On Thursday, I attended the Full Moon Concerts – Flower Moon, part of the Thursday Outsound music series at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco (which I have played at many times). The series, which occurs on the Thursday closest to the full moon of every month, is curated by our friend Polly Moller.
The first half of the concert featured a duo by Theresa Wong and Kanoko Nishi. The set began with pitch extremes, high “harmonics” on the koto and low tones on the cello, at first quite distinct but converging and becoming more melodic over time. There were in fact three lines rather than two, as Wong’s vocals provided a counterpoint that was sometimes completely blended with the sound of the cello to form a chord, at other times a separate instrument. The overall sound moved from extremely percussive, with Nishi’s sometimes violent bending, striking and stretching of the strings and use of external objects such as styrofoam packing, to calm, almost “harmonic” drones. The transitions were not abrupt, but they did sometimes come unexpectedly, the listener suddenly finding himself in a completely different set of sounds. The last of these transitions went from a very loud section featuring the styrofoam and mallets set against a cello drone, and then suddenly fading out as quiet harmonics and blending into the city sounds outside.
The second half of the concert featured the ensemble Vorticella, which included Krystyna Bobrowski on horns, Erin Espeland on cello, Brenda Hutchinson on aluminum tube and vocals, and Karen Stackpole on percussion. The ensemble takes its from the vorticella, bell-shaped single-cell life forms that exist in colonies but can break off on their own at any time, an apt metaphor for group improvisation.
In taking notes for this review, I ended up drawing the following graph while listening, and I think it describes the initial section of the performance as well as any full text:
I particularly noticed how Hutchinson’s vocals as amplified and resonated by the tube sounded “electronic”, and my attention was focused on this as well as Stackpole’s metallic percussion, which ranged from conventionally “metallic sounding” to unusual squeaks and bubbling. Espeland’s cello and Bobrowski’s french horn and visually interesting kelp horns filled in the space, with either long drones or “pointed sounds” that matched the texture of the percussion and the vocals.
A later section that caught my interest were a smoother and more “linear” piece anchored by bowed gongs, with drones on the cello and horns, ending with the resonances of the gongs fading naturally. This was followed by a relatively soft section of discrete notes and hits, which came a sudden end and concluded the concert.