From November 2010 through January 2011, Los Angeles’ body became the recipient of a great, big, fat, donor belly full of events based around the Greek composer, architect and mathematician, Iannis Xenakis. An exhibition of his scores, drawings and graphics entitled Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary was on display at MOCA Pacific Design Center for a full three months.
If John Cage designed Grand Theft Auto, the results would be a lot like Claudia and Paul, a trio of ultra low-key, animated videos that examine the decaying velvet ropes between art and life. In this Cage-inspired micro-reality, subtlety comes into sharp focus. The two main characters in the title piece don’t do much except stand around and fidget occasionally on “quiet” city streets, where light and shadow work their understated magic on myriad surfaces. Occasional passing traffic, trash set aloft in the wind and other mundane phenomena draws attention to all of the little moments bobbing on buoys in oceans of time that transpire all around the alleged “huge” moments of our lives on the party boat. (You know, catching that touchdown pass, weeping at grandma’s funeral, oohing and aahing at a fireworks display, tossing up your cap during college graduation, crowd surfing at a rock concert, exchanging wedding vows, and all of the rest.) In this virtual world, which is the same as our actual world, random sounds become music, if you give them a chance. (All movements and sounds are tagged with floating captions throughout the DVD.)
Not only was John Cage the first to use the turntable as a musical instrument, with his piece “Imaginary Landscape No. 1” way back in 1939, he also used 12 radios in “Imaginary Landscape No. 4” in 1951. Four decades later, in 1991, composer Phil Kline took the boombox-as-instrument concept to a whole new level in the parking garage. While Cage only employed a small handful of the devices–each tuned to a different radio station–Kline actually recorded his own minimal music onto tapes and discs and handed them out to dozens of people, who played them back simultaneously to form a roving spatial sound sculpture as they walked around the streets of New York City in a form of avant-garde Christmas carol called Unsilent Night. In 2009, Kline released a deluxe DVD set called Around the World In a Daze featuring his boombox orchestra augmented with instruments and field recordings–all layered back upon themselves.