CANOPY OF SOUND
Opening event of the 2013 NMASS Festival, hosted by the Church of the Friendly Ghost
Wednesday 12 June 2013, beginning at 7:30 pm
Created and curated by LISA CAMERON and featuring a percussion ensemble of 12 musicians: Miranda Clark, Rebecca Ramirez, Eva Kelly, Lisa Cameron, Josh Ronsen, Amanda Jones, Alex Keller, Aaron Russell, Anne Heller, Matt Armistead, Bradford Kinney, Sheila Scoville, and Daniel Hipolito.
It began around 7:30 pm on a hot humid Wednesday night, behind the ball fields near the YMCA at Lamar and Cesar Chavez in Austin…in a tunnel under a foot-bridge…12 percussionists, each with a cymbal and a different kind of drumstick/mallet…each about five feet apart, staggered on opposite sides of the walkway, with foot traffic coming through
The first percussionist, organizer Lisa Cameron, began a pulse on her cymbal…a minute or so later, the next musician began, then another minute later, the next musician began, etc. After a period when all performed together, they began dropping out of the mix in the same manner in which they’d blended into it, picking up their cymbal, and moving to another location a few minutes’ walk away to begin again. Different musicians playing different beats on different cymbals with different sticks/mallets…all coming together in the middle of an Austin weeknight, right in the middle of joggers and people walking to wherever they were heading.
They eventually played in five areas, and the “audience” was not really a passive audience as we were encouraged to move among the musicians and do our own “mix” by focusing on different combinations of players…or stepping back a bit and capturing the full polyrhythmic effect and getting the “big picture” sound. It was whatever you wanted it to be.
It struck me as celebratory and ceremonial, even tribal, as well as being a true “happening,” the kind we don’t see enough of anymore. But then Lisa Cameron’s music often has a ceremonial quality, a deeply spiritual quality.
We discussed the event a few days after it happened, while it was still fresh in both of our minds (not that it’s faded much over the weeks since…it was a combination of the heat and the water nearby and the physicality of the players and the concrete and the gravel and the waves of sound, a combination of sense impressions I won’t soon forget). Lisa explained that she saw it as a “sound sculpture with dynamic components,” a living sculpture, and one also in dialogue with the environment. Also, in the “lift the bandstand” tradition but mixed with spiritual practice, there’s no question that the musicians and the audience, all united, made these sacred spaces during the 2+ hour performance.
The image Lisa had in her mind when she conceived of this event, and while it was happening, was rushing water, waves of rushing water. Those waves washed over us all, performer and non-performer alike, and cleansed us…and in the third set-up at the Opossum Voodoo Pew, which was actually performed right next to the water (see final picture), we were being bombarded by 80’s power ballads booming across the water from some yuppie restaurant/club on the other side of the lake. Somehow playing against those evil waves coming across the water gave a “casting out demons” intensity to the performance…at least, to me it did!
Overall, it was a special evening…thanks to Lisa for organizing this, COTFG for hosting, and the dozen of Austin’s finest creative musicians for all becoming part of this beautiful living sound and human sculpture…CANOPY OF SOUND