Thursday, February 1, 2007

New Weird Amsterdam

I met a man last week in the Netherlands who invited me to see his experimental music group, Oorbeek. They played a live broadcast on Radio Rietveld, at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. My friends and I sat on the floor of a darkened gallery and watched this mild mannered European transform into a mad conductor. Twisting his body, lifting his legs in the air, and shaking his fists, he attempted to control a cacophonous orchestra made up of visual artists, an ethnomusicologist, a filmmaker who runs a festival in Uganda, and a Dutch throat singer. He played a silver horn and waved his hands around, inviting chaos and conjuring an image of the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

The music is wholly improvisational but he assures me there are rules, a method to their sonic madness. Recently they planned a recording studio session at which they would each play every instrument for exactly one minute and hope for positive results. The objects responsible for the honking, clanking and clonking include a wild noisy trumpet, multiple mouth-bows, guitar, bass, drums, scotch tape, Iranian drums, and otherworldly vocals. The sound simultaneously makes one imagine ancient machines, scary monsters screaming, as well as James Chance, a saxophone player who was part of New York's early-eighties No-Wave scene. He played a combination of improvisational jazz-like music and punk. Oorbeek appropriately calls its brand of sound "New Weird Amsterdam".

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