Friday, February 24, 2012
by: Cady Childs
Mechanized music meets mechanical man
In the late nineties, Mark Dixon and his friend, Bart Trotman, responded when Raleigh’s Lump Gallery called for art installations that made noise. And, they haven’t stopped creating since.
“I was curious about making instruments,” Dixon, who has a background in sculpture, said. “I really loved the interaction that performance and music can create with an audience.”
The New Obsolete, the group’s most composed and pre-planned show to date, is now in residency at 108 Morris Street, with three performances already on the books: Feb. 11th, 17th, and 18th, featuring different special guests at each show.
Dixon and company began composing the show in January 2011, about a year before the first performance.
“”We wanted to push ourselves to use the instruments more intentionally,” Dixon said.
This weekend marks Durham’s last chance to witness this ‘mechanical museum’ in action, with tools such as the Rhythm 1001 (an electro-mechanical percussion machine), the selectric piano (a typography to piano note transmitter), and Elsewhere’s Roof, a new drip-driven drum machine inspired by a leaky roof during a residency program in Greensboro. The experience of nature provided its own mixed tempo for the group. The moment was first recreated for an audience with ice blocks held up to heat lamps strapped to the ceiling. Elsewhere’s Roof is the portable version, with five small drips controlled by the musicians through glass valves suspended on ten-foot wooden legs, with a dune buggy gas tank.
“It always does something exciting,” Dixon said of the new machine. “No two drips are at the same rate, and they cycle in their relationships, forming complicated rhythms that no human percussionist or electronic drum machine could play.”
Their inventions tap into a connection between technology and true human interaction that we normally don’t see in this digital age, turning old junk into sound making, aesthetically pleasing devices, creating both the machines and the music out of primary and familiar elements of life, like a human’s pulse and dripping water. This methodology of repurposing goes beyond common artistic and musical forms, forcing the audience to look at the way technology shapes the way they see the world. Forcing each of us to confront how technology can change our impressions of ourselves and our setting.
“I kind of evaluate myself as a machine sometimes in a weird way, and I think that’s not uncommon,” Dixon explained. “That’s not necessary a permanent position, but a good one for exploring.”
To find out more about INVISIBLE and The New Obsolete, visit their website here, featuring videos of some of the above mentioned innovations in action. And don’t miss their last two performances this weekend, Friday and Saturday night at 108 Morris Street, with events starting at 7:00 and INVISIBLE performing at 8:30.