Friday, October 24, 2008

Great Sound in 'yud' gallery at CJM

It was an amazing opportunity last night to hear a HUB piece in performance. So often I am listening as a performer which is a way different experience from actually just sitting back and absorbing a piece. VAV, Chris Brown's commission for John Zorn's Aleph-Bet Sound Project at the beautiful new Contemporary Jewish Museum in downtown San Francisco on Oct. 23rd.

This was an unusual HUB event for a lot of reasons. This piece more than most of our other pieces was not done as collectively as usual. Chris got the commission and did a lot of the ground work on the piece, designing a functioning user interface and really clearly specifying all the parameters before any of the rest of us worked on the piece. Still the end result had the characteristic "collective" sound that is emblematic of the HUB's work.

There was some back and forth over email when we were putting this piece together about attribution and this spirit of cooperation that felt to be partially violated in the way this piece came to Chris first. He was clearly credited for his excellent work on it in a way that separated him from the rest of the group. This is unusual from our usual practice. However, having gone through the full experience now, it is clear it was his vision of this piece and hard work to make it happen that made a significant portion of what we heard in this magnificent new space last night.

It was pleasure to meet Dan Schifrin as well writer in residence and director of Public programs at the museum. What an interesting job to have; to be responsible for this amazing acoustic space with the promise of it's rich future for performance and interaction.

There are some interesting problems that are presented by the architects vision of this room, supposedly designed for sound, but more aligned with visual aesthetic considerations. For the concert last night they brought in 4 surround speakers and a LFE subwoofer for in the plain of the gallery while the Mackie UPM 100 that are installed above for the standard playback just acted for the lift provided by the "center" channel of the 5.1 mix that Chris had done. Looking at the space it was hard to understand why the architect, Daniel Libeskind, did not specify that the speaker system be built into the walls of the space. For that matter, why weren't the lights also integrated into the walls? The striking non-perpendicular aspect of the room is unnecessarily disturbed by the lighting and speaker grid above the space.

However, I am not complaining this is a spectacular venue in a fantastic new venue that promises to fully enrich the cultural life of the Bay Area and it was a real thrill to be a part of the beginning of what promises to be years of rich new culture creation associated with this new resource.