Mathieu Werchowski | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mathieu Werchowski 

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The influence of musique concrete, composition based on recordings of noninstrumental sounds, runs deep in French improvised music. Players like pianist Sophie Agnel and guitarist Pascal Battus use extended technique to distort the sounds of their instruments beyond recognition. Jerome Noetinger and Lionel Marchetti, both accomplished musique concrete composers, forgo conventional instruments altogether and perform with what they call electroacoustic devices, which include contact mikes, flashbulbs, and speaker cones. Mathieu Werchowski is an avid participant in this scene: the violinist programs "Le bruit de la bande" (the name is a play on words; it translates as both "Tape Noise" and "The Sound of the Band"), an electroacoustic concert series in his hometown of Grenoble, and plays in several groups, including a trio with Marchetti and Noetinger. Marchetti/Noetinger/Werchowski (Corpus Hermeticum) is an excellent introduction to the conservatory-trained 29-year-old's fearless improvisation. Using only an acoustic violin, he more than holds his own against a barrage of squalling feedback, shortwave whistles, and ray-gun bloops. Sometimes he taps on the strings as though playing a hammer dulcimer, other times he drags long, harsh tones out of the instrument that remind me of Tony Conrad's work. Like Conrad, Werchowski uses alternate tunings to widen the range of overtones, but his playing is much more restless; he'll make a statement once, then move on. At this concert--his U.S. debut--Werchowski will play two violins, including one strung with electric-guitar strings, but neither will be amplified. Saturday, November 8, 9 PM, 6Odum, 2116 W. Chicago; 773-227-3617 or 312-666-0795.

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