Chicago Reader on Broken Music

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Critic’s Choice:
Broken Music

Fred Camper
Chicago Reader
March 17, 2000


New York film curator Astria Suparak assembled this wonderful program of videos on experimental music in which a variety of artists put familiar instruments and objects to unusual uses, showing that the seen world is alive with sonic possibilities.

In CHRISTIAN MARCLAY’s RECORD PLAYERS vinyl records are scratched, rubbed together, broken-everything but played on a turntable-and the forest of sounds beautifully matches the dense images of bodies and discs. The crazed intensity of MARCLAY’s live performances is also captured in GHOST (I Don’t Live for Today), for which he strums a phonograph as if it were a guitar. In KICK THAT HABIT, by the Swiss duo VOICE CRACK, musical images like a bow being applied to a very long string are paired with nonmusical ones like a train or a ski lift, encouraging us to hear everyday sounds as music too. SONIC YOUTH performs a composition by George Maciunas in PIANO PIECE #13 (For Nam June Paik), nailing down the keys of a piano and creating an unusual mix of sounds. In an excerpt from STEINA VASULKA’s VIOLIN POWER, simple violin tones seem to generate wavy alterations in the visuals, heightening our awareness of the vibrations. Some of the excerpts from BARRY SCHWARTZ’s videos and performances seem too brief, but there are still magical moments, such as dry ice causing a metal disk to resonate. It’s a pretty noisy program, but true to the ideas of John Cage, noise is redeemed as music. Chicago sound artist Kean Holtkamp will spin experimental music before the screening, and Suparak will attend.


See more at the Broken Music page.