May 21, 2008


I'm very interested in, and familiar with, a variety of Portland-based and regional/global noise performers, free improvisors and sound artists. In many of the intimate and d.i.y. live shows I've attended since 2003, I've seen parallels with surrealist practice that are worthy of further exploration. Automatism and improvisation with minimal objects, prepared guitars, tape decks, re-wired electronics, toys and invented instruments can provide a sonically corrosive experience of hypnotic catharsis and the play impulse. Freely improvised methods involving strings, wind instruments, and percussion, which also draw upon acoustic sounds based on one's surroundings and certain chance factors, can create a passionate interrogation of humor and discovery. I'm currently more interested in the noise spectrum, but jazz improv and noise are not mutually exclusive. Some generally acoustic improvisors in Portland have been known to break out large suitcases of circuit bent electronics during 12 hour plays.

At our fingertips is a fantastical canvas of obsessive sound textures propelled by creative subversion of the conventional definitions of 'music' and 'entertainment.' Some noise acts such as Arachnid Arcade, Ecomorti, Crank Sturgeon and Rubber O Cement incorporate unusual costumes and puppets into their shows, while other noisicians prefer a more casual approach to the presentation of sounds that are anything but casual. Portland based guitarist Doug Theriault blends free jazz with noise and electronics in a variety of solo and collaborative settings. There are also surrealist improvisors Davy Williams, Ladonna Smith, Hal Rammel, Johannes Bergmark, William Davison and the Recordists, Criadero en Seres, and others, who create sounds that have the power to challenge our sedentary complacency. If you've never experienced them, a Youtube search on some of these names may be of interest, as the visual element of live shows provides context. Also keep an eye out for the 'Famous room battle of monsters" video series.