Tuesday, May 30, 2006

NASA's first (and last) artist in residence

Thomas and I went to a concert last night here in Cologne--It was so toll! Laurie Anderson was invited in 2003 to be NASA's first (and last) artist in residence, and this piece "The End of the Moon" is her official final project for NASA.

What the heck does NASA need artists in residence for? I am surely not the first person to ask this question. Thomas summed it up best when he said "It is such an awesome idea---that is what makes it seem so wrong!" I just can't imagine how they justify that as good use of tax money when government funding for the arts is being systematically destroyed everywhere else. I could go on, but...

In The End of the Moon, Laurie Anderson touches on the new technologies she was introduced to at NASA, personal stories, and larger issues like 9/11 and the shuttle explosion in 2003. Her poetry is wonderfully rambling and punctuated by mostly electronic music. Thomas and I both thought the music, although very beautiful, could have been used as more than just punctuation for her text. She obviously has a wealth of technologies at her disposal, but the electronic music did little more than set the mood. This may be an aesthetic choice on her part, and to be fair I think what makes her an "experimental" artist is the multi-media-ness and random format of her shows, and not any strictly musical experimentalism on her part. The audience LOVED the show and clapped her back on stage more than five times.

How cool it must be to be such a weirdo and rake in a symphony-hall-full of people at 25 Euros a head. It gives me hope for the future.

Here is a bit from www.laurieanderson.com:


Laurie's latest performance The End of the Moon is the second in a trilogy of solo performance works that combines stories and music in an intimate setting. The End of the Moon includes music for violin and electronics creating a duet between the spoken word and Lauries signature sound.

Following the first piece in this series Happiness (2002), The End of the Moon draws upon Lauries recent experiences and research as the first artist-in-residence at NASA in 2003. Part travelogue, part personal theories, history, and dreams The End of the Moon looks at the relationships between war, aesthetics, the space race, spirituality and consumerism. Collectively, Laurie envisions this solo trilogy as an 'epic poem' which aims to paint a large picture of contemporary American culture.

For The End of the Moon, Anderson began examining the question, Who taught you what beauty is? Unable to provide an answer, Anderson set off in search of one. The End of the Moon is her NASA end-of-term report, a performance piece that suggests a fateful symmetry between journeys into outer and inner space.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


We went to this electronic music concert on l'Acousmatique, a French word describing a movement in electronic music that has something to do with the audience not being able to see or pinpoint the source of the sound. Apparently Pythagoras used to sit behind a screen when he taught, thereby forcing his young pupils to listen more intently and without distraction from the visual realm. I really dont understand what l'Acousmatique means with regard to electronic music because all electronic music concerts are like Pythagorean lectures, since the rooms are dark and everyone faces a blank wall with speakers all around. The composer, invariably dressed in black, sits in the back at a folding table with a laptop and a bunch of cables, but the sounds don't come from him and so the whole experience is disorienting for the traditional concert goer.

Anyway, the concert was great; it featured music by some visiting French-Canadian composers, my favorites were Ombres, Espaces, Silences by Gilles Gobeil and StrinGDberg by Robert Normandeau. Professor Normandeau had a lovely French accent, is the same age as my parents, and teaches at the University of Montreal. Thomas spoke to him after the concert. Unlike me Thomas has some idea about l'Acousmatique because he spoke about it with Franois Bayle, a French composer widely regarded as the father of the movement. Monsieur Bayle will be in Cologne in June!