Saturday, May 14, 2016

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
The music of Rhys Chatham

Today, let's look at some videos featuring the music of Rhys Chatham, who's coming to St. Louis to perform a solo show on Sunday, May 22 at The Luminary.

Chatham, who's 63 years old, is a composer, guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist who's been a notable figure in American avant-garde and minimalist music for nearly five decades. Living in France since 1987, he tours only occasionally in the United States, lending his gig here next week an additional sense of importance.

A native New Yorker, Chatham studied while still a teenager with electronic composer Morton Subotnick and minimalist pioneer La Monte Young, and in 1971 he became the first music director of the experimental NYC performance space The Kitchen. There, he produced concerts by artists ranging from composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass to experimental improvisors like guitarists Fred Frith and Arto Lindsay, and helped establish the space's reputation as an incubator for some of the era's most intriguing sounds.

Influenced by NYC's punk rock and "No Wave" bands, in the late 1970s Chatham began writing music for ensembles of electric guitars, starting with pieces composed for a handful of guitarists and eventually moving up to orchestra-sized groups of 100 or more. These large-scale works helped him gain recognition internationally, and probably are still what he's best known for today.

More recently, Chatham has returned to creating music for small ensembles and solo performances, often incorporating flute (his first instrument as a child), trumpet (which he began playing in the 1980s), and electronic keyboards and effects along with guitar.

You can see one of those solo performances, recorded last June in Berlin, in the first video up above. After the jump, you can see an excerpt from another solo piece, "30ix15," also recorded last year by Chatham in his studio.

That's followed by a video of part of a duo performance by Chatham and guitarist Nico Guerrero last July in Paris at a venue called Détail, and one of a trio performance by Chatham, drummer Rune Kielsgaard and bassist Jeppe Skovbakke at the Click Festival, held in May 2015 in Elsinore, Denmark.

The last two videos feature examples of Chatham's works for multiple electric guitars. The fifth clip, "Drastic Classical Music for Electric Instruments," is a relatively early example, recorded in April 1981 at The Kitchen that features four guitarists and a drummer.

The sixth video is a recording of "A Secret Rose," written by Chatham in 2006 for an ensemble of 100 guitars, and seen here in a recording made at the 2014 Frontiers Festival in Birmingham, England.

For more about Rhys Chatham, check out the interview with him published in 2014 by The Quietus; his 2013 interview with A Closer Listen; and his 2013 interview with Blurt magazine.

You can see the rest of today's videos after the jump...

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