Stealing from my friends: Robert Crouch for LACE – a selection, with links

LACE Associate Director/Curator Robert Crouch is in Poland. (Dude has been home for a week and he doesn’t call?? wtf? In any case, Robert Crouch will be giving us and LACE text, images and vids of sound and art in Krakow and Budapest soon.) Tease that I am, I’ve grabbed some content(s) from LACE’s Tumblr site and posted them below. Links everywhere to LACE’s site – have fun!

Friday October 14, 2011 at 2:59

Robin Fox


Saturday October 15, 2011 at 2:31

Laurel Halo

Not surprising that the roster of artists at Unsound is predominantly male, which tends to be the case at most electronic music festivals. I’ve had a few conversations about this gender issue with Montreal artist France Jobin, who has taken the stance that she’d rather be the one of few women at an otherwise all male event than perform in a feminist identified program (which she’s also participated and attended). She believes that it allows her to maintain the integrity of her practice and concerns as a structuralist, and simultaneously produce a rupture in the obvious phallocentricity of the festival by her mere presence and quality of her work.

In other words, yeah she’s a girl and she’s better than the boys. Really. And such was the case with Laurel Halo the other night. One of few women at this festival, and she just killed it. It was one of those performances where I didn’t need to bother to see anything the rest of the night. Sorry guys, she kinda ruined it for the rest of you.


Thursday October 20, 2011 at 1:03

Morton Subotnick at Unsound, Krakow 2011

It’s ironic that I travelled half way around the globe from Los Angeles to Poland to discover the genius of American (and former Los Angeles resident) artist Morton Subotnick. Never mind his skeletal wikipedia entry, what you ought to understand is that much of what has come to be known as “electronic music,” popular or otherwise, owes a huge debt of gratitude to his lasting legacy. [NoL ed. check Subotnick’s own website for better stuff than the wiki-folk:] His early collaborations with Don Buchla have permanently shifter our attitudes and understanding of what constitutes a musical timbre.

I’ve always been aware of Morton’s place in history, and had a basic understanding of his seminal work Silver Apples of the Moon, but I hadn’t really understood it not having heard it performed live. In other words, no Mr. Hendrix, I was not experienced. For Unsound, he performed an improvised reworking of the piece, with a live video compliment by Lillevan. It was perhaps one of the most joyful and ecstatic pieces I’ve experienced in quite a long time. I managed to sneak some video footage of the performance and cobble together an approximation of the set.

Morton Subotnick

The following afternoon we were treated to a conversation between Morton and New York based writer (and Unsound NY organizer) Andy Battaglia. It was an insightful and lively dialogue about the relationship between information and the development of musical pluralism in the 20th century. I really can’t do the lecture justice, it in many respects an extension of his performance; a free flowing, unfettered, joyous romp through music history as he sees it. I can only hope that Unsound managed to have the conversation documented and posted online. Short of that, I highly recommend seeing Morton the next time he’s in your neck of the woods and taking him out for a coffee and hearing what’s on his mind.


Friday October 28, 2011 at 17:33

Leyland Kirby at Unsound, Krakow 2011

After a year or so of hearing about the polarizing performances of Leyland Kirby, I was cautiously optimistic given the opportunity to finally see him for myself (as Leyland Kirby, which I prefer over his Caretaker oeuvre). Many of the rumors I had heard were true and in that regard his performance did not disappoint. He began his set by running down the aisle from the back of the theater towards the stage while a pitched up version of Motörhead’s Ace of Spades played through the PA.

There was a text piece being projected on the screen, something about his last year being an experiment about excess, and his inability to remember much of it (more on that later). He rolled around on the floor for a few minutes before stepping on stage and playing tracks from his laptop.

The musical part of the performance was very much what you would hope for with Leyland; densely layered noise, haunting melodies, and synthetic pulses. Throughout his set he poured himself whiskey and generally remained motionless, hunched over his laptop in a corner of the stage, moving only to drink, pour more whiskey, and make minor adjustments on his computer. He played about three or four pieces, each transition marked by an abrupt silence, followed by an equally abrupt introduction of the next track. He ended his set after about 45 minutes by lip-synching to a pitched down version of Elton John’s Can You Feel The Love Tonight.

This was a display of pathos to be sure, and a curious and awkward inclusion in the festival. I didn’t mind the performance, but other than creating an uncomfortable and clumsy rupture in an otherwise uniformly polished series of performances throughout the week, I wasn’t entirely convinced. I could hear audience members suggest, “It’s performance art,” in an effort to validate the uneven combination of music and theatrics.

Being both a fan of Kirby’s recorded output as well as an active participant in the Los Angeles performance art scene, I really wanted to like his performance more than I did. Kirby moved back and forth between the role of composer and sad clown, which had a lot of potential but ultimately he was unable to convincingly pull the two sides together in any cohesive or compelling way. There wasn’t much of a relationship between his theatrics, his struggle to perform, and the actual music itself (though there’s an insightful and compelling argument in favor of his performance in The Quietus that warrants reading), which ended up feeling sloppy and without much consideration.

In contrast, I was reminded of the work of LA based performance artist Dawn Kasper, who is known for creating actions and situations which are simultaneously personal as well as explosive. She often incorporates a drum kit into her performances, where she struggles to pull the parts of her performance together out of the raw materials of her instrument, various props and costumes, autobiography, and the gallery space. It might not be the most musically satisfying performance, but it’s her struggle to manifest something, loosely scripted and marked with spontaneous accidents and missteps, that becomes the substance of the performance.

Structurally I see a parallel between Kasper’s work and Kirby’s music composition, where they both create an uneasy layering of dissonant textures and ideas that somehow manage to hold together just long enough for something beautiful to break through the cracks. Kirby’s venture into performance art and slapstick might not amount to much more than a a theatrical red herring, but it did little to detract from the elegance of his work.


There is a good chance that we at Notes on Looking will hear more from Robert Crouch in coming weeks. Possibly more from Poland and when he returns to LA I have his vow to write some about sound in our fair city. Excitement abounds!

Cheers – Geoff

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