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«The Kitchen Center for video, music, dance, performance, film, and literature Winter 2016 Season Winter 2016 “From Minimalism into Algorithm” ...»

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The Kitchen

Center for video, music, dance, performance, film, and literature

Winter 2016 Season

Winter 2016

“From Minimalism into Algorithm” George Lewis

Exhibition The Kitchen Improvises, 1976-2016

January 7–April 2 February 9. 8pm. $20.

Taking place in The Kitchen theater and gallery To celebrate the release of the archival CD The

spaces throughout the 2015-2016 season, “From Kitchen Improvises: 1976-1983, George Lewis Minimalism into Algorithm” sets contemporary curates an evening of performances inspired by and historical painting, sculpture, performance, that moment of particular hybridity in the downand musical composition in counterpoint, propos- town music scene.

ing a new through-line for art-making during Dawn of Midi the past half century. Organized collaboratively February 10. 8pm. $15.

by The Kitchen and participating artists, the exhibition takes up the legacy of Minimalist art Dawn of Midi is a Brooklyn-based acoustic enand composition during the 1960s and 1970s— semble made up of Aakaash Israni from India on whose seriality was understood by artists and crit- double bass, Amino Belyamani from Morocco on ics to correlate with the era’s industrial production piano and Qasim Naqvi from Pakistan on drums.

and increased weight placed on the presence of With their critically acclaimed 2015 album the individual—as a precedent for reconsidering Dysnomia (Erased Tapes), the band abandoned work by a younger generation for whom serial improvisation in favor of highly precise composirepetition now corresponds more directly with tion, utilizing sophisticated rhythmic structures digital technology and the reconfiguring of our en- from North and West African folk traditions counters with physical space through networked to weave a sonic tapestry of trance-inducing communication. grooves— a singular sound Israni has deemed “both musically futuristic and sonically vintage.” Dirty Looks Organized by Lumi Tan.

February 8. 8pm. FREE Liz Santoro and Pierre Godard Dirty Looks, a bi-coastal platform for queer experiFor Claude Shannon mental film, video and performance, returns to February 18-20. 8pm. $15.

The Kitchen to screen A One Man Show, Grace Jones’s remarkable concert video, introduced In search of another relay [1] between text and by artist Rashaad Newsome. In 1982, Jones movement, For Claude Shannon uses grammaticollaborated with photographer Jean-Paul Goude, cal dependencies between words in a statement translating their iconic and trailblazing album [2] from computer science pioneer Claude artwork for the new, home video format. A thrilling Elwood Shannon to recover a linguistic structure showcase for the former disco diva-cum-New that, in turn, generates inexhaustible possibiliWave chanteuse, the tape combines rock ribaldry ties for choreographic sequences. Twenty-four with avant-garde theater, tearing asunder racial discreet movement “atoms” for arms and legs and gender stereotypes. Jones writes of the tape serve as a movement lexicon from which a fixed in her memoirs, “It was like the invention of a new number of inputs is randomly chosen each time genre, related to the musical, to opera, to circus, the piece is performed. For each performance, to cinema, to documentary, to the art gallery… It dancers must assemble and learn one particuwas about rejecting normal, often quite senti- lar choreographic outcome among the billions mental and conventionally crowd-pleasing ways possible that cannot be rehearsed. They rely on of projecting myself as a black singer and female the intimacy they have acquired with the fixed entertainer, because those ways had turned linguistic structure of the text and the intimacy into clichés, which kept me pent up in a cage. I they have acquired with one another. Engaging wanted to jolt the adult world that is traditionally the resources of both their working and longleft bland by white men, to shatter certain kinds term memory, uncovering to the audience the of smugness through performance and theater.” pronouncement of the unknown, concealing the predicaments of entropy, they relentlessly switch circuits. Organized by Matthew Lyons as part of “From Minimalism into Algorithm.” The Kitchen presents

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Quicksand is made possible with support from The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Joseph and Joan Cullman Foundation for the Arts, The Cowles Charitable Trust, The Jerome Robbins Foundation, and The Harkness Foundation for Dance; and in part by public funds from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and National Endowment for the Arts.

QUICKSAND Music and Libretto




Orchestra Composition




Performers MAURA GAHAN and JURIJ KONJAR Stage Manager


Set and Costume Design


Set and Costume Construction ANDREA POE MAURA GAHAN Producer


Quicksand furthers Robert Ashley’s distinct and innovative investigation of the American language in a musical setting. Using his signature blend of speech and song, it tells the story of a composer who has been coerced by a Government Agency (the “Company”) to serve as a low-level “courier” (or spy). Traveling with his wife to an unnamed South Asian country run by a military dictatorship, he becomes involved with plans to overthrow the government through his close friendship with two tour guides. With the assistance of four American mercenaries, the composer participates in the capture and imprisonment of the country’s leaders, and the destruction of the torture operation by which the dictatorship has maintained its power.

The novel Quicksand was published by Burning Books in 2011 (burningbooks.org), and in 2012 Robert Ashley asked his friends Steve Paxton, Tom Hamilton and David Moodey to collaborate with him in bringing the “opera-novel” to fruition.

The opera is in three acts with an intermission between Acts II and III at 8:45 p.m.

Steve Paxton: Notes on the Choreography As a performer/improviser with Lisa Nelson, I used two of Ashley’s early works. One was dense with text, one was essentially mumbling.

“The Park” and “The Backyard” from his Private Parts comprised the soundtrack for PA RT (my 1978 work with Nelson). Automatic Writing — with some other inclusions—was the soundtrack for our Night Stand (2004).

Ashley considered his proposals operas. With the two elements of Private Parts, he spun a tale of two individuals, each deeply involved in their own private worlds; the texts included their physical circumstances plus thoughts they had; allusions, digressions, memories, interests.

