Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dempster Acoustilogical Gardening

Abundant Sound Gardens: In Memory of Toyoji Tomita @ Meridian Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Featuring works by composer/performer Stuart Dempster and artist Suiren (Renko Ishida Dempster)

Stuart Dempster: trombone, didgeridoo, conch shell, hose
Suiren: art
Jen Baker: trombone, didgeridoo, conch shell, hose
Ron Heglin: trombone, didgeridoo, conch shell, hose
Andy Strain: trombone, didgeridoo, conch shell, hose

The Cornelius Cardew Choir
Tom Bickley: director
Rachel Wood-Rome, Tony Williams, Eric Theise, Sarah Rose Stiles, Katherine Setar, Jaime Robles, Bob Marsh, Marianne Tomita McDonald, Cathryn Hrudicka, Brad Fischer, Tom Bickley, Nancy Beckman

Sound Garden Fanfare (2009) - Stuart Dempster
Circles of Peace (2007) - Suiren
Dream Timepiece (2002) - Stuart Dempster
Meridian Hosery (2009) - Stuart Dempster
Choral Riffs (2007) - Stuart Dempster
Toyoji Trombones Tonings (2009) - Stuart Dempster
Toyo Ener-ji (2009) - Stuart Dempster

With Stuart Dempster, deep listening leads toward an unassuming crossroads of sound, improvisation and visual art. When offered up as a reflective memorial tribute to the memory of Toyoji Tomita - trombonist, gardener and artistic manager at the Meridian Gallery - creative expression turns toward fond solemnity. Memory and physical space were as much an instrument as voice, conch shell, trombone and didgeridoo.

Choral Riffs was the most sonically engaging work of the evening. Stuart Dempster "directed" the Cornelius Cardew Choir by playing short segments directly at individual vocalists that they would then sing back repeatedly as he directs other vocalists gathered in a circle around him. The audience is invited to sing or hum a steady C drone as the canvas for this sound. Meanwhile, Suiren applied brush and paint to three panels - a visual canvas - with strokes guided by the sounding environment.

Meridian Hosery was performed upon a set of hoses coiled along the stairway of the gallery by the four wind players. Each inserting mouthpieces into various openings to explore the sonic properties available. Communally altering the air pressure along the shared column of air. Stuart Dempster applied a whimsical disposition to this performance as he worked his way up the two stories of the gallery space. This fit the piece well - though a more serious study of the sounds at hand would have also been equally suggestive.

The common thread running through these memorial offerings was the gentle return to the ambient sounds of the world at large at the conclusion of each performance. The serene Sound Garden Fanfare of four conch shells in the garden behind the gallery space calmly giving way to the steady din of traffic and street cars in the early evening streets of San Francisco was a recurring element. The unique sonic textures of drones and breath opening the ears a little wider into the ambient spaces just beyond the frame of coda. And the hopeful presence of a dear friend only recently departed.

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