February 15, 2013

Ghost In the House

Ghost In the House CD

I have loved experimental music since I discovered it in college in the late 1950's. From the French experimental musique concrète by Pierre Henry, of the 1940's up to the early experimental ambient work in the late 1970's, I have loved it all. From the deliciously tranquil work of Brian Eno to the make-your-teeth-itch sounds (or none-sounds) of John Cage (see: Happy Birthday, John Cage), acoustic and electronic, I have loved it all. Olivier Messiaen, Jean Barraqué, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Edgard Varèse, Iannis Xenakis, Michel Philippot, and Arthur Honegger, I have loved them all.

(click on any image to see larger size)
Circa 1930
photographer unknown

  Iannis Xenakis in his studio in Paris, c. 1970
photo by Michèle Daniel

 October 1994 in the Studio for Electronic Music 
of WDR Cologne, 
during production of the Electronic Music 
from FRIDAY from LIGHT.
Date: October 1994
photo by Kathinka Pasveer

The experiments in 1942 when the French composer and theoretician Pierre Schaeffer began his exploration of radiophony and he joined Jacques Copeau and his pupils in the foundation of the Studio d'Essai de la Radiodiffusion Nationale are marvels to experience.

 Pierre Schaeffer working with the phonogene in his studio
circa 1948 
photo by Serge Lido

About the same time, the Egyptian composer Halim El-Dabh, then a student in Cairo, was independently experimenting with tape music.

Halim El-Dabh
photo by James Vaughn

These and many other experiments in music have built a rich body of work in the field. Last night I had the pleasure of experiencing this wonderful tradition being kept alive in a dynamic performance at the Berkeley Arts Center on University Avenue in, where else, Berkeley.

photo by Styrous®

The music was performed by the experimental music group, Ghost In The House. The group was conceived by filmmaker & musician David Michalak. The first part of the program was, Dreams & Dance in D minor ~ an eerie dream narrative by The Dreamer accompanied by dance and set to otherworldly music described as a soundtrack for the subconscious. 

 Ghost In The House. 
 photo by Styrous®

The tale about a giant head was read by Dean Santomieri (The Dreamer) who wrote the main part of the story, with the beginning and ending text written by David Michalak. It is a strange and creepy tale with the music/sound appropriately matched by Ghost in the House. The reading and the soundtrack combined so well you could almost smell the rotting, putrid head there in the performance space. A brilliant piece of theater!!

 The Dreamer (Dean Santomieri)
photo by Styrous® 

As The Dreamer read, the dance was performed behind a screen by internationally renown Butoh dancer, Kinji Hayashi.

photo by Styrous®

photo by Styrous®

The audience sat enthralled by the performance until the intermission when we were able to talk to the performers during the break. I was introduced to Kinji by Dean at that time.

During the second half of the program, Kinji danced practically in the faces of the audience. It was quite an experience.

photo by Styrous®

photo by Styrous®

I bumped into Pamela Z, an extraordinary sound/performance artist who has been doing her stuff in the bay area for over 30 years. We hadn't seen each other for years and it was good to touch base with her again. She told me she was performing with the Kronos Quartet at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on February 21 and 22, a week from now. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Pamela Z
photo by Styrous®

The Ghost in the House performers:

Polly Moller: bass flute
Karen Stackpole: percussion & gongs
John Ingle: soprano & alto saxophone
David Michalak: lap steel
Tom Nunn: inventions,
Dean Santomieri: narration & resonator guitar
Richard Waters: waterphone

Dean Santomieri, narration & resonator guitar
photo by Styrous®

Polly Moller, bass flute
 photo by Styrous®

 John Ingle, soprano & alto saxophone
 photo by Styrous®

 Karen Stackpole, percussion & gongs
 photo by Styrous®

Tom Nunn, inventions
photo by Styrous®

Performances by Dean Santomieri can be seen on YouTube.
The Boy Beneath the Sea by Dean Santomieri is available on Amazon.
Music by Polly Moller is available on cdbaby.
Music by Karen Stackpole can be heard on YouTube.
Music by Tom Nunn is available on iTunes.
Music by Richard Waters can be heard on YouTube.
Richard Waters invented the waterphone which is for sale online at Waterphone.

It was an evening of anticipated delights and wonderful surprises. My thanks to Ghost In the House for the fantastic event.

What a delightful Valentine!

Styrous® ~ Feb 14, 2013

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