June 16: Day 4, soundOn, a new music festival at the Athenaeum, Streetside Concert, afternoon.
This afternoon, soundOn took to the streets — well, the Athenaeum’s front patio, which is bathed in sunlight (whatever happened to “June gloom”?).
The concert, titled “Poetry and Percussion,” is drawing the festival’s biggest crowd, passersby who are just stopping, listening, and sticking around. New music, after all, is easy. A teenager stands, beating his hand against his leg. A woman bounces her grandson on her lap to the beat of another piece. Cars, sirens, a semi, and other ambient noises simply add to the effect.
Dressed in their festival t-shirt, the NOISE ensemble banged on stainless steel kitchen bowls, a snare drum, various bells, triangles, and other objects. Then they switch hats and stand before the mike, speaking text-sound — word experiments.
Of the musical pieces, Joseph Celli’s “Snare Drum for Camus” (not the writer but his son) and Improvisation for khaen and musical saw (performed by Chris Adler and Egon Kafka) held the most interest. In Celli’s piece, the four members of NOISE stand in a circle around a snare drum, then start playing it with sticks, starting at the rim, working their way to the center then back. The piece produces a surprising variety of sounds and even emotions.
Adler might just be the western world’s leading interpreters of the khaen, a bamboo free-reed mouth organ from Thailand and Laos. Kafka, whose day job is owner of La Jolla’s Village Lodge, played a saw, available from Home Depot. The khaen can sound like an accordion or a low flute, and while it can also approximate a drone, in this improvisation, Adler — and Kafka on the saw — draw pure, tender and gentle tones.