Saturday, June 30, 2012

Deep Listening

“I am in the glories of winnowing,” Cecil Taylor states while reading his poem “Laryngeals, laryngeals…” as part of the 2008 opening festivities of the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The performances surrounding the event are captured in a new DVD, Cecil Taylor/Pauline Oliveros Solo-Duo-Poetry.

And his solo and duo performances as part of that event provide aural evidence of such a winnowing process, although it is not a wholesale change in his approach. Rather, the listener gets a strong sense of the architecture of his improvisations, and the contrast between light and dark sections. There’s space to this music, the feeling of every note being well-considered, of course in the blink of an eye, given that we’re talking about Cecil Taylor.

The DVD consists of a 32 minute solo Taylor performance, a 16 minute solo Pauline Oliveros performance, a 22 minute duo performance, a 75 minute (!) poetry reading and 20 or so minutes of excerpts of other performances from the opening.

Considering poetry, let’s be clear: Taylor’s hands are poetry. The solo performance is concise, disciplined, exhilarating to watch. This was my first exposure to Oliveros’ work, and it wasn’t to my taste, although I’d like to hear from a fan, as she's obviously well-regarded. And she came through in the duo performance with Taylor; there’s a wonderful interplay between the two, deep listening going on throughout. And while I’m sure the fact that I’m on pain medication had something to do with this, the final section is so tender, so lyrical even, and so filled with mutual respect that it brought tears to my eyes. They hug at the conclusion, capping off a wonderful performance.

If you’re a fan of either artist this is a no-brainer.

Subcutaneous arising
The root of the syntax
Of the music
Arising rippling following
The code the ancients
Demanding our genuflection
They smile they approve
The ceremony is their praise
The root of the music
Uncovered flowing
Tapping into the source
Language myth science astronomy
Currents uncovered existing

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