Occasionally, TBA affords an opportunity to see a local act I haven't seen or am not super familiar with. I've had two great experiences in that category this year: Third Angle New Music Ensemble's string quartet, performing in the pitch-black at the OMSI planetarium, was incredible; and I really enjoyed Monday night's installment of Getting to Know YouTube, a local show that invites guests to curate a presentation of YouTube videos.
I've seen Third Angle before—most memorably at TBA in 2008, when they performed at the Keller fountain. But I'm not hugely familiar with them, or with the world of contemporary chamber music that they work in.
In the Dark is performed in the OMSI planetarium, a space that, with the lights out, gets so dark that Third Angle did a test run of lights-out before the show started, to make sure audience members all knew what they were in for. (Because there's no easy way to find your way out of the planetarium with the lights out, audience members were instructed to "clap twice" if they needed to leave during the performance. No one did, thank god.)
The piece, by contemporary Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas, is performed by two violins, a cello, and a viola; the musicians are spaced equidistance from each other around the circumference of the planetarium. The piece is performed without sheet music, obviously, and the musicians make their way through the 18 sections of the piece listening for certain cues, or "invitation gestures," to move them from segment to segment, as Third Angle's Ron Blessinger explained in an interview with the Mercury.
The challenge for me, as an audience member, was to shut my brain off and listen. It was difficult to keep my attention focused on the music at first. I found the tiny seam of light coming in from under one of the doors; and the faintest glow that might've been an audience member's watch. I got distracted by a lady across the room who couldn't stop hiccuping, and thought about how impressive the human eye is. Weird associations kept coming up, summoned by the chirping and thrumming and screeching of the instruments—worms falling out of the sky, the Care Bear Stare, baby birds.
Eventually, though, my annoyingly distractible brain settled into the music, and the experience of pure listening was thrilling. I've never felt so involved in the drama of a piece of music before. It was as close as I've ever come to understanding that scene in Howard's End where Helen hears goblins in Beethoven's Fifth: A sense that the music had a weight and agenda all its own. It also kind of scared me, which I didn't expect at all. I loved it and I didn't want it to end and I wish I could see (hear) it again.
There's one more show tonight at 7:30 pm, and then Thursday at midnight. Tickets are $30 a pop, so it's definitely a splurge, but it was a totally singular, amazing experience. More details here. (Advance tickets are no longer available, but they'll have a limited number available for sale at the box office. Get there early if you're interested. Last night my boyfriend and others were shooed away from the ticket line by an overzealous volunteer who told them there was "no chance" they'd be able to snag tickets; that was not, actually, the case, and most—all?—of the people who stuck it out got in. I am still, clearly, holding a grudge about this.)
Another local show, Getting to Know YouTube, took over the Works on Monday. I've been meaning to check this out at the Hollywood for a while, and the first presentation on Monday night was an absolute best-case scenario for the premise of the show, in which artists and notable smart-person types are asked to curate presentations drawn from material they sound on YouTube. The presenter screened short clips of a whole bunch of teenagers covering Taio Cruz's "Dynamite," as a crash course in the phenomenon of teens performing covers of popular songs—and getting thousands and thousands of views—on YouTube.
It was hilarious, and also kinda troubling and poignant and adorable. There was lots of laughing with, not at, and lots of collective cringing at how earnest and vulnerable some of these kids seem:
What made it so great was that the presenter—whose name I didn't catch, if anyone's got it, add it to the comments and I'll update—had clearly done a ton of digging into this particular corner of the internet, and had done an excellent job curating videos for the audience. He'd uncovered a world that's not a secret, that exists in plain view for anyone who cares to look, and our enjoyment of it rested on the fact that most adults don't care to look—that we were getting a glimpse of something we wouldn't ordinarily investigate.
The night's second presenter strung together a good assortment of funny/weird YouTubes he'd dug up, which was fun but, you know, YouTube, and then we left before the third presentation, because we were old and sleepy.
But that first presentation, A+. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to watch some more videos of teenagers leaving permanent public records of their own questionable decision making.