Noisy bag of tricks

Chris Cogburn & Jesse Kudler

This is Jesse Kudler’s gear table. He and Chris Cogburn played the second set of the third show of June from the Church of the Friendly Ghost. They played a set of found sound semi-improvisational pieces, as well as a short encore (their “hit single” as Chris put it). The objects and instruments you see here include percussion, guitar, pedal, mixer, bow, tape decks, hair brush, handheld fan, other assorted noise-giving objects. Chris and Jesse create their own means of playing these objects, and their own ideas about how these sounds fit together to become music. They invent techniques and structure, and must carve out their sound in time and space without the aid of an established form.

The show was the same combination of music and performance art that I’ve come to expect from a Chris Cogburn collaboration. The movements they use to grasp their tool, invoke the sound, and replace it again are so seamless, graceful and deliberate. The subtle choices they make about how to play these are delightfully inventive. I watched Chris set a drum stick upright atop his drum and roll it between two palms while a string of bells dangling from his pinky tinkled and rang as a side effect; then he periodically lifted the bell hand in a looping motion that traced across the air an invisible half of a figure eight. That figure eight gesture was remarkable to me, because it was so insignificant to the sound but so satisfying to watch. Chris’s performances always have an almost ceremonial quality to them, because of the attention to presentation, mood, and the visual aspects of the performance.

This kind of music has a trance-like effect on me. Watching something so delicate and precise demands a higher amount of focus than usual. The volume is so hushed and the movement is so slight. Listening to this show reminded me so keenly of an experience I once had in my teens. I had politely accepted an invitation to my best friend’s bible study, which concluded with a living room full of young people speaking in tongues. They all preferred a very understated, almost whispered, low toned style of non-verbal vocalizing, creating a choir of quiet, atonal utterances. It was a hair raising and deeply calming experience. I feel the same sensory overload and inner still when I listen to the stylized, minimalist music Chris Cogburn makes.

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1 comment so far

  1. […] I wrote a lengthy review about the Cogburn/Kudler set on my primary blog in this post: Noisy Bag of Tricks. […]


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