Last last Sunday I saw a performance at LA's Zebulon by Japan's experimental music group Marginal Consort. The performance was fun for a bunch of reasons, first and foremost because it was really, REALLY WEIRD. If you were to walk in at any time during the nearly three-hour long show, you would have wondered why so many people paid $17-20 apiece to see four old Japanese guys scrape their chairs on the floor, throw bean bags in the air, violently swing giant origami triangles, and trip over their piles of ziplock bags and Tupperwares full of metal bits and wires. The sight was really weird and would have been interesting probably for 5 minutes (or maybe a little bit longer, the younger you are) if that was all of it. But the SOUNDS were the main point, the thing that makes this group MASTERS of their craft. Sounds that were initially abrasive or absurdly noisy and unpleasant were turned, somehow, into the musical parts of a very eerily harmonious whole (if you let yourself get to that point.)
The moment I realized this was about 2 hours into the performance. Three of the performers had come to create a background of sounds from their objects, using repetition, rhythm, and controlling the dynamics of the sounds they were making--as though ready for the fourth person to add a foreground layer of sound (sounds like the structure of a concerto, doesn't it?) The guy facing the audience (maybe Kazuo Imai?--the other three were in the other three corners of the room, mixed with the audience) picked up a 12-foot-long 8" diameter PVC pipe and dropped it on the floor. After a few times when it just slapped the floor really loud as it landed, he dropped it on one edge and it bounced back and forth between the two ends, making a more hollow, tube-like sound that increased in frequency as it settled onto the floor. As I watched him do this I suddenly realized I had become TOTALLY immersed in what he was doing, and my memory of the sounds at that moment was that he had found a musical moment for us in this thing in his hands. This object that is normally found in construction sites and hardware stores had taken on a new IDENTITY in the hands of this musician-artist.
Isn't that what the greatest artists do? They take the things around us, and reveal to us the beauty hidden within our world. For those of us lucky enough to experience art of this caliber, it makes us wonder, is this perhaps what it's like to see into the infinite? If we can sense this, what are else are our minds capable of?