Maryanne Amacher | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Maryanne Amacher 

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MARYANNE AMACHER

Some musicians are heard of more than heard--some deliberately cultivate a mystique, but for others it's the nature of the beast. Composer and sound artist Maryanne Amacher has been in constant disciplined pursuit of the relationships between space and sound since the mid-60s. In the 70s she collaborated with John Cage on his homages to Thoreau and provided sound for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and throughout the 80s and 90s she created sound installations in Europe, Japan, and the U.S. But only last year did she finally release a record. Sound Characters (Tzadik) is a fine three-dimensional representation of her downright fearsome electronic burble and spike--but the fourth and fifth dimensions are missing. Amacher's most impressive works are her massive installations, in which she occupies a space for days or even weeks if possible, learning every possible permutation of its acoustic properties, then creates "sound shapes" augmented by lighting and sometimes sculptural elements--a complete multisensual environment. She's very interested in the physical process of hearing, too, and the effects created by the human ear itself--the resonance of one's own tympanum and ossicles and pinna--which she "plays" using certain frequencies. (This sounds--and feels--more dangerous than it is.) In a lecture she gave at the School of the Art Institute last year, she showed photographs and diagrams of installations she's built in a monastery in Austria, a museum in a former castle in Japan, and massive stone tunnels under Rotterdam, then turned off the lights and attempted to give a rough idea of what one of the installations might be like by playing a track from her CD through speakers placed all around the auditorium. Even that little taste was intensely invigorating, but this time around she'll spend several days working in the small, solid 6Odum space to make those cinder blocks dance for an evening. Saturday, October 14, 10 PM, 6Odum, 2116 W. Chicago; 312-666-4412 or 773-227-3617.

MONICA KENDRICK

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