Mobtown Modern’s Out-of-Body Experience
Concert Series Makes Lively Debut
It is perhaps the most terrifying 10 minutes of music you will ever experience.
“Experience” is the right word, because the impact of Vinko Globokar’s “Corporeal” is as much visual as it is aural. A performer plays him or herself like an instrument, smacking and thumping the body, yelling and growling, writhing and wiggling. For Mobtown Modern, an edgy music series auspiciously launched Tuesday at Baltimore’s Contemporary Museum, all those gesticulations and outbursts are something political, protesting against injustice and failed government. The performance, convincingly done by percussionist Tim Feeney, came as part of a concert titled “State of the Union,” timed to follow the president’s speech on Monday.
Feeney made “Corporeal” a statement against torture, evoking a captured prisoner of war. One second he was furiously scratching bare skin as if he were infested with bugs in an isolated cell; the next, he was shrieking as though haunted by nightmares. Bathed in the narrow beam of a flashlight, Feeney’s emaciated look — he wore only a pair of military green pants — added to the horrifying effect. If all this comes off as masochism, it was also highly musical, growing in rhythm, volume and intensity, eventually fragmenting into short themes and lapsing into a deafening silence.
A different kind of dissolution emerged in a rare account of Steve Reich’s “Come Out,” one of the seminal pieces of musical minimalism. The phrase “come out to show them,” a 1964 statement by one of the Harlem Six about police abuse, is played repeatedly with various tape loops going out of phase. An ar- ticulate texture becomes a more amorphous haze, sounding in the end like a warble of sirens and sawing. Erik Spangler, who’s curating the series along with the inspired saxophonist Brian Sacawa, put on “Iraq Mix,” a skillful merger of recorded Arabic phrases, flecked with DJ turntable effects.
Ensemble instrumental works bookended the evening. At the start was a flowing account of Frederic Rzewski’s “Coming Together,” and a jangly, pulsing rendering of Louis Andriessen’s “Workers Union,” complete with a smirk-inducing toy piano, closed it out. Projected overhead video, including scenes from Monday’s presidential address, were creations of video artist Art Jones.
Two of Mobtown Modern’s inaugural performers, percussionist Tim Feeney and saxophonist Brian Sacawa, right.