This coming week is shaping up to be a departure from “business as usual.” On the one hand things are quieter at the Center for New Music (C4NM); but, perhaps through some cosmic mechanism of compensation, they will be more active than usual at Second Act. This is the week for the monthly experimental music showcase, but there will also be another evening of silent film with live music accompaniment.
As usual, the showcase will consist of four sets of adventurous programming. This month there will also be a bit of historical legacy, since the opening set will be taken by Sam Ashley. Ashley performed leading roles in six operas by his father, Robert Ashley, each of which had its own way of provoking prevailing assumptions of what opera is, should be, or could be. (I used a photograph of Sam performing his father’s “Concrete” on my national site when I wrote about Kyle Gann’s book about his father for the American Composers series from the University of Illinois Press. I actually met him when I visited his father at Mills College in 1971. He was just a kid at that time, and I was trying to figure out what I would do when I got out of graduate school.) Working on his own the younger Ashley has devoted his life to the development of an experimental, trance-based mysticism. His current works-in-progress are “Everyone Laughed When I Sat Down At The Piano” and “Happy As Can Be (expected)!”
Ashley’s set will be followed by Oakland-based alex cruse, who is a writer, educator, and interdisciplinary artist. Recently she created the video VIRUS IN PARADISE. Her set is likely to involve improvisation with gear for the real-time creation of both images and sounds. She will be followed by sound artist Josh Churchill, who works in the domains of both live performance and site-specific installations. The final set will then be a solo performance with guitar and electronic gear by Stephen Abbate performing as WINDOWPAIN INDUSTRIES.
Doors will open for this showcase at 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday, January 20. The performance itself usually begins at 8 p.m. and generally runs for about two hours. Second Act is located at 1727 Haight Street. It combines its performing area with a marketplace, all under the roof of what used to be the Red Vic movie house. Admission will be $5, payable at the door. Only those aged 21 or older will be admitted.
The silent film program will follow up on the visit by Fushigi Kenkyūkai to Second Act for their program, Electric Shadow Theater: Film Truth + Surreal Sound by Fushigi Kenkyūkai this past September. That performance of live improvisation to three silent films was captured on video, and the results were reported on my national site when the videos were uploaded to YouTube. This month’s silent film will be F. W. Murnau’s 1926 interpretation of Faust, which drew upon the play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe but also incorporated older versions of the Faust legend.
The improvised accompaniment will be provided by That Hideous Strength. This is a relatively large ensemble whose members include Tania Chen on piano, David Phillips on pedal steel guitar, Charles Lloyd on electric sitar, Adria Otte on both violin and electronics, Benjamin Ethan Tinker on synthesizer and chord organ, Josephine Torio on vocals and hammer dulcimer, and Theresa Wong on cello. Murnau conceived the film on an epic scale, and the running time is 106 minutes. That is a duration that asked for a lot from audiences in 1926 but also sets relatively a high bar for live free improvisation today. On the other hand the current restored version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis has a duration of 148 minutes, and both Chen, Tinker, and Torio all contributed to a free improvisation accompaniment of that film when it was screened at C4NM this past October, which should make for optimism regarding what to expect at Second Act.
The performance will take place on Friday, January 22. The screening will begin at 8 p.m. Admission will be on a sliding scale between $7 and $10, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
This will also be a “double header” week for Outsound Presents. As usual, there will be the weekly evening of free improvisation in the Luggage Store Creative Music Series. Also as usual, the program will consist of two sets. The first set will be a duo improvisation by Jorge Bachman and Michael Gendreau. They will then be followed by the Guinea Pig quartet, consisting of Tony Passarell, Rent Romus, Tim Orr, and Doug Carroll.
This concert will take place on Thursday, January 21, beginning at 8 p.m. The venue is the Luggage Store Gallery at 1007 Market Street, almost directly across the street from the intersection of Golden Gate Avenue with Taylor Street. Admission will be on the usual sliding scale between $6 and $15.
In addition this weekend will see the next concert in Outsound Presents’ Static Illusion and Methodical Madness (SIMM) Series of concerts. This will also follow its usual format of two sets. The first set will be taken by Jakob Pek, whose creations will involve a variety of different performing techniques for guitar and percussion. He will be followed by an improvising vocal duo of Lorin Benedict and Ron Heglin.
This concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 24. It will take place at the usual venue of the Musicians Union Hall, located at 116 Ninth Street near the corner of Mission Street. Admission will again be on a sliding scale, this time between $10 and $15.
If all of that were not enough, there will be two other adventurous gigs on Sunday. The first of these will involve the latest venture in Old First Concerts programming onto the bleeding edge. The featured artists will be the Duo Camaraderie of flutist Laura Scarlata and pianist Sharon Lee Kim. They will perform with two special guest artists, Ilana Matfis on viola and Rebecca Tout d’Alessio on clarinet. In addition they will be joined by two composers as special guests. Jean Ahn will be present for the world premiere of her “TOYS.” Omid Zoufonoun will also be on hand for the performance of his 2014 composition, “By Shadow, By Light.” D’Alessio will join the duo for the opening selection, Libby Larsen’s 2001 “Barn Dances.” The program will conclude with a 1950 concertino by Ernest Bloch scored for flute, viola, and piano.
Old First Concerts events take place in the Old First Church at 1751 Sacramento Street (on the southeast corner of Van Ness Avenue). This recital will be held on Sunday, January 24, at 4 p.m. General admission is $18 with a special $15 rate seniors aged 65 and older and $5 for full-time students. Children aged twelve and under are admitted at no charge. These may be purchased through the event page on the Old First Concerts Web site. Further information may be obtained by calling 415-474-1608.
Finally, on Sunday, January 24, the Electric Squeezebox Orchestra will return to Doc’s Lab in North Beach. This is San Francisco’s own big band, led by trumpeter Erik Jekabson. He will be joined by Henry Hung, Darren Johnston, Doug Morton and Dave Scott on trumpets, Rob Ewing, Danny Lubin-Laden, Patrick Malabuyo and Richard Lee on trombones, Sheldon Brown and Larry Delacruz on alto saxophones, Mike Zilber and Marcus Stephens on tenor saxophones, Charlie Gurke on baritone saxophone, and the rhythm section of Dan Zemelman on piano, Jordan Samuels on guitar, Tommy Folen on bass, and Hamir Atwal, Alan Hall and Eric Garland rotating on drums. All members contribute to the composition and/or arrangement of the selections that get performed. The title of the program will be Urban Mingus Project. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the music starts at 6:30 p.m. Doc’s Lab is located at 124 Columbus Avenue.