverse and unpredictable results. By performing the piece on the beach, Aperiodic certainly invites even more potential variation; shifting wind will disperse the sound, and the breaking of lakefront waves will blend into the music (the inevitable yapping of passers-by is probably best considered a distraction to be tuned out). Below you can check out a video of Aperiodic performing the piece at Elastic in February 2011.

Today's playlist:

Omer Avital, Free Forever (Smalls)
Pierre Jodlowski, Drones | Barbarismes | Dialog/No Dialog (Kairos)
Christina Kubisch, Mono Fluido (Important)
Warren Wolf, Warren Wolf (Mack Avenue)
Rudresh Mahanthappa, Samdhi (ACT)

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