On Sunday, I attended the room: PIPES featuring Polly Moller, Pamela Z and Jane Rigler. The Room chambre series, hosted an produced by Pamela Z, take place in the Royce Gallery, an “intimate performance gallery” in the Mission District of San Francisco. The room: PIPES performance featured performances that incorporated flutes.
Before the start of the performance, we were treated to a welcome by “Ellie”, the freight elevator in the building that houses the Royce Gallery. While some music purists might be appalled to have a freight elevator included in a performance, I found it quite charming to incorporate an element of the industrial setting.
Polly Moller presented a new work, Three of Swords. The performance included an arrangement of Tarot cards, a timer and a series of candles to mark sections of the piece. In each selection, a card was drawn, and the music was an improvisation based on that card. The music focused on extended flute techniques; for example, the first draw led to an improvisation with the head of a bass flute using microtones, overblowing, whistles, clicks and other inspiring sounds. The one section of the performance that stood apart from the others was the drawing of the Three of Swords, illustrated to the right, which launched a very detailed but very expressive description of the human heart.
Pamela Z‘s playful and energetic performance did not feature flutes, but instead focus on voice. It began with live looping of tonal and harmonic singing (look up “live looping” here on CatSynth for a primer if you’re not familiar with the technique), and gradually moved to more extended vocal techniques, including clicks, screeches (with electronic processing), whispers, etc. The video in the background displayed an interior of an old industrial or loft space, empty except for a trunk that appeared and disappeared at various times. Sometimes it was open, to reveal drawers and messy clothes.
Jane Rigler opened her set with a virtuosic flute and electronics piece and the welcoming statement “Do not fear the microphone and piccolo.” She then performed her piece A la pintura, inspired by Robert Motherwell’s paintings, which were in turn a response to Spanish poet Rafael Alberti’s poems celebrating painting. Motherwell’s paintings, both as stills and as animations, were projected during the performance, and there were also moments where text was projected, presumably excerpts from Alberti’s poems. Motherwell’s paintings are quite abstract, focusing on textual elements and geometry. To have these images along with strong flute-and-electronics music (a favorite instrumental combination of mine) was a treat.
The performance concluded with a trio improvisation of all three performers. In addition to the flutes and voice, Polly Moller broke out her “tone nut” (doughnut-shaped wind instrument), and Pamela Z played the popular Ocarina iPhone instrument. It’s always interesting to hear how such disparate musicians play off of one another, and this group improvisation could have kept going on for a bit longer…