Jaap Blonk/Paul Dutton | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jaap Blonk/Paul Dutton 

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In the world of the sonic arts, voice- and text-based performance holds a pivotal place. Mixing media from aural poetry to extended vocalization and modes from narrative to nonsense, sound artists have been twisting the spoken word into semiotic pretzels since dadaists like Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, and Kurt Schwitters first took modernist vocal performance to stage. I first heard Dutch vocal extremist Jaap Blonk on a controversial recording of Schwitters's classic of phonetic fragmentation, Ursonate. That release was recalled under pressure from Schwitters's son, Ernst, who (wrongly) claimed to be the only legit performer of the piece. On Braaxtaal and Splinks (both Kontrans) Blonk works with ensembles, squirming his startlingly elastic and drastic voice into wild instrumental environs. On Flux de Bouche (Staalplaat), however, he goes it alone, as he will in his Chicago debut at Randolph Street Gallery, growling, moaning, sputtering, and whooping his way through pieces by Tzara and Ball, playwright Robert Wilson, and fluxus artist Dick Higgins, as well as works from his own pen. Canadian text-sound artist Paul Dutton is similarly expert at lone vocal adventures--his performance a few years ago at HotHouse was a riveting investigation of the possibilities of the human vocal chords. With one mike pressed against his throat and one to his lips, Dutton conjures new meanings from the material of language, his gruff, deep-toned voice at times sounding like Captain Beefheart in overdrive. In their own ways, Blonk and Dutton make vocal noises that should give Bobby McFerrin fitful sleep. Friday and Saturday, 8 PM, Randolph Street Gallery, 756 N. Milwaukee; 666-7737.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Arthur Nieuwenhuijs, Ellen Band.

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