Thanksgiving Is Ruined

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June 05, 2007
I love the sound of breaking    glass and Eno

Here was the highlight, I thought, for many in attendance during a recent, rather rare live performance of Brian Eno's "Music for Airports" by the Bang on a Can All-Stars:

[the setting = a glass-enclosed atrium with rows of marble steps that served as seats, creating an indoor amphitheater with great acoustics]

from high in the back of the rows of seats

the unmistakable sound

of a glass bottle

toppling over

with a clink

and the sounds of quick little bounces, of the side of the bottle against polished stone

bouncing sounds that get quicker and littler

then vanish

then      r  o  l  l  i  n  g

                    then a pause

                    then a clanggg

                    as the bottle lands on its side

                    on the next marble step

                    then more rolling

                                                            longer,      slower      rolling

                                                                                                  then another pause

                                                                                                  a louder pause

                                                                                                  (if that makes sense)

                                                                                                  as the bottle


                                                                                                              then hits the last marble step

                                                                                                              and smashes.

Mind you, this happened approximately 11 minutes into a very late night performance

or in other words

at 1:36 a.m.

The moment went unremarked by those I've seen who liveblogged (Bruce Hodges,    Darcy James Argue) the event.

Though it was certainly noticed by many in the audience, who smiled and turned to look back, probably in appreciation of the almost unsurpassable Cageianism of the interruption.

[update 6/26/07: Harvilla noticed it.]

[My notes here otherwise say:

"part (1/2): Eno's vocal line = cello" and,

at the end of the whole piece, "structure = doo-wop??"]

[The voyage over the course of several hours, from before and through "Music for Airports," through to the end of Steve Reich's hour-long "Music for 18 Musicians," performed as the sun rose, was sufficient to rewire almost permanently the chemistry and neurology of one's brain.

[BTW, for some reflections on the possible musicological connex between Reich's piece and Donna Summer's basically contemporaneous "Love to Love You Baby," go here.]

Or, the effect was almost exactly the same as the hallucinogenic state felt after a night of tikkun leil shavuot, except a night of it where the subject of study was avant-garde classical and jazz,

which included a piece that was scored for grand piano, eight simultaneous double basses, and a percussionist hammering away on a hollow, wooden cube with wooden mallets
(written by the brilliant Galina Ustvolskaya,

the only student of Dmitri Shostakovich's, we learned from the emcee, from whom DS claimed to have learned more than he taught her.).]

The above unscheduled sonic interruption was my favorite of this general type since an incident at the opera some years back, up in standing room, at a performance (as I remember it) of La Traviata, right in the middle of the "Annina? --Comandate?" part at the beginning of Act III, which is just about the quietest, tenderest moment of the opera . . .

. . . when someone a few places down the line from me puked.

But that violent spike of irruption was not so much auditory as nasal.

Too much champagne during intermission, I figured.