Charlemagne Palestine | Rockefeller Memorial Chapel | Experimental | Chicago Reader
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Charlemagne Palestine

Charlemagne Palestine

When: Mon., March 17, 8 p.m. 2014
Artist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Charlemagne Palestine is a contemporary and occasional associate of La Monte Young and Tony Conrad, and his album Four Manifestations on Six Elements sits at the head of Alan Licht’s “minimal top ten,” a key document in the resurgence of interest in such music. But don’t call him a minimalist: in the 70s he became so dismayed with what he saw as the commercialization of the music and its alienation from its spiritual sources that he left the U.S. and, for a time, left music to concentrate on sculpture. Palestine, who was born in Brooklyn in either 1945 or 1947 (his own website gives both dates), prefers to characterize himself as a maximalist, and with good reason. His 1974 classic Strumming Music uses an enduring minimalist trope—simple figures that repeat until they generate clouds of overtones—but the hammering intensity of his attack and the rich sonority of his Bösendorfer piano create a wall of sound that’s both overwhelming and gorgeous. Schlingen-Blängen, a late-90s piece for church organ, is even more intense. Using wedges to depress the organ’s keys, Palestine sculpts a 71-minute, 38-second multiphonic drone that exerts an almost barometric pressure upon the listener. Whatever instrument he plays—he’s also used bells, synthesizers, harmonium, wine glasses, and his high, ragged voice—he asserts an idiosyncratic sense of ritual, often surrounding himself with teddy bears and fortifying himself with fine cognac. Nowadays Palestine lives in Brussels, Belgium; he most recently performed in Chicago in 1982, but he’s making up for his long absence with a weeklong residence that will include four public events (two of which involve live music). On Friday at 7 PM at University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts, he’ll present a free video program that includes performance footage. On Monday he’ll play an updated version of Strumming Music for amplified piano (or “Viagrified” piano, in Palestine’s parlance), a vocal piece, and a selection of electronic music at Constellation. On Sunday at 3 PM, Experimental Sound Studio will hold a free opening reception for the installation Divinitusssanimalusssacréusssor­ganusss, for electric keyboards and stuffed toys. And Tonight at 8 PM, Palestine will give a free performance of Schlingen-Blängen at the Rockefeller Chapel. —Bill Meyer



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