The audiences for our performance couldn’t grasp all of it...the dance got in the way. This resulted in the heard images surfacing throughout the dance, hearing and seeing split in two. Lisa and I performed PA RT from 1978 to 2001. I loved the support of the narrative’s twists and different levels, the musical atmosphere coming to prominence, then becoming background again.

Automatic Writing was a very different score. Two voices predominate, Ashley’s and Mimi Johnson’s. Ashley’s voice has been musically altered into indecipherability. Mimi Johnson whispers translations in French. It seems to be a situation of a man in existential distress with a soothing companion. It is rather the opposite of Private Parts; his voice without thoughts, allusions, interests, digressions, memories. It was far more challenging to perform with, being a constant and barely inflected present. Together the two scores demonstrate the breadth of thought in Ashley’s approach to opera.

A thought that Bob “had the odd talent of remaining still as his music and text swirled” was in my mind as I accepted Ashley’s invitation to choreograph Quicksand. But what I found was a very different approach. The text is a story of spies, in an unnamed far-Eastern country, and a revolutionary event. The music is a background of delicately modulated electronic chords. This is Ashley in the guise of a classic noire author, yet another departure from his previous work. The text for Quicksand doesn’t swirl much.

This is a first commission for an opera for me.

Dance within operas was frequently in the form of divertissements, not necessarily linked to the plot. I used this approach, with some references to Ashley himself, the author, and to a rather romantic connection he mentions in the text. In the main, though, I used the dance as relief from the ongoing three-hour text.

I felt that the divertissements should not overwhelm the text. They tend to be low-key, fairly brief, and occasional. They color and populate the text, provide another layer of activity to the proceedings, but aim to service the atmosphere, and not challenge the ongoing narrative. Ashley left us some general directions, mostly to enable a separation between the elements of dance, text, and light. He obviously did not anticipate illustration of the elements of the text. Nor would he have enlisted me if that had been his desire. I only wish he had lived to see this production.

Tom Hamilton: Notes on Making the Orchestra I joined the Robert Ashley ensemble in 1990, with a background as a composer and performer of electronic music and as an audio producer and engineer. We began by focusing on the electronic orchestra for Bob’s opera Improvement (Don Leaves Linda). In the 25 years that followed I collaborated in the making of orchestras in nine operas and many shorter pieces. As Bob always held innovation and change in the highest regard, there are formal designs and gestures that were very different from one piece to the next, and often we made up the studio techniques on the spot, adjusting the elements empirically until they sounded right within the intended context. The processes that we evolved in those 25 years certainly informed those that I used in preparing this present music.

Quicksand went through a long gestation and actually two different versions. After an initial attempt at recording a vocal ensemble piece that was strictly metered and very stylized, Bob decided just to tell the story himself as fast as he could read it. He was aiming for a kind of run-on vocal style and encouraged me to edit out as much silence between the words as I could manage. He also wanted to break away from his former practice of measuring the orchestra in bars and beats, and to break away from conventional musical time altogether. The music was to be paced strictly by durations of sounds within a harmonic scheme, and I was charged with making an orchestra that fulfilled that plan. I fashioned a demo orchestra for Act I that tested these ideas in a kind of homogenous setting and played it for him in January of 2014, the last time we saw each other.

The actual musical material is based on the 16-chord sequence used to structure Ashley’s earlier opera eL/Aficionado (1993). In Quicksand, those chords are used in two ways: First in their original linear sequence, heard as kind of a harmonic cloud that changes with each of the scenes in each act; then, as isolated groups of chords in a different order and of different durations, superimposed on the original harmony and sounded by timbres that change at their own rate. The result is an unstable harmonic landscape, never fully grounded in any familiar context—a patch of musical quicksand.

David Moodey: A Note on the Lighting It was an honor and privilege to work with Robert Ashley. Over the course of the last 15 years I worked on every new opera that Bob wrote and produced. He entrusted me with designing both the lighting and the settings. As an artist, because of the creative freedom he gave me, I was able to grow and expand my capabilities. We became close friends. We talked about his works, his goals with each new piece, the state of art and life. My craft and my life were enriched by his presence and our collaboration.

Bob never told his collaborators exactly what to do; he allowed them to respond to his work with their own. With Quicksand, he provided structural guidelines—a place to start. In my case he left me free to create lighting that helps the audience connect to the opera visually.

The libretto tells the story in a more or less linear progression. I don’t have to tell the audience whether it’s day or night, indoors or out. What I hope I have accomplished is the creation of a light environment that, along with Steve’s choreography, enhances the story’s emotional content.


Steve Paxton was born in 1939 in Phoenix, Arizona. Paxton’s work has recently been presented at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012); Tanz im August, Berlin (2013); Spanski Borci Cultural Centre, Ljubljana (2014); Venice (2014); and Tanzwerkstatt Europa, Munich (2014). In 2013, Dia Art Foundation presented Night Stand (2004), a work by Paxton and Lisa Nelson, at Dia:Chelsea in New York City, and in 2014 performances of early work and a recent solo at Dia:Beacon.

In 2014 the Dance Biennale, Venice, awarded Paxton the “Golden Lion” for Lifetime Achievement; and in 2015 he received a New York Dance and Performance Award (or “Bessie”) for Lifetime Achievement in Dance. He lives in Vermont.

Tom Hamilton maintains overlapping careers in audio production and music composition. Since 1990, Hamilton has been a member of the composer Robert Ashley’s touring opera ensemble, performing sound processing and mixing in both recordings and concerts. His audio production can be found in over 100 CD releases of new and experimental music. Hamilton has also composed and performed electronic music for over 40 years; his work with electronic music originated in the late-60s era of analog synthesis. He is a Fellow of the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and participated in a residency at its center in Umbria in

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