Six vocalist/actor/performers take the stage. Each dons a headset. They begin to speak/chant/sing/enunciate. A scattered, cacophonous welling emerges. The performers are each vocalizing independently in ways never before heard: unpredictable, unrecognizable, all-range, all-dynamic. The vocals are accompanied by an all-electronics produced score, something vaguely from the techno mix-dance floor, from older analog electronic scores, from popular culture, from minimalism - but not. In this context the electronica is bizarre, at times modernist conservative or vaguely commercial, at other times more in tune with the early minimalism of Reich's tape pieces, Come Out and It's Gonna Rain. This stands in stark relief to the pinwheeling, free-form vocals. At times the voices and electronic score are completely opposed to each other, at other times the electronics are more of an underpinning, a base of operations, or even a simple accompaniment. The text is un-decipherable, perhaps some unfamiliar foreign language. It bears a faint resemblance to the phrasing and cadences of English, but it clearly is also nothing like English though occasionally a word of English crops up. The performers are extremely intense, concentrated, focused. The stage is charged with their intensity which is unlike that in other performance. They seem to be intent beyond the performance.
The vocalists gesture, sometimes very emphatically. A vocalist throws an arm down. He repeats an emotionally charged phrase. The vocalist next to him throws an arm up at the end of a phrase. They repeat their phrases and gestures, though the language seems to drift almost imperceptibly, the arm gestures are more emphatic. Elsewhere, vocalists are keening in high and low registers. The keening is a constant flow of language, of text, of pure information which because of its foreigness is meaningless, but whose vehemence, mass and physicality speak emotive volumes beyond the inscrutable words.
The structures are complex; Byzantine but directed, baroque yet effectually conveying concept beyond any possible ascribed textual meaning. The listener approaches the language as sonic event, emphatic, yet superimposed on a techno-derived layer of sound which is sometimes trivial, even mocking, in comparison. The vocal sound's connection and associations with language bring a humanizing factor to the abstractness of the impassioned deliveries. One wonders what the focus of the intensity and passion might be given that the language is impenetrable. A reduction of means has occurred. Pure human content has supplanted the word-textual venue, while mocking it, both with its position as a possible pretender to language (unless this truly is some obscure language), and amid the quasi-techno backdrop. The piece takes on the mantle of theatre, as passion is reduced to abstraction, yet loses no passion to that abstraction. Freed from specifically word-related content the passion is loosed to explore pure passion, undescribed via the sputtering text's content.
Copyright © 12 February 2000 Jeff Talman, Saratoga Springs, NY, USA