Birdsongs of the Mesozoic at Outpost 186, June 24, 2008
An hour after a typhoon had ripped through the city and flash-flushed streets downtown with foaming rivers and flying heaps of trash, Inman Square branches swayed gently and potted plants sat peacefully untipped on fire-escape rails. In the back room at the Outpost 186 Gallery (a living-room-sized performance space), Birdsongs of the Mesozoic put on a delicate, salon-scale performance of Terry Riley’s minimalist monolith, In C.
The group passed out an extra copy of the score to the crowd before they began. Contained on a single sheet, it resembled a jumbled screen from Donkey Kong: broken staffs laid out like little girders for melodies to climb and leap over at a pace dictated by each musician’s individual whims. It’s like an extended game of musical catch-up, or a round that never really comes around.
This In C had a soft, throbbing quality, a novelty in a piece usually characterized by the percussive tinkering of mallets and piano. A laptop set a steady-tempo tone pulse, and keyboards with wheezy ’70s voices phased through one another like shadows moving across a wall. A cello (played by Fluttr Effect’s Valerie Thompson) ducked and sparred with Ken Field’s saxophone figures, but the group refused to etch any snippet of melody too clearly. It was a statistical view of progress whereby every individual contribution — every careful, wincing movement from Rick Scott’s Juno 106 or subtle shift of weight on guitarist Michael Bierylo’s volume pedal — was averaged out in the final report. As the assembled stood still for these 45 minutes, the gallery’s walls (dewy from the storm) seemed to shrink in and swell out with the music’s gradual ebbing and flowing. And when we reached the end, the cool-down lap allowed the band, at last, to glance up from their scores and nod to one another, bowing out, yielding, once again, to the single laptop. It was as if a storm had just passed.
: Live Reviews
, Michael Bierylo, Terry Riley, Valerie Thompson, More