Saturday, January 18, 2014


Hermes: Can you see the crowd dear Kharon?
Kharon: I see a rolling tumult, a life full of confusion, and their cities like hives - each one has a stinger to sting their neighbour.
Kharon 15.1ff ~ Lucian of Samosata

New York based experimental composer Tyondai Braxton played two performances at MONA FOMA on Friday night; I only say the first show. He led a party of five called HIVE in a brave new world of composition and looping experimentation.

Five space age, futuristic tables lined up in a row. Each with a matrix of holes cut into them. Slow clouds of aerosol rose, twisting and helixing, up to ceiling. The murmuring forest sounds of the expectant crowd rises and falls, punctuated by staccato beats of laughter and coughs, and tinny mobile phone tunes. Outside the sun fell and entered the river stream, while lights came on one by one in the houses, on the hill, across the river. And darkness spread over the ways of the world.

The performers climbed onto their tables and settled in, like cosmonauts in the capsule of a Soyuz rocket. And there was a pause and a hush as the band members organised themselves, arranging scores, making themselves comfortable, fiddling with electronic bits and bobs. Apple laptops glowed waking from sleep mode.

And then a beat and a rhythm, which quickly rushed into focus and tore around the room like a cloud of locusts devouring the villagers grain supply.

An assortment of noises ply upon ply. Clicks and clacks and beats and bumps. Sitting and basking in the extreme-summer heat, the cicada rests on the spear point of Athena and sings loudly, while we gather in parks and bars and cafes and clubs and schools and law courts and sing endlessly. Kalahari computer tenderhearted Khoisan sounds vie with simple stick on wood sound in the noisy emporium.

Indeed I am mesmerised by the flashing drum stick cutting the dense smoking air. And the bass drum sound surged like a crashing wave on the sea side shore, and the bass vibrations made the hairs on my dance, and made my insides move and squish.

No lyrics, no singing, bar some half heard sounds which may or may not have been speech. Wide varying smoke and light constant changing and intersecting, a sixth member of the group. No interaction with the audience. Just the five perched like the singing cicadas on the spear point never smiling, always grim focused. Only the layered texture of sounds. And I turned over in my mind, thinking to myself about the various ways and roads of freedom. Some can find freedom in precision, other in improvisation. And as abrupt as that the show was over.

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