New York: Of New Music, Amusement, and Guilt

I caught the kick-off concert of Roulette’s annual Mixology (June 16-26) fest last night. Nicolas Collins and Kato Hideki entertained an intimate, enthusiastic crowd skewed far towards the male (which is to say it was a typical new music audience) at the art gallery/performance space Location One in SOHO.

A sophisticated event as far as noise shows go, the long-form improv that opened their set was the most compelling part of the program. Collins framed it in the published program as “a rekindled, unapologetically nostalgic involvement with circuitry (especially from the Victorian era) and feedback.” Visually this roughly translated into a lot of crawling around on the floor among electronic detritus. There were instruments around too, but the set-up had more of the feel of a workshop than a concert stage. The audience was pin-drop quiet, most eyes were shut, and the listening palpably intense. Being myself in an uncharacteristically jovial mood, I couldn’t help but lose myself in more fantastical imaginings, gazing into the sound as if it were a PBS special on the cosmos and moved to translate the aural picture into, among other things:

A hail storm beating on an aluminum awning
Welding sparks (dad in his workshop)
Dentist performing root canal from hell
The world as heard by Alice after shrinking in Wonderland
Snatches of the upstairs neighbor’s answering machine
Very bad TV reception (no one paid the cable bill again)
Intergalactic laser battle (cousins watching Star Wars in the other room for the 65th time)
’79 Volkswagen trying to get enough RPM’s to hit 70 m.p.h. on the Interstate

The bottom line here is that I had a good time, but then I felt guilty. Amusement somehow seems intellectually dishonest in a lot of high art/music contexts, and even though I knew better, I still questioned my very literal, visual reactions, and the enjoyment found in an unexpected evening of spontaneously conjured recollections from my own past. I wonder what my very serious-looking neighbors where thinking.