The University of California Institute for Research in the Arts supports embedded arts research through critical exchange

Sounding Off: Portraits of Unusual Music

September 3, 2011 – September 18, 2011

PFA Theater, UC Berkeley

According to Webster’s, music “is the art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity.” Or not. As you’ll see from these melodious inquiries into contemporary musical practice, music can be more about a relationship to the world than the ordering of tones or sounds. As expressed in these five films, there even seems to be a tendency to disrupt those very things in opposition to musical traditions that forgo the surrounding culture. Whether it’s Trimpin’s quest to devise new sound-producing instruments, or koto player Miya Masaoka forging a sonic kinship with insect life, whether it’s violin virtuoso Jon Rose playing barbed-wire fences strung across Australia’s outback, or shaman Kim Seok-Chul’s ecstatic ritual drumming, the many musicians in Sounding Off pursue unusual musical manifestations that are as much responses to political circumstance or the natural landscape as to the unity of composition. And though these musicians might relish noisy intervention or unexpected discord, in their hands it’s still a sound enterprise.

Steve Seid, Video Curator

Saturday, September 3, 2011
6:00 p.m. The Reach of Resonance
Steve Elkins (U.S., 2010). Steve Elkins and Bob Ostertag in person. Four artists who pursue unusual musical investigations: koto player Miya Masaoka, who performs music for insects and plants; Bob Ostertag, who composes music for riots; violin virtuoso Jon Rose, who plies the barbed-wire fences of Australia’s outback; and John Luther Adams, who seeks an “ecology of music.” (116 mins)

Thursday, September 8, 2011
7:00 p.m. Trimpin: The Sound of Invention
Peter Esmonde (U.S., 2009). Peter Esmonde and Ellen Fullman in person. Seattle-based Trimpin is part madcap inventor, part eccentric composer: this lively documentary provides a “lifelike ride through Trimpin’s wonderful Dr. Seuss world of sound sculptures” (Kyle Gann). Preceded by 5 Variations on a Long String, documenting Ellen Fullman playing her unique instrument. (99 mins)

Saturday, September 10, 2011
6:30 p.m. Ne change rien
Pedro Costa (Portugal/France, 2009). Costa’s newest film is a moody performance documentary of Jeanne Balibar, a French chanteuse of the damaged and bruised. This is no concert film, but a meditation akin to Godard’s Sympathy for the Devil. (103 mins)

Friday, September 16, 2011
7:00 p.m. We Don’t Care About Music Anyway
Cédric Dupire, Gaspard Kuentz (France, 2009). This provocative portrait of Tokyo’s new music scene features eight musicians in a seductive montage of clatter and racket, including noise guitarist Yamakawa Fuyuki, cellist Sakamoto Hiromichi, and guitarist Shimazaki Tomoko. “The Koyaanisqatsi of French documentaries about Japanese noise music” (Maryland Film Festival). (80 mins)

Sunday, September 18, 2011
6:30 p.m. Intangible Asset Number 82
Emma Franz (Australia, 2009). This rhythmic documentary follows jazz drummer Simon Barker to South Korea, and his meeting with ritual drummer/shaman Kim Seok-Chul. “It opened my eyes to another facet of the cross-pollination taking place in the melting pot art form known as jazz” (Aidan Levy, Village Voice). (90 mins)

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