Unconventional Music Featured at the Addison

People are either immediately condemnatory or reverent when they hear experimental music, praising it for its secrecy and complexity or criticizing it for its unconventionality.

On Wednesday, Lesley Flanigan, former Addison Artist-In-Residence Tristan Perich ’00 and Daniel Walden proved that experimental music should be enjoyed for what it is, not what it seems to be during a concert at the Addison Gallery.

Under the guidance of composer Perich, pianist Walden performed “Dual Synthesis” from Perich’s 2010 album “1-Bit Symphony.” Flanigan, a sound artist, who incorporated four Andover vocalists into her act, performed from her album “Amplifications,” with speaker feedback instruments and voice manipulation.

Flanigan and Perich’s works complemented each other, both incorporating traditional instruments and forms of music with modern electronics.

Julie Bernson, Curator of Education at the Addison, said, “It’s a really beautiful welding together of those very contemporary electronic sounds with hands-on physical sounds.”

The Addison gallery proved to be an incredible backdrop for the performance, as the colorful paintings contrasted with the music. Rather dim, with warm, wooden panels everywhere, the atmosphere of the room juxtaposed the bright and edgy nature of “1-Bit Symphony.”

“Dual Synthesis” was performed by two artists: one human and a machine. The chip that played the machine part produced 4-channel, 1-bit music, the simplest audio possible.

The chip was programmed to think in 1s and 0s in a specific fashion to translate into 1-bit music, but the machine was not reproducing a previous recording. Walden, the human part, played only two notes at a time on the harpsichord. Perich, sitting next to Walden, merged these two performers.

The audience could not tell the harpsichord and the speakers apart. They were struck by a wall of sound that pressed against them viciously for about 25 minutes.

Because of the nature of 1-bit music, in which no more than a few notes can be heard at the same time, it was the rhythm that produced much of the effect. Up and down, with valleys and hills, ebb and flow, the music made itself a background, forcing the audience to encounter it as a texture rather than as sound.

Malta Eyzaquirre ‘14 said, “It was cool how the really old instrument and the rustic and electronic sound blend together and make sounds that I had never heard before.”

Next up was Lesley Flanigan. The audience encountered a completely different sound, and coming from the repetitive, agitated high notes of “Dual Synthesis,” the tribal, deep bass of “Amplifications” felt like a welcoming embrace.

Hand made speakers produced throaty sounds that could only be described as coming from a horn.

Slowly and methodically, with gentle and slow movements, Flanigan manipulated her electronics to alter the sound-scape.

Occasionally a crunch and a squeak were produced amidst the bass. While this initially sounded out of place, what could have normally been interpreted as noise was in fact enjoyed as texture.

Then Andover vocalists Rebecca Cheng ’14, Alexandra Decker ’14, Caroline Sambuco ’14 and Anna Stacy ’13 rose up among the audience to join Flanigan.

With the guidance of Flanigan, they proceeded to produce a beautiful hymn. When Flanigan sang one note, the vocalists would extend the note by harmonizing it or elongating it.

Soon the Andover vocalists placed themselves in different parts of the room, and like surround speakers, they sang from the back and sides. Hymns enveloped the gallery as the throaty bass, electronic feedback and fragile voices worked together well.

Impressively, the Andover vocalists only had an hour to prepare for the performance.

Christopher Walter, Instructor in Music, said, “I was so thrilled to listen to four students in Fidelio volunteer to be part of this. They only had about an hour to rehearse and [made] such a wonderful contribution to the concert. It was beautiful in the complex and context. It was so thrilling to see the students so animated and excited by something entirely new – very creative in the best sense.”

Cheng said, “I mean we didn’t know what exactly to do. Basically the idea was to follow her, and I think the turnout was really cool…A lot of us had trouble finding tones, but I feel like the more we worked it, the easier it became and the sounds that it produced were just really cool… we really didn’t have much time at all which is kind of bad except the thrill of it.”

Bernson explained that the experimental music project at the Addison originated from the realization that the gallery was an incredible space for performance art.

“Because the gallery tends for the most part to have mostly visual arts, it’s very nice to have some art that’s really sound-based in the museum,” she said.

Perich said, “The galleries are the ideal setting [for concerts]. I love presenting my music in galleries because it puts a focus on the music as an object not just purely on the sound, but how sound fills the space, how the sound is just created in front of you in space, and you don’t get that as much in concert halls.”

Bernson also mentioned Perich’s background as an Andover student and his residency at the museum.

Bernson said, “It’s really nice to have Tristan interested in coming back again… Having him come back and perform in the galleries brings together the aesthetic aspect of his work with the music aspect.”

Perich said, “It’s great [to come back to Andover again]. I spent almost a year here last year as the Artist -in-Residence and was lucky enough to have my artwork in the Addison walls, which I never dreamed would happen as a student here and then to perform in the galleries is equally amazing.”

When asked about Andover, he smiled and answered, “I still think that high school is the time when your brain is most open, and it’s really amazing to see people at this time in their lives because I remember as a student here, being introduced to so many new things that all of them are now big part of my work and identity and everything. They all definitely had their seeds here.”

Sarah Lee ’13 contributed reporting.