Laura Steenberge: Chant Etudes + Weston Olencki: HoneyDripper (by Michelle Lou)
Laura Steenberge and Weston Olencki bring a new conception of what a wind instrument could be to Radius Gallery in Santa Cruz.
Steenberge’s new work Chant Etudes imagines an era when the idea of a musical instrument was not yet fully formed. Over the course of the performance, she explores the sounds inherent and available in simple objects, paired with fragments of actual instruments. Olencki, on the other hand, performs composer Michelle Lou‘s “unflinching sheet of noise” HoneyDripper, for trombone, sheet metal, transducers, electronics, and chains of distortion and amplification. Both of these artists are not to be missed.
Chant Etudes began by imagining an era when the idea of a musical instrument was not yet fully formed. Just as the wind howls through trees, breath blown across a hollow cylinder produces wild sounds. Humankind has attempted to tame these sounds for at least 40,000 years, evidenced by flutes with holes that control the pitch. The etudes in the collection seeks the musical properties of objects that inspired the invention of these first instruments. Using real and makeshift wind instruments, each piece searches for the secret vibrations hidden among the controlled tones, aided by simultaneously singing and blowing into the instrument. Combined, the sounds of the instrument and the voice reveal harmonies both simple and complex. The resulting music is a repetitive chant or folk tune that emerges from the act of learning to play each instrument, harnessing the sounds and finding the ritual music contained within.
Laura Steenberge is based in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. As a performer, she sings and plays viola da gamba, contrabass, piano, guitar and other things, in traditional and untraditional song styles. As a composer, she primarily writes vocal music. As a scholar she researches connections between music and language. Her current research is about the compositional practices of medieval composers of Byzantine chant, a study that has inspired a body of creative work about ritual and metaphors of the supernatural. She will be graduating from Stanford University in June 2016 with a DMA in music composition.
Michelle Lou’s HoneyDripper is a 40-minute unflinching sheet of noise. Loose transducers, squealing feedback, physically exhaustive drones, blacklight-lit ropes encase the performer in a dense tangle of wires and misused effects pedals, creating a complete sensory overload for both those performing and watching. Sounds are to be felt as much as heard.