Sunday February 22nd 2009, 1:09 pm

“It’s just noise,” the hypothetical uninitiated would undoubtedly crow. “What’s the point?” one expecting something approximating music, or at least exhibiting some coherence of structure, might ask. But I smiled glibly to myself, knowing better. My mind was open to the outer extents of the world of creative pursuits—to these particular coordinates in that wide space, the sound sculpture. To know that genuine creativity could be hidden deep within a chaotic mass of screeches and rumbles was my secret to silently share with the people gathered in this dark Chicago loft.

I’d been to several such events in past months. I had tuned in the subtle variations in noise color, the interplay of dissonant frequencies, watching closely with my ears as the strange forms ricocheted throughout the brick and wood. Tonight was to be an event among events—the return of a great name who had graced this space years prior, performing now before a standing-room-only crowd. That this name, like all guest performers past, signified nothing to me, did not bother me: I was here to learn, to be immersed in the foreign. 

It began familiarly, with an ocean of rumbling hiss, gushing from the quadrophonic speakers to envelop the room in a torrent of spectrum-ravishing density. Genius, I was certain, would soon follow. The noise continued, steady, solid, unchanging—there was something in there, I was certain, unmistakably sublime, if only I could grasp it—but the noise continued, without deviation.

A change at last made its arrival. Sparse words of a mysterious narrative ensued. And repeated. And repeated. And repeated. The genius was in here. I was merely distracted by the repetition. The repetition. What was I looking for? Was there a meaning in this homogenous circuit? Or was to seek one to miss the point? The repetition. It continued, interleaved, fading, re-surging.

And it was over. Had I missed it? As I walked down the snowy street, I pondered my reaction. Perhaps I wasn’t ready for this caliber of structural minimalism. 

Or, I had to entertain, it could simply be that, despite the great fanfare, despite the standing crowd, despite the reputation, and despite my airs of understanding art, that just maybe: 

Maybe it wasn’t that good.

Empty glass photo by CareyTilden

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I related to this experience so well it scared me. It’s something that I return to with a lot of unfamiliar forms of art.

I encountered something similar when I went to see Biosphere in a church a year back, although I couldn’t say there was anything tangibly gratifying about the experience, I still enjoyed it and would see it again.

Perhaps it’s just the mystery that surrounds art that’s half the point- curiosity and the search for some sort of meaning that opens the mind. But then I couldn’t accept that the pursuit is the entire point. If there’s something within that chaotic mess of noise to be discovered, then it can be learned.

Who was the performer you went to see?

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