Thursday, September 9, 2010

Spiral Music at the Rubin Museum

Spiral Music, with Jen Shyu on vocals, Thomas Morgan, bass, and Ches Smith on percussion, performed at the Rubin Museum last night (Wed., Sept. 8, 2010).
In a mesmerizing performance, while we sipped our favorite mango martinis, we heard Shyu’s earthy voice and improvisatory ways with strings of sounds joined with her sinuous movements.

Vocalizations, along with text in English and non-English languages delivered in atonal melodies created a performance art. Sprechstimme incursions melded beautifully with the accompanying acoustic instruments to surround the voice with a glow. Some of the texts spoke of pain (“sold as a slave for sugar”); some seemed purely aleatoric (“the last word is the fact that all good things”).
On some selections Shyu accompanied herself on a moon lute (moon guitar). In one of these, she sang a strophic song, with hard-driving rhythms (reminisicent of Frankie Lane’s “Mule Train”). Behind her, the Rubin Museum’s electronic introductory images showed horses running across the Himalayan plains while she sang it.
Dressed simply in black, Shyu’s free movement was integral to the performance. Her movements were closely contained in the space, with lots of up-and-down trunk motion and freer hand/arm movements. A long red scarf, which she held in her arms and sang to, turned into a river on the floor, and eventually wore, was her only prop.