Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Steve Roden Recent

Yes, I am still around! Energy rising I am going to post - will it continue?

And where better to re-start that with Steve Roden. I am an unashamed, unabashed fan whose main regret in life is living too far away to see his shows or installations or installation-shows or concerts. I follow on his official site and the airform archives. At the moment he is treating us to some introspective retrospection on airform as we lead up to two spectacular shows (a retrospective and a new installation, hanging). Go there when you've finished here - I won't be long.

Last year - yes, sorry Steve - he sent me a host of cds and vinyl to complete my adored collection of Roden-works (many reviewed here). Some are out of print or sold out, so I won't go into details of them all. Though I would suggest you seek out the In Be Tween Noise cds (they are probably hideously expensive on eBay) as they are proto-types of his later works and also alleys he hasn't gone further down.

But to mention/describe some recent ones that I hope are available still relatively painlessly

ecstasy showered its petals with the full peal of its bells: label: ferns recordings: 3" cd
A 21 minute piece of manipulation of a single hand bell that rings in a non-bell way, scrapes and drones, layered and manipulated to create a typically engrossing soundworld. While the bell is a musical instrument, the way it is handled refers back to Roden's chair/lamp/splint trilogy where wonderful music emerged from beautifully designed non-musical instruments. Initially you are entranced by what the sounds were extracted from, but then the music itself takes over and keeps drawing you in.

a slow moving boat. label: new plastic music: 3" cd
As is often with a Roden work, the genesis is oblique. Here a recording of a ferry in Norway was used by Roden as a guide to his humming/singing. Remove the ferry, leave the voice, layered and add some bowed banjo. And you have a lilting 15 minutes of his ethereal voice combined with some subtle supporting metallic drones. It is hard to imagine it broadcast on the Staten Island Ferry - it would be lost in the environment - but we are lucky to have this beautiful piece.

stars of ice:CD, new plastic music, usa
This one might not be available (only 250), but is a longer form piece using an old 7" record of a Chinese carol, a song from a reader set and 'various other objects and instruments'. Over its 33 minutes it shifts more ground than the two 3" pieces. The first section is based around a drone, with birds singing (they carry on throughout, on the edge - I had to pause to check they weren't here). Slowly developing layers that start to include the voice (I was reminded of Gavin Bryars here - Sinking of the Titanic) sounds captured at the edge of the earspace. The vinyl clicks.In the final section Roden sings accompanied by the recorded music which becomes more guitar like - leading into a long slow dissolving fade, voices whispering to us. A finely balanced trajectory.

transmissions (voices of objects and skies): label: fresno metropolitan museum of art
Full length cd to accompany an exhibition - described on site and on disk. This work is unusual in the oeuvre in that Roden hasn't created the sounds - they are based on recordings of satellites made in the 60s-80s by amateur astronomers. Manipulated and transformed they are a distant fluttering, dolphin-like electronic fallings, sussuri and hints of sounds from elsewhere, an immersive environment from a forbidden place (they are currently baffling one of my dogs). Usually there is an organic/human component to Roden's work - either how the piece was developed, where it came from (source), or voice/instrumentation added. Here we are purely electronic, at one remove - and yet the ear extracts voices, animal calls, instruments, squeaking doors as we drift through a literal aether. This stereo workup from the multispeaker original shifts and slides around the room fabulously.

As I listen to these pieces - I have had a Roden afternoon after reading his latest blog post and once again ruing the distance to California - and look at the visual art work, the sculptures and installations I am amazed by the beauty in all the works and hope that the Armory retrospective raises his profile to the level it deserves.

Ach, enough of this gushing, you might say, but when I think about the artists I enjoy across these field there aren't really any I can think of who have achieved in such diverse areas.

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