Tweelank at Campo Santo

On the second day of my tour, we went to Ghent, Belgium to participate in Tweelank, a two-night festival of  music at Campo Santo, a crumbly beautiful church on top of a hill surrounded by an impressive cemetery. The cemetery is the burial grounds for many writers,painters and composers. I found the idea of performing at a cemetery church to be interesting and curious for me. The acoustics were very reverberant–it was a thoughtful place picked out by the guys at Kraak for the acts they had chosen for Tweelank.

Kraak is an organization in Belgium that supports and promotes a large amount of experimental/left-field music acts. They book shows and bring artists from around the world to Ghent, Brussels and Antwerp. Since they do not have a dedicated venue, they choose different venues depending on the act they are bringing in. Each year they also have a festival in March and they promote a film series and other concerts throughout the year. I was disappointed to have missed the concert the night before for Tweelank because it featured  Limpe Fuchs, an artist that performed on a  large stone xylophone and other acoustic/visual instruments. After talking to her, I found out that the stones were picked out in Switzerland and she has been performing sculptural instruments for a very long time. She also had this large drum elevated with a long pipe-tube hanging from it that sounded like a low deep gong or chime. I couldn’t imagine touring with these large one-of-a-kind instruments. You can see some performance clips of her on these instruments on her site.

Yoko Ono “Das Gift”

While visiting Berlin, I stumbled upon a magazine with an exclusive interview with Yoko Ono about her new exhibit, Das Gift, currently at Berlin’s Haunch of Venison. After following her for quite some time, I found the timing of this to be serendipitous. It was my last day in Berlin and  I felt hungry for something alive, interesting and giving to prepare me for my final show. Yoko has been an inspiration for me as an artist and human being so I was excited to see her new installation.

The Haunch of Venison in Berlin is located north of the main train station on Heidestrasse. The walk itself was kind of interesting because there is not much going on there except for construction and some motorcycle shops. We thought we had approached the Haunch when we came upon a bunch of converted industrial warehouses that were galleries. Finally, we found the Haunch next door and entered Yoko’s exhibit.

There were a few things that made the experience exceptional for me– first is that the entire gallery is dedicated to Yoko’s show. There was a concentrated feeling of her presence because it was all Das Gift. This magnified the exhibit rather than it being a small part of a large museum where there are paintings next door.  Second, was the fact that it was almost entirely empty, so Rob and I were able to experience it in silence and space without crowds of people.  It made me think about how hard it was for me to view Marina’s show at the MOMA last Spring because of all the people ( though of course, she deserves the attention.) In this kind of space, there was so much more intimacy and since Yoko’s works often encourage viewer interaction, the setting of this show was perfect.  And last–the exhibit truly was a gift–it was a FREE show from Yoko to us.

Now for the work itself– in true Yoko form, the entire exhibit focuses on peace in the midst of violence. Right when you enter, there are suspended helmets holding puzzle pieces of blue sky and white clouds. Piece Of Sky invites the viewer to take a small piece of sky with them, remembering that we are all part of this picture together. Her bullet-shattered glass is stunning. In close viewing, the cracks in the thick pane of glass appeared deep, multi-layered,rich and beautiful. In a following room, she invites the viewers to tack on a note, picture or memory to a location on a map of Berlin telling a story of pain. This was provocative in idea since Berlin is such a changing city. Several people attached notes on gentrification, some people drew pictures,attached poems and located places they had sex with strangers. Soon there will be so many memories attached that it will cover the map entirely.  Upstairs is a playful piece Berlin Smile where there is a projection of a bunch of people smiling. On the side of the room is a photo booth where we sat down to take our picture to add to her collection.  A very simple idea but after sitting there for a few minutes we did find it to be heartwarming.  There were several other works on display as well that all fit into her concept of gift and poison. To find out more about it , visit Haunch of Venison. The exhibit will be up until November 13th.

Madame Claude tonight at Berlin!

Tonight finishes my mini-tour at Berlin’s ex-brothel, Madame Claude  in a colorful café-filled district, Kreuzberg. I found this venue online when I was looking for potential concert promoters/bars/cafés a couple of months ago. They have been known for their experimental music  as well as booking some other big-time acts that come through Berlin.   One of the cool characteristics of this place is that everything is upside-down with sofas,lamps and tables glued to the ceiling. I thought this would be a good place for a toy piano concert. I will also be joined by Banana Pill, a Finland-based minimalist/experimental/psychedelic group.

The entire tour has been incredibly eye-opening and stimulating for my music. It has been a tour filled with alternative venues without any association with the classical music scene, which has been overly-refreshing. At a day and age when anyone can make any music, it seems a bit forced to continually associate my work to the classical music tradition. My only criticism is that the classical music world seems like it is struggling to survive in this time and therefore looking for people that have “tricks” up their sleeve. Unfortunately, those situations make me feel like my work on the toy piano isn’t taken seriously for what it is, but rather a classical music programming twist. This tour has really responded to my unrealized faith that unique music can truly find its own audience. I really hope to reach out to more audience that will like my music for what it is.  I will be sure to write more stories upon my return!

She Herself Alone–Margaret Leng Tan brings light to toy pianos (again)

Thirteen years after Margaret Leng Tan released her first solo toy piano album Art of the Toy Piano, she releases an even more unforgettable sequel album, She Herself Alone. It is clear that Margaret has collected a handful of gorgeous gems throughout the years that portray a dramatic and epic journey with the toy piano. Some of my favorites include the haunting Hymn to Ruin by Ross Bolleter that is written for ruined piano and ruined toy piano, Eric Griswold’s playful Old MacDonald’s Yellow Submarine and Laura Liben’s enchanting She Herself Alone for toy piano and toy psaltery. Other works include George Crumb’s Put My Little Shoes Away from his American Songbook VI (cleverly arranged for toy piano and toy percussion by Margaret), two pieces by Cage including the Suite for Toy Piano and an arrangement of Dream, as well as the tango-filled An American in Buenos Aires by Toby Twining. One of my favorite parts on the album is Margaret’s unrestrained performance of Jerome Kitzke’s The Animist Child for toy piano and voice. The kind of abandonment in this recording is unforgettable!

This CD is more than a toy piano recording but a great collaboration between imaginative composers and an incredible performer. She Herself Alone is also available on DVD on Mode Records. Find out more at Margaret’s site.

Tristan Perich’s 1-bit Symphony

Tristan Perich‘s 1-bit symphony is out and it is dynamite. I went to the CD release party at Roulette on Friday and loved the entire show. To read more about this 45-minute symphony, check out www.1bitsymphony.com .

I first met Tristan a little over a year ago when he showed me his piece for three toy pianos and three-channel 1-bit tones, qsqsqsqqqqqqqqq. To listen to more of his music, check out his website at www.tristanperich.com.