Mobtown Mod­ern’s Out-of-Body Ex­pe­ri­ence

Con­cert Se­ries Makes Lively De­but

The Washington Post - - Style - — Daniel Gins­berg

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.

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