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ISSUE Project Room
REGISTERED:01/23/2009
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mwalker on 11/16/2009 at 09:00AM

Bell/Book/Candle

This Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. at ISSUE Project Room, Matana Roberts, a fascinating and immensely talented composer and performer, will present, with violinist Mazz Swift, the second in a series of monthly concerts as part of ISSUE’s Artist-in-Residence program. As part of her ongoing Coin Coin project – a series of musical portraits and narratives exploring family history and bloodlines – Matana is utilizing this series of concerts to experiment with a new musical form dubbed a “Happening.” These Coin Coin Happenings present an installation of sound collages or “sonic landscapes,” allowing Matana to experiment with and explore musical materials in a duo context before later reworking and incorporating them into full-blown, large ensemble Chapters. A performance of Chapter I of the Coin Coin project will be presented on December 9 at ISSUE. Read more about the project here.

I have upped an excerpt from Matana’s last Happening: a gorgeous collage of sound fragments and images, reconstructing a personal portrait out of lingering memories.

Pre-recorded motives – an elegant, wistfully harmonized clarinet theme; the aleatoric clang of church bells; a haunting, acapella incantation of an old lullaby; an ethereal, delayed saxophone melody hung against a smeared gauze of resonant sound remants – loop, shift, and return in ever-changing patterns, subtly altering the tone of the music and providing a tangible formal backdrop.

Atop of these fixed beds of sound, Matana spins a series of poignant improvisations, free and lyrical, on the saxophone and clarinet, folding in spoken word passages containing fragments of interviews and phone calls with family members searching and probing their memories. Supported with incredible sensitivity by percussionist Mike Pride, playing set and hand bells, Matana weaves these drifting images and recurring themes into a seamless patchwork of powerful cohesion. The performance develops as a natural, non-linear narrative, with returning motives circling back upon each other in unpredictable but organic progressions, very much analogous to the ways in which our memories swirl and shift in attempts to reconstruct and make sense of the past. As listeners, we experience not the slow formation of a photo-realist portrait, but the gradual sharpening and expanding of color and emotion into an abstract tapestry of vivid feeling and soul.

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jason on 11/16/09 at 10:24AM
Wow, this recording sounds fantastic! Sounds like a classic studio recording
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