My friend Steve Elkins is on the planning committee for a group called The Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound (SASSAS). Their stated mission is "to increase the visibility and availability of experimental art and sound practices." Last night I went with Steve to a SASSAS-sponsored event called simply "sound," featuring performances by Aaron Dilloway, Jason Lescalleet, and John Wiese. This concert was unlike any concert I've ever been to. The genre could loosely be called "noise music." Basically, it involves one or more people sitting or standing in front of a table of electronic equipment, and composing music. It's not extremely fun to watch people turn dials and knobs, but if you close your eyes, the experience can be quite extraordinary.
The event was in a really cool old warehouse in a pretty desolate industrial area of Los Angeles. The outside was not much to speak of...
But inside, it was astonishingly beautiful.
There were large paintings lining the massive walls...
There was a fantastic book store called Ooga Booga, which had zines, independent books, and lots of other literary creations. This is the kind of store I want my own book store, BOOKMACHINE books + zines to sort of emulate. I picked up a few zines and a quarterly journal.
And then the headliner, Aaron Dilloway, took the "stage." I recently learned about Dilloway from my friend Ted Trager, who included him in a zine called Twenty Dudes. A founding member of the industrial noise group Wolf Eyes, Dilloway now runs Hanson Records.
Wolf Eyes was featured on the cover of the latest issue of The Wire magazine:
Aaron Dilloway works with the manipulation of 8-track tape loops in combination with voice, tape delays, and various organic and electronic sound sources. I took a photo of his set-up:
Dilloway's performance was the most fun to watch. While he was primarily turning knobs and do-dads, he was also occasionally stomping his feet, knocking on an upside-down metal trash can, whistling into tiny microphones, and the like. At a couple points he seemed to be in a trance-like state, with his legs twitching and shaking, almost like a voodoo-type ritual. It was pretty remarkable. At the end, Dilloway and Lescalleet performed together.
This show made me think differently about how I listen to sound. When we go to a concert, we tend to have certain expectations. We want to hear "music" that fits into a category we like: punk, salsa, hip hop, etc. The music of Wiese, Lescalleet, and Dilloway really doesn't fit into a popular musical category. Sometimes it sounds very pleasant and beautiful, and other times it's really intense and gnarly. In this way, though, I think this music is a better reflection of our own experiences of sounds in life. As I'm writing this, the air conditioner in my room is making a buzzing sound that I've heard so often, I barely notice. But today, after hearing this show, I find myself intrigued by the sound of the air conditioner. It's not a pleasant sound, but it's not altogether unpleasant. It's just interesting. What would happen if I started banging on the air conditioner? There are interesting sounds happening all the time, all around us. I suspect that one of the goals of this type of music is to get us to pay more attention, to listen more carefully to the audible aspects of our lives.