There are plenty of reasons that Portland should be proud to call Claudia Meza one of its own, but today, I’m excited about her work to spread the gospel of experimental music to the younger generation. The musician recently participated in a music production class that introduced a trio of students at Caldera Arts to the history of experimental sounds, and took them to the streets of Portland to capture some found sounds and turn those into music via iPad. The results are as varied the kids who took part in the class, but I was especially taken with this short fuzzed up jam entitled simply “Rocker.” Check out the post from the Caldera Arts blog to see pictures of the students and Meza in action, as well as sample of what the rest of the class came up with.
One of the most exciting pieces of an already impressive TBA Festival was Water, an installation created by musician Claudia Meza. The erstwhile member of Stay Calm spent time recording the sounds of water running out of a tap, lapping up against a ferry, rushing by in a river, etc., honing in on the subtle textures and melodic movement found in each. Meza then looped the sounds and committed them to individual tapes.
For the installation, she put all these tapes in their own cassette player and suspended them from the ceiling of the White Box Gallery downtown. The idea was to encourage visitors to play, rewind, fast forward, and pause the loops at will, creating a new experience with every touch of the tape decks. While the piece is best experienced in real life, this video does give some sense of its scope and beauty.
Claudia Meza is primarily known around town for her more post-punk and pop efforts thanks to her work as a member of the still lamented Explode Into Colors and the quickly rising trio Stay Calm. But behind those scenes, she is an astute sound artist and curator. This year’s TBA Festival (going on right now through the 16th) has provided her two chances to show off her academic acumen. One is her sound installation, Water, wherein she suspends a collection of cassette players from the ceiling of the White Box gallery allowing attendees to play the tapes in each one. You control the sound of the loops – recordings of waterways and the sound of water lapping up against boats, etc. – to create something of a user-based collage.
An equally thrilling venture that Meza is behind as part of TBA is Sonic City PDX. For this, she tapped a number of local musicians and artists to choose their favorite “naturally occurring acoustic landscapes” in Portland. This can be anywhere from the corner of NE Going and 6th where Sara Lund (drummer for Hungry Ghost and the Corin Tucker Band) rides her bike, and where she hears classical music being blared out of a dilapidated house; or the underside of the Broadway Bridge where, says Thomas Thorson (who records under the name Interiors X), “[t]he traffic overhead provides most of the sound—if you’re lucky you can also hear clanking from the two industrial ports across the river to each side of the bridge.” Be sure to visit the Tumblr page Meza has set up for the project which features short sound clips, and descriptions of what to listen for.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the website Noise Arch, which been getting bounced around among my noise/experimental-minded friends. Set up by one stalwart individual, the site features downloadable versions of a cassette archive that he/she acquired from “former ckln fm radio host myke dyer in august of 2009” (according to the site). I’ve only had a little bit of time to dig around (def. not enough to track down any PDX-based/associated material), but already know that there is a wealth of material here, including short run cassette releases by Amy Denio, Crash Worship, and Dog As Master (check out side one of that project’s An Organized Accident below).
If you are a regular reader of this blog, I have to imagine that you already are aware of the goodness in store for this year’s Time-Based Art Festival. In addition to some incredible looking visual and performative pieces, there is a healthy amount of exciting music-based projects on the calendar.
Former Explode Into Colors/current Stay Calm member Claudia Meza has a pair of works in the fest, including Sonic City PDX, an collaboration with 30 local musicians who “have mapped out their favorite local sonic spaces, creating an “audio tour” of the most interesting naturally occurring acoustic landscapes,” according to the project website; indie favorites Yo La Tengo who will be in town to provide a live soundtrack to a documentary on the work of Buckminster Fuller; a multimedia presentation by Brainstorm and Sahel Sounds that includes Skype jams with African musicians; and performances by Akio Suzuki and Otomo Yoshihide.
The biggest name on the schedule though is the peerless performance artist/musician Laurie Anderson. She will be taking the stage at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Sunday, September 16th to perform Dirtday, a solo piece that, according to the TBA site, “engages with the politics of the Occupy movement, theories of evolution, families, history, and animals in this riotous and soulful collection of songs and stories. Set against a detailed and lush sonic landscape, the music and narratives create a unique picture of a hallucinatory world encompassing dreams and reality.”
If you want to check out the Laurie Anderson performance, the good people at PICA/TBA12 are offering up an exclusive discount to readers of Experimental Portland. Use the code dirt4exp when you check out, and you’ll get $5 knocked off the price of your ticket. Click here to purchase tickets.*
*Lest there be an confusion, I’m not seeing any financial benefit for this offer. The PICA folks contacted me out of the blue and offered this up on their own. I’m as shocked as you are.