TechArt exhibit nothing but noise


On Monday night, few people braved the unknown and ventured into the Recital Hall for TechArt 2008. Even fewer sat through the whole performance.

IMMArts presented the third annual exhibit of electro-acoustic music, TechArt 2008. From the description of the exhibit, I was prepared to hear music, probably some sort of techno. What my ears heard was far from any sort of music.

I refuse to call the individual pieces “songs” because none of the pieces featured a beat, melody, verse or pleasant sound that a song should contain. So instead, I shall call them segments because that is what they are, segments to the worst experience for anyone’s ears.

A good way to describe the drawn-out 90-minute performance is to imagine all the passive noises you hear in your daily commute: like squeaking brakes, static on the radio, people walking, the sound of rain or dripping water.

Imagine all those sounds amplified and manipulated on a computer and then smashed together for nine minutes of repetitive and unpleasant noise. That’s pretty much what half the segments sounded like.

The other half felt like a horror movie with the picture breaking during all the suspenseful parts and all that was occurring was different high pitched suspended notes that are held until the scene passes. Imagine that but for nine minutes with little alteration.

The performance featured 11 segments that were sent to IMMArts from countries around the world including Greece, Canada and England. For most of the segments, there was only audio from a computer which played through large speakers. The room was completely dark and devoid of all other sounds.

The first few seconds of the first segment was an interesting experience. An audience member was allowed to close his or her eyes and imagine the scenes that the different noises created.

But after a while, it became just that: noise. Not the peaceful noises of nature that meditation CDs feature, but unpleasant, headache-inducing, senseless noise that makes people cringe.

Four segments of the performance featured video to go along with the audio. This was a pleasant change after having to listen to senseless noise with nothing to look at. The first video, “Liquid Amber” by Maggi Payne was just endless sounds of the wilderness synced with cross-fades of nature photography.

The only saving grace for this 90-minute epic failure of experimental “music” is Bill Alves’ video “Static Cling.” This is the only piece I am willing to call a song as it’s reminiscent to the sound of Blue Man Group.

The video was interesting and almost psychedelic, showing lines twisting, expanding and shrinking to form different objects. Although this song was very good, I think the soundtrack to “High School Musical” would sound better than what came before and after this song.

Although I respect the artists for trying to create something new and experimental, TechArt 2008 was an overall failure. When trying to experiment with music, it’s still important to keep the fundamentals of music close, otherwise it’s just noise.