Last Thursday’s performances at the Luggage Store Gallery were all about poetry and spoken word.
The first performance was a duo Polly Moller (vocals) and Moe! Staiano (percussion) interpreting a recent form of spoetry. Spoetry is spam that in its effort to evade filters rises to the level of high art. Our current set of songs in Reconnaissance Fly is based on spoetry, but the performance this evening featured a new and different form where words were grouped into disjoint sequences of two or three words, and in one case the words were themselves decomposed into individual sounds and reordered.
[Click on images to enlarge.]
The performance began with coarse drums and cymbals set against dramatic recitation of the first spoem. Although I wasn’t fully aware of the structure of the spoem at the time, one could definitely sense that the words were quite disjoint from one another. There were multiple languages, which allowed Polly the opportunity to play with different accents, pitches and timbres within the text. The drums at times were “prepared” with various objects on the heads. At one point, the drums got very soft, then gave way to scraping sounds on the cymbals set against longer drawn-out words, and then both the voice and percussion suddenly became very staccato and active.
The third piece focused more on Moe!’s percussive gadgets, including a back massager that was used to set a steady pulse for the piece, and set of old intercoms that were used to remotely set of loud squeaks from the edges of the room. This was the most rhythmic of the pieces, with a steady pulse that one could even sway to a bit. Moe! expertly threw and struck various objects in a way that kept the beat going, complete with accents.
In the final piece, the sounds of the words were decomposed into even smaller units that further blurred any sense of meaning. I did recall the phrases “Isis kitsch”, however. The main percussion instruments in this piece were a set of rubber balls attached to sticks that created a powerful sound when rubbed along the walls or on the heads of the drums.
The second set featured poet Robert Anbian with Rent Romus on saxophones and Bob Marsh on cello. This was more of a “traditional” poetry performance, with Anbian reciting long-form poetry against improvised music, and quite a contrast to Polly and Moe!’s more experimental set.
The first piece began with long cello harmonics that were matched by tones on the saxophone. The poem had memorable phrases such as “square root of suffering” and “posey for your supper.”
The second piece started with an animated run of fast saxophone notes and pizzicato on the cello. Then the poetry entered, with imagery and words related to fire and memorable phrases such as “The post war blues you are feeling is perfectly normal.” The music became noisier and sparser, then moved towards more of a jazz idiom (i.e., with the cello sounding a bit like a bass) then back to more noise and free improvisation. This was quite a long poem, and towards the end I think we in the audience began applauding before it was actually done. Anbian took this in stride and simply said “the audience has spoken.”
The last piece, My Country Loves Peace Remix began with cello and electronics (delays, etc.) set against a moaning saxophone. After a while the music moved to bowed cello and sax harmonics, then back to more electronically processed cello. The poem was about the perpetual state of war we seem to find ourselves in, despite leaders proclaiming their desire for piece. War was used broadly and included not only guns and bombs, but the taking of resources and cultural assets from others, sometimes by force, yet still proclaiming peace. “When will the war end?” A section of the music featured harmonics on the cello matching long tones on the sax with tremolo on both instruments. At one point, the pitches stablized on a major third before “falling apart” as a series of glissandi. The poem ended with the question repeated “When will the war end…Barack?”