Asymmetry archives (1): Ultima 2009

[Asymmetry has quite a backlog of material on concerts and festivals, going back to 2008. We have pledged to get caught up with that material in 2012 and to stay caught up with current happenings in the world. But we don’t want that material from years past to be lost just because it’s not current. Good music is worth listening to and talking about after it was first written. I hope that’s a convincing justification for publishing all this material in 2012 if not a sufficient apology for not getting to it until now.]

Asymmetry has only attended one Ultima festival, and so can only say that if the others were as good as the one in 2009, we deeply regret all the ones we have missed. This was simply a most pleasurable experience, a variety of good music, well-planned events, and a splendid staff. Plus Oslo, where it’s held, is a simply lovely place full of simply lovely people.

Two things really stood out in my mind. One was that certain things like noise and improv were present (good) but rather isolated, segregated, from the other festival events (not so good). At least they were there and were well done. Perhaps in subsequent years those have been better integrated.

The other thing that stood out was the preponderance of theatre. As long as I’ve been interested in twentieth century music, I’ve been fascinated by the theatrical elements of so much of it, from performers simply leaving the stage to walk around the audience while playing to all the delightfully theatrical Fluxus events. (I’ve performed George Brecht’s Incidental Music, myself, a dozen times in the past thirty years.) And I haved always wondered why new music people didn’t jump on video technology right away, as that theatrical component just doesn’t come off on LP or CD.

In the 2009 Ultima Festival, the theatrical elements went the whole range, from the hand gestures of On. Taps and Disparate Scenes to fully staged productions like Live Nude Girls XXX.

And everything in between.

Some of that “everything in between” included an evening of Kagel presented by the Cinnober Teater. A most delectable evening of Kagel mayhem.

There was also a fair amount of percussion music, other than what I’ve already put in the theatre category. James Wood’s Village Burial with Fire could easily have been put there, I suppose.

As could the outdoor performance of Reich’s Drumming, too, I suppose.

And while we’re on the topic of percussion music, I cannot end this report without a mention of Christian Blom’s installation, al-khowarizmis mekaniske orkester.

A great show overall. I’m sad I missed 2010 and 2011.

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