Thursday, April 30, 2009

John Paul Jones and Sonic Youth to extend collaborative performances in Spain

What can be said about the music John Paul Jones played with Sonic Youth and musical director Takehisa Kosugi at performances of "Nearly Ninety" earlier this month?

It's tough to ask someone who wasn't there, especially considering the use of recording devices was strictly prohibited. Still, the rule didn't stop one YouTube user from making "A Ravels in Motion Production" video documenting the April 18 performance. In under two minutes, we get brief glimpses of the event with some audio. Listen for Jones on bass and make up your own mind about the music.

Another fair question to ask, now that the production is set to resume in Madrid, Spain. Will the music played at today's performance, or any of the others through May 3, be anything like what was heard between April 16 and 19 in Brooklyn?

In a newly published review for the Wall Street Journal, dance writer Robert Greskovic listed off the musicians by name and then posited, "The combined effect of this mix is a maelstrom of amplified metallic sounds that fades in and out and sometimes subsides to a complete silence that resonates with the rhythmic footfalls of the dancers."

The first performance took place April 16, on the 90th birthday of choreographer Merce Cunningham. Reviewing that show for The Moment, a New York Times blog, Jordan Hruska focuses less on the sound and more on the improvisational qualities of the performance. He said the music "began and ended in medias res, with the sinewy discord of Sonic Youth’s guitar strings. According to the band member Thurston Moore, the most structured part of the whole performance was the group bow that ended the show."

Hruska also provides some insight as to the structure on which the musicians stood to play for 90 minutes (with an intermission) each show: It was "a three-level cantilevered form that at once resembled a bionic heart and a pirate ship."

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