shoboshobo #8

october 03, 2004.

Studio 14 Paradis is the name of an interesting 'alternative' venue in the tenth arrondissement - near the Gare de l'Est (and hence near the Gare du Nord), in the rue de Paradis, off the Feaubourg Saint Denis - that I discovered last week thanks to an 'Australian evening' that was organized there, and which bill included Will Guthrie and a couple of Australian friends and colleagues of his, with some of whom I ate a pizza in Amsterdam earlier last month, at the end of the 2004 Gaudeamus Music Week, just after the announcement of the winner of this year's prize in Felix Meritis on the Keizersgracht, a ceremony that I did not attend, because around that time I was standing on the rooftop of the Post CS building (temporary housing for, amongst others, the Stedelijk Museum), listening to Oorbeek, who did a rooftop-performance as part of a Mediamatic Salon.

My stay in Amsterdam was not long enough to catch much more of the Gaudeamus Week than the last 'Kraakgeluiden' evening (a hors compétition series of 'fringe' events) in Felix Meritis's Shaffy Hall, but, as the Australians assured me, that was for the better. And I had a pretty good time listening to the Australians making fun of the apparently pretty daft performances and the dull and unimaginative nature of a great many of the 'young academics' works.

Their critique did not surprise me, really.

Still, it would have been interesting to at least see and hear some of it, be it only the Australian contributions: Chromatophore, for 8 amplified strings, and Twitch, for amplified quintet. Both compositions by Anthony Pateras, who conducted and brought along his Twitch Ensemble for the occasion. Which, of course, accounted for the large number of Australians gathered that evening in the pizzeria. (Though he did not win the prize, Anthony did receive one of this year's two honorable mentions ... for what that's worth ...)

I was able to catch Anthony and other Australians in action last week, on thursday september 30th, be it in a completely different context, on the Australian evening in Studio 14 Paradis, that I mentioned above.

The evening was the eight in a series called Shoboshobo, which, as I found out through an entry in iMomus's livejournal, is a series of electro-experimental Franco-Japonese parties and events in Paris. In fact, this Shoboshobo #8 didn't involve any Japanese, except for parts of the audience. It started with a French contribution, called Section Amour, an octet seated behind tables in groups of four, at right angles to the left and right of a large projection on the back wall, that plunged themselves into longish collective naive improvisations, guided by a series of short text-lines (a bit in the style of Eno/Schmidt's Oblique Strategies), projected on the wall, and meant to play the role of a 'virtual conductor', whose instructions can be followed, or simply skipped by 'asking' for a next one ...

"Travaillez en homorythmie", it said, for example. Or: "Que des basses", "Ondulons!" ... And: "deux themes en boucle svp et decidez du moment adequoite pour introduire la partie C". Thus Section Amour's playing was set up sort of as a game, complete with projected MUD-like 'conversation'-lines, as in: "Olivier finds it petty", "my jazzy child est contre", "takomed dit : no way" ...

This might seem an interesting set-up, but musically it all was rather dull, with too many (non-)musicians being too repetitive and doing too little to built up a tension or take an unexpected turn. Pretty much similar sounding, all of it, whatever the current 'instructions' would be. Most fun, as a matter of fact, was to see the players seated behind their tables, where all eight of them, during most of the performance, were nodding their heads, all together now, in time to the beat. Made it sort of look like a Muppet Show Big Band ...

The Australians, fortunately, were a whole different piece of cake. Literally worlds apart.

Will Guthrie had the misfortune of having to take the stage right after our Muppets, that had played way too long, and had (there were eight of them, remember?) a relatively large number of friends and acquaintances in the audience that after the Section's 'games' felt a strong, and understandable, urge to wind down, chat, have a beer, or even get home. Will reacted by playing a very short, aggressive set. Angry. Rightly so. And it was good.

contrabass recorder

Natasha Anderson did the second Australian set. She was playing in the dark deep left corner of the stage, along to projections of a couple of her manipulated films, using a strange looking wooden instrument, that in the far dark was difficult to discern and that I could not bring home. I thought it was a self-made thing, and guessed along the lines of a home-built double bass.

But no, it was not.

It actually was a contrabass recorder, Natasha told me after her performance. Pretty unusual as it might be, it actually is a thing you can buy.

Natasha played a poetic, low-volume, set, using her recorder, voice, and electronics to built fascinating sound fields. As intriguing as they were, at times, complex.

Shoboshobo #8 ended with a great improvised set by David Brown (prepared guitar), Sean Baxter (percussion), and Anthony Pateras (prepared mixing board, mike). Adventurous, energetic, at times humorous and subtle. These are fine musicians.

And really now, doesn't that, more often than not, make all the difference?

[ added may 6th, 2007: The evening described here was my first encounter with a contrabass recorder; my second one took place in february 2007, when in Lausanne I performed a duet with Anne Gillot on ... contrabass recorder ... ]

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