Monday, March 21, 2005


On Saturday, Em & I picked up a six-pack of avant-garde culture at the Painted Bride. 'In What Language' takes you inside the post 9/11 international airport, as experienced by several people of color. It is 17 pieces told through music, movement, poetry, and digital film. You can download an excerpt of what this stew ends up looking like here, although the best bet is to see it in person.

Musically, the show is a pure powerhouse. All the instrumentalists have gobs of ability and everybody gets at least one solo to strut their stuff. It is essentially a jazz score with shadings of Keith Jarrett and early electric Miles, all the way out to modern hip-hop, making stops at more orchestrated jazz and classical motifs along the way. I thought the drummer should have let things get a little crazier - that would have really shot the adrenalized solos with that extra helping of ecstasy, but maybe he held back so as not to give too much joy to these proceedings. Make no mistake, this show is dark.

Which brings me to the criticism made by Emily and friends we were lucky enough to meet unexpectedly at the show (actually, John and Karen really hooked us up with the VIP treatment, since they are Bride members - THANKS GUYS). The poetry that went with the music was hard to hear. Whether it was rap, spoken word or even the rare sung vocal, the instruments really overpowered the voices. Now, I tend to listen to more instrumental music, so I didn't really notice as much, and I don't think it really took away from the central themes of isolation, persecution and suspicion, that were otherwise very much in evidence.

The authors did provide a full print out off all the words that accompanied the performance, but I have to say that outside the context of the music and images, I wasn't as inclined to probe the poetry. It seemed to me much more in its place getting blasted by the musical pieces that would take off and land at times with all the violence of a 747. And maybe that's how it was supposed to work. These voices, many of them fragile and some very strong, are all being overtaken by John Ashcroft and the paranoia and discrimination that has become somehow acceptable post 9/11. I found the vocal present enough to convey the impression, but, as with all great performances, we are left wanting more.

Here is a link to the Vijay Iyer, who is the composer. And here is where to purchase the album of the performance.

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