Musical Networking

Are artists creating symbols and new representations of our technologically-enhanced culture? Certainly they’re employing technology to make art, in the form of computer generated images, synthesized audio and enhanced videos. But where are the symbols, even if made using traditional methods, for the way contemporary society shares, relates and communicates? Consider cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum’s four-part suite Apparent Distance, commissioned through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundations’ Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works Program. Despite its mostly acoustic instrumentation, it’s all here to be heard: inter-connectedness, flashing images, viral content, the rants and alienation, the unexpected crash. And it’s all done in clashingly brilliant style with old-school cornet, tuba or bass trombone, saxophone, drums, acoustic bass and one electric instrument: guitar. What’s different from all the other avant garde music produced in the last 60 years is the relationship—you might say interface—between instruments, how one speaks its mind while another, or several,  comment in real time. Tempos range from hyper to dial-up.  Mary Halvorson’s guitar provides all the static, feedback and raw power that the suite needs, even as saxophonist John Hobbs wails in human frustration. Bynum’s function is to malfunction. His cornet stutters and short-circuits before it comes up with things truly amazing. In its abbreviated-way, Apparent Distance is as distracting as texting. Ironically, the only section not available as an MP3 is titled “Source.”

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